San Francisco has gone above and beyond California's already rigorous buildings standards to encourage large commercial building owners to invest in energy-saving upgrades.

The Challenge

Buildings are responsible for almost half of San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions. Benchmarking energy use in existing large commercial and municipal buildings, and encouraging energy efficiency retrofits, is one way to target emissions reductions in existing building stock.

The Solution

San Francisco aims for 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and an 80% emissions reduction by 2050. In order to achieve the latter objective, the city is targeting large municipal and privately owned buildings that consume the most energy. Expanding upon existing legislation requiring large commercial buildings to report their energy usage every year, San Francisco now requires audits that identify energyand cost-saving opportunities. A full retrocommissioning audit provides a thorough examination of the building's operations and identifies where the easiest and most effective upgrades can be made, with a helping hand from the city's cash incentives. Over four years, 468 buildings of 4.5 million m2 in the municipal portfolio cut energy use intensity by 18% and carbon emissions by more than 30%. In the private sector, audits identified energy savings worth $25 million and led to a 10% reduction in electricity usage in upgraded buildings.

Environmental Benefits – The average energy use intensity for buildings included in the scheme is 27% below the national average, and is the lowest of all American cities that have published benchmarking results.

Economic Benefits – Energy audits for more than 800 private commercial buildings identified $60.6 million in opportunities for cost-effective energy efficiency investments, which will save building owners millions of dollars for years to come.

About Cities100

Presented by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), Sustainia and Realdania – Cities100 2017 showcases leading solutions to urban climate challenges in five sectors: Energy, Waste, Adaptation, Mitigation and Transportation.

Available online and in print, Cities100 provides stakeholders an accessible format to explore achievable solutions for climate action in cities, and will be a useful tool for relevant groups ranging from impact investors and development organizations, to mayors and city governments. You can access the full Cities100 2017 publication online here.

  • Economic
  • Environmental
Emissions Reduction
36% reduction in commercial building emissions in 2015, compared with 1990 levels
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