Green building and sustainable development practices are now important considerations for design and construction projects in Pennsylvania. Fortunately, Pennsylvania is one of many states to embrace the concept of green building with recent legislation creating financing incentives for renewable energy improvements to commercial real estate.
Philadelphia, in particular, has taken a staunch approach to sustainability improvements by not only incentivizing sustainable development practices but also requiring that property owners address the energy inefficiencies of their buildings as part of the city’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Philadelphia passed the Building Energy Performance Program in 2019, requiring tune-ups to Philadelphia building systems that are not in line with certain efficiency standards. The law requires all owners of nonresidential buildings with indoor floor space of at least 50,000 square feet to measure and report their yearly energy usage. The new bill mandates that those same buildings, absent an exemption or “high performance” designation, perform regular building inspections and tune-ups to improve their energy efficiency. A tune-up is comprised of two parts: an assessment (i.e., an inspection) of the building and its systems and corrective actions (i.e., repairs) to resolve issues identified during the assessment. Base building systems are assessed. including “systems or subsystems of a building that use energy or impact energy consumption including building envelope, the HVAC (heating ventilating and air conditioning) systems, conveying systems, domestic hot water systems and electrical lighting systems.” As a result of this program and similar initiatives in Pennsylvania and around the country, commercial property owners are reconsidering their sustainable development practices. They are brainstorming ways to reduce their carbon footprint, whether it be improvements to energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor air quality or resiliency.