Oregon House Debate Highlights Building Performance Labeling
Should building owners be required to provide public information on the energy performance of their buildings? Would such disclosure help to promote the local commercial and residential real estate sectors? A number of Oregon legislators and their constituents would answer “yes” and “yes.”
The 2011 Oregon legislature recently finished discussion of House Bill 3535, a bill that would have required building owners to include energy performance information when selling or renting their commercial and residential units. Utilities would have also been required to transfer utility usage data for commercial properties to the Environmental Protection Agency (Bill summary, Oregon 76th Legislative Session).
House Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie District 31) acted as one of the bill’s sponsors, along with Rep Ben Cannon (D- District 46) and Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene District 8). Witt reported that his office had received a large number of inquiries related to the proposed legislation, most of them positive. The bill was endorsed by leading commercial developer Gerding Edlen, environmental advocates such as the Oregon Environmental Council and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council, consulting firms such as The Cadmus Group, and realtors such as Roots Realty, among others.
While the bill did not ultimately succeed in the Oregon House, its introduction raised awareness of the potential benefits of building energy performance disclosure. The analogy to automobiles is commonly referenced as part of the discussion – one would not think of purchasing a car without knowing how many miles to the gallon it typically achieves. Shouldn’t the same information be available for homes and commercial properties, which require significantly larger investment and have a longer life span? A platform for building performance information would contribute to the growing market for energy efficiency tools and would support policy goals related to increased energy efficiency and reduced green house gas emissions.
Following debate at the state level, some of Oregon’s larger municipalities will likely continue the discussion. The Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB), for example, is moving to support a voluntary energy labeling program for new residential construction. In February 2011, the City of San Francisco passed an ordinance for commercial building performance labeling. Other jurisdictions that are developing similar requirements include the cities of Seattle, New York, Austin and Washington D.C. as well as California and Washington State (SustainableBusiness.Com News 2/10/11).