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

by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

[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.


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.

© Davis Wright Tremaine LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.