Colorado’s New Building Performance Standards

June 30, 2021
Kim Burke

Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently signed into law HB21-1286, which requires buildings to track and report energy performance, and to meet state building performance standards. This law is the latest of several to address energy efficiency in existing as well as new buildings. To learn more, we spoke with Kim Burke, Senior Manager for Building Policy at the Colorado Energy Office. 

Why is the new BPS important for Colorado?

Colorado’s benchmarking and building performance standards (BPS) legislation is a critical strategy for the building sector to reduce its energy use and emissions in order to meet the State’s science-based climate targets of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 from 2005 levels (see Colorado’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, released January 2021). Performance standards are one of the most powerful and effective tools to achieve improved performance in existing buildings and provide many benefits: they lower energy costs and reduce GHG pollution, improve indoor air quality, create jobs, improve tenant comfort and productivity, and make buildings more durable and resilient.

What does this mean for building owners, occupants and communities?

Starting in October 2021, the Colorado Energy Office will convene a Task Force made up of building owners, energy and efficiency experts, industry stakeholders and local government representatives to develop recommendations on building performance standards. The goal is to ensure that these standards achieve a measurable sectorwide reduction in GHG emissions—a 7% reduction by 2025 and a 20% reduction by 2030 from a 2021 baseline—and also improve the durability, efficiency, and value of Colorado’s building stock.

This legislation is also intended to help communities meet their climate and energy goals by ensuring that we develop a uniform and consistent policy solution statewide. Having the Colorado Energy Office develop and manage a benchmarking database will eliminate or greatly reduce the need for communities to expend resources to establish their own benchmarking programs (unless they choose to expand the policy to cover smaller buildings, at which point we may come up with a cost-share agreement). The program will integrate as seamlessly as possible with the policies already in place in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins and use lessons learned and successes to guide a statewide process.

What will be the biggest opportunities?

The biggest opportunities will be for building owners who haven’t previously benchmarked their building’s energy use. They will be able to see how the buildings in their portfolio compare to each other or to other similar types of properties. Through this process, building owners will be able to identify and prioritize cost-effective opportunities for saving energy to make their buildings operate more efficiently. These upgrades will improve their bottom line by cutting unnecessary spending on energy waste while also demonstrating that they are taking positive steps to lower their carbon footprint.

What will be the biggest challenges? 

For this program to be successful, we will be prepared to conduct extensive outreach, education, and training for building owners to assist them in submitting their annual benchmarking data. It will also be critical to get buy-in from a variety of stakeholders on the building performance standards to ensure they are fair, attainable, and will help the building sector overall contribute to the necessary reductions in GHG pollution that are needed to meet our climate goals. We are aware that it may take a lot of hand-holding and support to overcome skepticism or hesitation to take action, but we want building owners to know that there are rebates, financing, and other technical assistance available to help them implement energy performance upgrades.

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