Largest buildings in Denver will face short-term energy reduction deadlines ahead of the 30% target

Denver Sustainability Office officials are still calculating by how much the city’s tallest buildings need to reduce energy use in 2024 and 2027 in order to meet the end goal of using nearly one-third of the energy. less by 2030.

Smaller buildings are also facing lighting or solar upgrades as part of the initiative, dubbed Energize Denver. And finally, all commercial and multi-family buildings will need to use electric heating and cooling systems.

Households are not required to reduce their energy consumption or install new equipment under the new law, which the City council unanimously approved last month.

Katrina Managan, from the Denver Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resilience, told the Denver Post that city officials will finalize these interim targets for 2024 and 2027 and notify building owners of the requirements for ‘by March 2022. On Wednesday she described these and others initiative details during a briefing for building owners and managers.

In total, the approximately 17,000 commercial and multi-family buildings in Denver pump almost 50% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, Managan said. And Energize Denver is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 11.8 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide between this year and 2040.

Additionally, despite the upfront costs, Managan said the upgrades made financial sense as well.

“It should lower the cost of doing business in Denver, it should lower the cost of operating these buildings in Denver,” Managan said.

Managan and other city officials behind the process enjoyed strong support from a wide range of landowners, businesses, trade associations and environmental activists. Although some business and building owners, like Steve Weil, president of the Rockmount Ranch Wear Manufacturing Company, are disputing not only the impending requirements but also their timeline.

“It adds to the stress of trying to run an efficient business during a pandemic,” Weil said. “Who needs this unnecessary brain damage?” “

Nonetheless, Managan said the requirements are broad enough that property owners and managers can meet them in the way that best suits their needs and budget. While some may not pass the mark, city officials can relax deadlines and other mandates to make it easier for them.

“We know where the finish line is and we know where we are today,” said Councilor Jolon Clark, who supported and helped develop the measure. “We have built in as much flexibility as possible while respecting the fact that we all have to cross the finish line.”

The tallest buildings in Denver

Buildings over 25,000 square feet, of which around 3,000, need to reduce the amount of energy they use per square foot by an average of 30% by 2030, compared to a 2019 baseline, Managan said. .

These large buildings will be divided into different categories like hotels, offices and multi-family buildings. Each type will have a different target per square foot, and ultimately the reductions should hit the 30% target, Managan said. Buildings housing several types of businesses will be divided into these categories.

Weil said he had already invested a lot of money to make his building more efficient, and that he took issue with city officials forcing homeowners to go even further.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” Weil said. “Why is my 30,000 square foot building in the same category as a 100,000 square foot building or more? “

But Managan said those already operating above efficiency standards – around 15% of larger buildings – will no longer need to make improvements.

In addition, there is no specific way for building owners to use less energy.

“They can choose,” Managan said. “Do they want to do a lighting upgrade? Do they want to turn off the heat when it’s not needed? Turn off cooling when not needed? “

Lighting or solar energy improvements

Denver’s smaller commercial and multi-family buildings – between 5,000 and 25,000 square feet – will have less flexibility in the years to come, however. Energize Denver requires either install LED lights, an efficient lighting equivalent, or install or purchase enough solar energy to offset one-fifth of the building’s annual energy consumption.

Buildings between 15,001 and 24,999 square feet must complete upgrades by December 31, 2025. The next category, buildings between 10,001 and 15,000 square feet, must complete by the end of 2026 and on smaller group of buildings to be completed by the end of 2027.

Managan said about 6,000 buildings will need to make these upgrades.

Heating and cooling

The final part of Energize Denver will require all commercial and multi-family buildings to gradually replace their heating and cooling systems with electrical systems, Clark said.

City officials will update Denver’s building code to wean buildings off old gas heating and cooling systems, Managan said.

The ordinance gives city council deadlines in early 2023, 2025, and 2027 to update the Denver Building and Fire Code with various components of those requirements.

The idea is to encourage building owners and managers to replace their gas heating and cooling systems at the end of their useful life and when it is the most financially viable option, said Clark. .

“That’s not to say let’s fill the dump with perfectly good operating systems,” Clark said.

Still, Weil said he had just installed a new heating system in his apartment building, replacing one that had lasted 80 years or more. He said engineers told him they were not sure his building could be adapted to an electrical system.

Additionally, Weil expressed concern that the Denver grid would not be able to meet greater demand for electricity with all of these upgrades.

But Managan said the network was built to handle massive demand during the summer months and should therefore be able to cope with the increase, perhaps with some localized infrastructure upgrades needed.

Clark acknowledged that concerns exist, but said reducing emissions will become more difficult with each passing day. He and other members of the Energize Denver task force have worked to include as much flexibility as possible in the law, especially to keep upgrade costs low.

He also noted the diversity of representation on the working group, which includes officials from Xcel Energy, Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Sierra Club, Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association, etc.

Additionally, Clark said much more is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s a start.

“It’s a room,” he said. “It’s a big piece, but it’s still only one piece.”

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