University advises on city’s bold new energy efficiency standard

On May 5, St. Louis became the first jurisdiction in the Midwest—and just the fourth in the country— to adopt a comprehensive new standard designed to reduce its carbon footprint. The Building Energy Performance Standard (BEPS) will apply to all buildings in the city 50,000 square feet and larger and represents a tremendous step forward in the city of St. Louis’ climate leadership.

Getting the BEPS measure passed in St. Louis was a true team effort. Washington University in St. Louis’ Office of Sustainability provided technical expertise to support the development of the new standard, along with government, nonprofit and local stakeholder partners, including city officials, the U.S. Green Building Council-Missouri Gateway Chapter, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation.

“Starting last fall, our staff worked closely with the city of St. Louis to help it develop a strategy to set ambitious, yet achievable, BEPS targets, based on local building energy benchmarking data,” said Phil Valko, the university’s assistant vice chancellor for sustainability. “The BEPS passage is just part of WashU’s broader work to accelerate climate action in the St. Louis region and beyond through cross-sector partnerships.”

The measure stipulates that a Building Energy Improvement Board, which will include local business and labor leaders, will be established to approve the new standards, review alternative compliance plans and provide technical expertise. A new city office, the Office of Building Performance, will help building owners navigate compliance during each compliance cycle and offer resources aimed at improving a building’s energy performance. The policy is set to take effect in 2021, with buildings required to meet the new standards by 2025.

“This new law puts St. Louis out in front on sustainability and resiliency,” said Frank Oswald, St. Louis building commissioner.  “Additionally, I’m proud our bill will be inclusive of local stakeholders by having a community board that sets our standards. We spent over a year working with a diverse coalition of building owners, utilities, trade groups, affordable housing advocates, labor, energy professionals and so on to ensure our drafting of the ordinance was both transparent and reflective of what we heard from our stakeholders.”

“Passing BEPS is a terrific example of how collaborative efforts with a wide range of partners — across sectors — can make significant and lasting policy change for the better,” said Claire Santoro, the climate and energy data analyst for the Office of Sustainability who led the data analysis effort for the project.

That partnership approach is also the foundation for several other current and upcoming climate-related programs and events, including university support of regional residential and commercial solar group-buy programs and the Midwest Climate Summit, which the university will host in the fall.

To learn more about St. Louis’ BEPS measure and its benefits for St. Louis, visit the Office of Sustainability website. A grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies supported, in part, the university’s involvement in the project.

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