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This article is from the In-Depth Report New Solutions for Clean Energy

"Energy Star" Cities Make Gains

EPA list of cities with the most energy-efficient buildings shows dramatic growth
Cielo Azul Elementary School



Courtesy EnergyStar

Los Angeles is known for many things – Hollywood, of course, and glitz. A history of smog and choking traffic.

Now comes another distinction. For the third year running, the City of Angels tops the federal list of cities with the greatest number of Energy Star certified buildings.

Los Angeles leads the way with 510 Energy Star labeled buildings, that, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, save a total of $118 million in energy costs and cut electrical usage equivalent to almost 40,000 homes.

Washington, D.C. displaced San Francisco as the city with the second most-efficient building stock, with 301 buildings.

All told, more than 6,200 commercial buildings earned the Energy Star label in 2010, an increase of nearly 60 percent compared to 2009, according to the agency.

The Energy Star label, commonly seen on home appliances and personal computers, has been around since 1992. The EPA issued its first

Buildings can earn an Energy Star label if they perform better than 75 percent of similar-type buildings nationwide, based on various energy and indoor-air quality standards.

The EPA estimates the growth in Energy Star-certified buildings last year has prevented greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the energy use of 1.3 million homes a year, saving some $1.9 billion.

The Energy Star label has been around since 1992, when the EPA first slapped it on energy-sipping appliances and products like personal computers. Homes got their own Energy Star labels starting 1995, and the first commercial building label came in 1999. More than 13,000 commercial buildings have been certified since.

The housing certification program has seen similar growth in recent years. But despite the gains, the director of EPA's Energy Star program section for homes has said that some 99 percent of the nation's housing stock is "sick" – damp, drafty, expensive to heat and cool – and could be made more energy efficient with tried-and-true, cost-effective improvements.

Experts blame economics and a patchwork of inconsistent and ill-enforced energy codes for sending conflicting signals to the building and real estate industries.

The Energy Star program isn't meant to fix that, officials note: Instead it is designed to reflect the cream of housing and building stock and will therefore always represent a minority of American buildings.

But with energy use in commercial buildings accounting for nearly 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and oil prices rising, the EPA touts the program as a fiscally and environmentally sound corporate strategy.

"When it's more important than ever to cut energy costs and reduce pollution in our communities, organizations across America are making their buildings more efficient, raising the bar in energy efficiency and lowering the amount of carbon pollution and other emissions in the air we breathe," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in a statement.

on the web:

Energy Star buildings: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=labeled_buildings.locator

Daily Climate coverage of the Energy Star home program:

http://wwwp.dailyclimate.org/tdc-newsroom/2010/01/home-energy-efficiency

 

Top cities # of buildings cost savings ($ millions)
     
Los Angeles 510 $117.9
Washington, DC 301 74.2
San Francisco 248 75.1
Chicago 232 62.7
New York 211 86.6
Atlanta 201 38.7
Houston 175 62.9
Sacramento 168 19.1
Detroit 151 18.7
Dallas-Fort Worth 148 35.2
Source: US EPA
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