The city of St. Louis has passed a Building Energy Performance Standard (BEPS) with the aim of advancing the city’s goal of eliminating community-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.
“The coronavirus has shown us how a crisis can disrupt the entire world. The threat that was with us before COVID-19 and will be with us after is climate change,” said bill sponsor Heather Navarro. “St. Louis is taking steps to protect our community by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and making those buildings healthier for the people who live and work in them. We are proud to take this step in making St. Louis a more resilient city for the future.”
Buildings account for about 80% of St. Louis’s GHG emissions, so increasing energy efficiency is crucial to reaching the city’s goal of 100% GHG reductions by 2050. As in other cities, the St. Louis BEPS creates a legal requirement for building owners to ensure their buildings meet a minimum level of energy performance within a series of multi-year compliance cycles. The St. Louis BEPS covers buildings 50,000 square feet or larger, which have been required to report the energy and water use of their properties since 2017 under the city’s Building Energy Awareness Ordinance. Under BEPS, those buildings will be required to meet various levels of energy performance and impose energy-saving actions, such as upgrading HVAC units, ventilation, lighting and elevators.
The new law also sets up a Building Energy Improvement Board, which will be made up of nine members from utilities, labor, affordable housing owners and tenants, and commercial buildings. The board will help ensure buildings are complying with new standards and consider owners’ alternative plans if compliance is not possible.
The adoption of this law in St. Louis is part of a national trend of local leaders leveraging building efficiency standards to counter climate change. This BEPS follows similar policies enacted in Washington, DC, New York City, and the State of Washington within the last two years.
Compared to other energy-saving building policies, a BEPS requires greater changes, but allows building owners broad flexibility to make improvements. By setting long-term targets, a BEPS provides the commercial real estate market with the certainty it needs to make investments in properties over time. It can also enable cities to achieve multiple city priorities at once, including carbon reductions, building electrification, energy efficiency, peak demand reductions, and more.