Energy Efficiency


Lowering energy use (and related carbon emissions) has become increasingly important in both the design and the location and siting of new facilities.

Maximizing opportunities for energy efficiency can be incorporated in nearly all phases of project planning, location selection, site development, and building design:

  • The location of new facilities in central areas with close proximity to public transportation, shops, schools, and services can reduce energy consumed for transportation.
  • The reuse of existing buildings can often cost less and save more energy than new construction.
  • Site planning should consider the role of building orientation and natural features in lowering energy use. Trees can shelter a structure from extreme weather events (wind, heat, and cold). South-facing sites receive maximum solar input, an important consideration in northern climates during colder months.
  • Smaller parking lots encourage carpooling and public transit usage.
  • The following building design elements can reduce energy requirements:
    • Added insulation and air sealing
    • Efficient heating and cooling
    • Domestic hot water systems
    • On-site or rooftop solar, geothermal, or wind energy
    • High-performance double- or triple-glazed windows and doors
    • High-efficiency LED lighting

Important Considerations

Location and Siting

  1. Is the location of the project near:
    • Transit
    • Shopping
    • Services
    • Schools
    • Employment locations
  2. Has the project taken advantage of shading from trees and other natural features to lower summer energy use?
    • If new, is the project maximizing solar gain with south-facing exposures?
  3. Have the architectural plans and building orientation taken full advantage of potential energy-saving measures related to climate, sun, and wind?

Appliance and Green Building Standards

  1. Is the project planning to install Energy Star appliances, lighting fixtures, or heating, cooling, and hot water systems? Does the project include programmable thermostats, occupancy sensors in common areas, water filters, insulated hot water pipes, and/or point-of-use/tankless hot water heaters?
  2. Does the project design meet the current version of the Energy Star Certified Homes performance standard for single-family and low-rise multifamily housing or the Energy Star Multifamily New Construction standard for multifamily buildings with four or more stories?
  3. Is the project seeking a rating under a recognized green building standard such as the following, or other green standard or sustainability program:
    • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
    • Enterprise Green Communities; the National Green Building Standard
    • Energy Star Indoor AirPlus
    • Passive Building or EnerPHit certification from Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS)
    • International Passive House Association or Passive House Institute Living Building Challenge
    • A regional standard such as EarthCraft, Earth Advantage, or Greenpoint Rated
  4. For large developments, is the project considering LEED-Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) certification?

Energy and Water Use

  1. What is the estimated energy consumption of the proposal and are the energy resources of the utility provider sufficient to support the proposal?
  2. For an existing property:
    • Has energy or water data been entered in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA’s) Portfolio Manager for the purpose of utility benchmarking?
    • Has the project committed to benchmarking future energy use/expenditures?
    • Is there a current or proposed Energy Utilization Index (EUI) for this project? 
  3. What are the projected greenhouse gas emissions of the project upon full occupancy? Consider both direct and indirect emissions associated with the project.
    • Are they significant?
    • Can measures to reduce emissions be incorporated into the project scope?
      • The greenhouse gas calculation tools link, located in the Resources section, can help identify a project’s anticipated greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. Does the estimated energy consumption of the proposal require a significant increase in energy production for the energy provider?

Project Financing

  1. Are utility rebates, federal or state tax incentives for energy efficiency measures, and renewable energy components being considered as part of the project financing?
  2. For multifamily projects, is there individual metering for utilities or a tenant energy efficiency education program?
  3. Is there an opportunity to enter into an Energy Performance Contract (public housing)?

Analysis Techniques

Further analysis beyond the initial screening questions listed in the prior section consists of both a document review and field observation, both of which might require consultation with an expert.

  • Utility representatives can determine if a site is adequately serviced with utilities (gas and electric).
  • Local street and transit maps can help determine if the site has good access to schools, shopping, and transit lines.
  • Field observation can help evaluate site design, exposure of the building to the sun, and the use of trees to reduce energy consumption.
  • Review project building plans for compliance with energy-efficient building standards.

Additional Considerations

Most states and localities have adopted building codes, subdivision requirements, and zoning ordinances to require minimum energy efficiency standards. State Qualified Allocation Plans (QAPs) typically require or incentivize energy-efficiency criteria for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) developments. Section 109 of the Cranston-Gonzalez Affordable Housing Act of 1990 (42 USC 12709) requires new construction of public and assisted housing, as well as Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured housing, to meet the minimum International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and the American Society of Refrigeration, Heating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standard. The current (2021) standard is the 2009 IECC for single-family housing and ASHRAE 90.1-2009 for multifamily housing. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires integrated utility management and capital planning and minimum Energy Star or Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP)-designated products or appliances in public housing, and energy conservation in federally-assisted Indian housing.

Resources to Reference/Experts to Contact

  • It may be necessary to consult with an Engineer, Architect, and/or Energy Auditor/Home Energy Rater to determine if the design fully exploits potential energy-saving measures.
  • Qualified energy efficiency consultants may include those certified under the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) training and certification program.
  • Direct contact with utility companies and, in some cases, Public Works staff can assist in determining the adequacy of available power service to meet the needs of the proposal.
  • Greenhouse gas calculation tools