A Guide to San Francisco’s Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance and Commercial Water Conservation Ordinance

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[authors: Stephen R. Ledoux, Melissa Slawson]

Superstorm Sandy appears to have made it safe for politicians to talk out loud again about climate change. San Francisco’s commercial building energy and water conservation ordinances set standards and reporting requirements designed to improve efficiency and reduce waste. Building owners in San Francisco should be aware of and comply with the ordinances, and owners in other jurisdictions should check for similar requirements in existence or under consideration.

The Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance
The City of San Francisco enacted the Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance in 2011 (“Energy Ordinance”) for the following purpose: “To encourage efficient use of energy, this Chapter requires owners of nonresidential buildings in San Francisco to obtain energy efficiency audits, as well as to annually measure and disclose energy performance. It also requires the Department of Environment to collect summary statistics about the energy performance of nonresidential buildings and make those statistics available to the public.” (San Francisco Environment Code Chapter 20, Sec. 2000).

The Energy Ordinance requires that commercial buildings over 10,000 square feet summarize and report the energy used by the entire building each year. Specifically, the Energy Ordinance requires a commercial property owner to:

  • Benchmark and annually summarize the energy used by the entire building. This enables tracking of trends as well as an understanding of how your building is performing compared to similar buildings under similar conditions.
  • Undergo an energy efficiency audit once every five years identifying specific cost-effective measures that would save energy.
  • Annually share an overview of energy benchmarking results with tenants and the City. The San Francisco Department of Environment is required to make this information available to the public.

Compliance with this Energy Ordinance requires that the owner of a commercial property use the Energy Star Portfolio Manager to benchmark the energy usage of the building in question and compile an “Annual Energy Benchmark Summary.” These summaries are due April 1 of each year to the SF Department of Environment and must include the following:

  • Contact information and gross square footage
  • Energy Use Intensity (how much energy the building used per square foot for the year)
  • 1‐100 Performance Rating provided by Portfolio Manager, where applicable
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from energy usage
  • Assessor’s Parcel Number (APN or block/lot)

Energy Efficiency Audits are also required under the Energy Ordinance. The owner of each non‐residential building larger than 10,000 square feet must obtain a comprehensive energy efficiency audit of the entire building from a qualified energy auditor at least once every five years. Buildings that are 50,000 square feet or larger are subject to more rigorous audits than smaller buildings are. The full procedures for Commercial Energy Audits are available directly from ASHRAE.

Lastly, the Energy Ordinance requires that the Annual Energy Benchmark Summary be made public. Summaries filed for buildings greater than 50,000 square feet are required to be publicly disclosed starting this year, 2012. These summaries are due April 1 of each year.

More information on this Energy Ordinance and the requirements for benchmarking and reporting energy usage can be found here.

The Commercial Water Conservation Ordinance
The City of San Francisco enacted the Commercial Water Conservation Ordinance in 2009 (“Water Ordinance”). (San Francisco Building Code, Sec. 1301 et. seq.). This Water Ordinance requires all commercial property owners, including residential buildings converted to or occupied by tourist hotels, to provide certain water conservation measures for their buildings by Jan. 1, 2017. Specifically, these water conservation measures include:

  • Low-flow showerheads
    • The maximum flow permitted through a showerhead is 2.5 gallons per minute or less. If a showerhead does not meet this requirement, it must be replaced. All showers may have no more than one showerhead per valve. “Showerhead” includes rain heads, rain tiles, or any other fitting that transmits water for the purpose of showering.
  • Faucet and faucet aerators
    • An aerator with a flow rate of 2.2 gallons per minute or less is to be installed on all sink faucets. Faucets not designed to accept aerators must be replaced, unless the faucet has a flow rate of 2.2 gallons per minute or less at a working pressure allowed by the plumbing code.
  • Efficient toilets
    • All toilets must have a rated water consumption of 1.6 gallons per flush or less. If a toilet does not meet this requirement, it must be replaced. Modifications to toilets with rated water consumption greater than 1.6 gallons per flush do not comply. A plumbing permit is not required for a simple toilet replacement. However, if alterations to the plumbing system are necessary, a plumbing permit is required.
    • Commercial properties may be exempted from toilet replacements that compromise the historical integrity of the building pursuant to the California Historical Building Code as determined by the Department of Building Inspection.
  • Efficient urinals
    • All urinals must have a rated water consumption of 1.0 gallons per flush or less. If a urinal does not meet this requirement, it must be replaced. Modifications to urinals with a rated water consumption greater than 1.0 gallons per flush do not comply.
    • Commercial properties may be exempted from urinal replacements that compromise the historical integrity of the building pursuant to the California Historical Building Code as determined by the Department of Building Inspection.
  • Leak repair
    • All plumbing leaks must be located and repaired. To determine the existence of leaks, the following is required:
      • Visual inspection OR a water meter registration test. If water meter registration is used, compliance is achieved if there is no meter movement for ten minutes while all building fixtures are shut off.
      • Fixture leak detection. All tank-type toilets must be tested with leak detection dye, and all flushometer-type fixtures must be visually checked for proper water operation.

Under the Water Ordinance, owners of commercial properties must comply with the water conservation methods specified above and must cause a water conservation inspection to be completed and have a Certificate of Compliance on file with the Department of Building Inspection (“DBI”) on or before Jan. 1, 2017. Commercial properties are not required to be retrofitted prior to sale; however, an owner is required to comply with the requirements of the Water Ordinance when one of the following situations occurs:

  • Building additions
    • If a building addition will increase the floor area of the building by more than 10 percent, the entire building must comply as a condition for issuance of a Certificate of Final Completion and Occupancy.
  • Building alterations and improvements
    • If the cost estimated in a building permit for an alternation or improvement is greater than $150,000, compliance is required in all facilities that serve the specific area of alteration or improvement and is a condition for issuance of a Certificate of Final Completion and Occupancy or final permit sign off.
  • Alternations or improvements to rooms with water conservation devices
    • If an alteration or improvement of any cost is located in a room that contains a faucet, shower, water closet (toilet), or urinal, compliance is required in that room as a condition for issuance of a Certificate of Final Completion and Occupancy or final permit sign off.

 

Published In: Energy & Utilities Updates, Environmental Updates, Commercial Real Estate Updates, Zoning, Planning & Land Use Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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