Making Data-Driven Policy Decisions for the Nation’s First Building Energy Performance Standards
Nearly every major U.S. city has committed itself to ambitious climate action goals – for Washington, DC this means a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2032 and carbon neutrality by 2050. In support of these goals, Washington, DC has passed one of the most aggressive and practical climate action bills in the nation—with the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act, DC became the first city in the U.S. to adopt energy performance standards for existing buildings. DC’s Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) require energy efficiency improvements for all commercial and multifamily buildings that do not meet a sector-specific minimum ENERGY STAR score or equivalent metric, with iterative compliance cycles every five years that will accelerate the pace of whole building retrofits. This paper explores this revolutionary policy framework and uses two data analysis projects that DC conducted to evaluate the potential impact of the BEPS and move towards carbon neutrality. First, we analyze the potential energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions, as well as potential cost impacts, from the implementation of a BEPS policy in DC We then examine the role of BEPS in a carbon neutrality strategy, how BEPS savings iterate over time, and what additional existing building improvements will be driven by the gravitational pull of new building codes on median performance. The paper highlights the benefits and limitations of such data-driven approaches to support policy decisions. Finally, we will review ongoing BEPS implementation, including expected policy directions, critical supportive programs, and lessons learned to date.