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Institute for Market Transformation

Promoting energy efficiency in buildings
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Building Energy Performance Policy

The building sector is the single largest user of energy in the United States, accounting for roughly 40 percent of total energy consumption, more than industry or transportation. Each year, we spend $450 billion on energy for our buildings.

Many buildings were constructed before modern energy codes were in place, and as a result, they use more energy than they need to. Their owners may be deterred from upgrading them by a lack of information, misaligned financial incentives, or insufficient capital. If we can remove such barriers, we can save money for consumers and businesses; fuel economic growth; and reduce carbon pollution, safeguarding our health and the environment.

IMT promotes diverse market-based public policies and voluntary programs that can significantly cut energy waste and boost buildings’ efficiency. The measures we recommend range from measuring energy use (benchmarking) and performing an energy audit (a “physical” for a building) to adopting energy-efficient lease terms and certifying building operators. IMT helps cities and states select the right mix of policies and programs that are likely to succeed in their local market. To learn more about our work with cities, see the Policy Advocacy and Consulting page.

Benchmarking and Transparency

The core energy efficiency policy that IMT supports is the benchmarking and transparency of buildings’ energy use. Benchmarking means measuring a building’s energy use and then comparing it to the average for similar buildings. It allows owners and occupants to understand their building’s relative energy performance, and helps identify opportunities to cut energy waste.

A recent analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed that buildings that are benchmarked save on average 7% in energy over three years.

Thirteen cities, two states, and one county in the U.S. have passed policies requiring benchmarking and transparency for large buildings. These policies will soon affect almost 5 billion square feet of floor space in major real estate markets—making them powerful catalysts for energy efficiency in the built environment. All cities and states that require benchmarking call for the use of ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, a free, online software tool created by the U.S. EPA. 

Current regulations vary in terms of the types and sizes of buildings they affect and the forms of transparency they require. To learn more about individual policies, consult the policy briefs on our sister website

IMT offers expert assistance to city and state governments as they craft, adopt, and implement benchmarking and transparency and other building energy performance policies.

Compare policies

Compare policies



Thirteen cities, two states, and one county have adopted energy benchmarking and transparency laws. While all of them require building owners to track their properties' energy use, the laws vary regarding the size and type of buildings they affect; whether the energy use data must be disclosed publicly, or just to potential tenants or buyers; and other factors. View the policy map and graphics on our website to see what's required, where.