Note: for details and updates on the specific rules, see our blog post.
The Building Energy Performance Standards (or BEPS) are a regulatory tool that the District is using to help meet its green building and climate goals, as outlined in the Clean Energy DC Plan, the District’s strategic energy and climate action plan to make the District more sustainable, resilient, and equitable. This plan outlines actions that need to be taken, by both private industry and the District government, between now and 2032 in the District’s buildings, energy infrastructure, and transportation system to meet the District’s ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.
The District will use three broad strategies to achieve deep GHG reductions:
- Efficient building design and operations for both new construction and existing buildings
- Modernized and renewable energy supply, shifting the District’s grid away from the use of fossil fuels and maximizing local renewable energy generation
- Transportation electrification and mode share changes
Since buildings account for 73% of the District’s GHG emissions, reducing the amount of energy used in buildings is paramount in order to achieve the District’s climate commitments.
Frequently Asked Questions
A BEPS sets a minimum threshold for energy performance for existing buildings. These standards are based on and measured against a building’s demonstrated energy performance, as shown in their benchmarking data.
In the District, large buildings owners (≥50,000 sq. ft. for privately-owned buildings and ≥10,000 sq. ft. for District-owned properties) have been benchmarking their energy and water performance for nearly a decade. This information is reported to the Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) on an annual basis using a free, online platform called ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.
Under BEPS, the District aggregates individual building performance information per property type to establish a standard for buildings to meet. Buildings that do not meet the standard for their property type will be required to improve their performance over the course of a compliance cycle and demonstrate their accomplishments at the end.
BEPS builds on the District’s benchmarking program, so if you are mandated to benchmark your property, the BEPS program applies to your building. Therefore, the first BEPS period will apply to private buildings larger than 50,000 sq. ft. and DC-owned buildings larger than 10,000 sq. ft.
Starting on April 1, 2022, all privately-owned buildings over 25,000 sq. ft. will be required to benchmark (starting with calendar year 2021 data), and starting April 1, 2025, all privately-owned buildings over 10,000 sq. ft. will be required to benchmark (starting with calendar year 2024 data).
As the benchmarking program ratchets down in square footage over time, buildings will be added to the BEPS program in following periods until all buildings 10,000 sq. ft. or larger are required to comply with BEPS.
- BEPS 1: Private buildings ≥50,000 sq. ft. and DC-owned ≥10,000 sq. ft.
- BEPS 2: Private buildings ≥25,000 sq. ft. and DC-owned ≥10,000 sq. ft.
- BEPS 3: Private buildings and DC-owned ≥10,000 sq. ft.
A new building becomes an existing building as soon as it’s built. If you are required to benchmark, per the information listed above, you must start benchmarking your building starting the calendar year after receiving your Certificate of Occupancy and once a full calendar year of utility data can be collected. After a full calendar year of benchmarking data has been reported, a new building will be required to meet the standard at the beginning of the next BEPS period.
For information about how buildings built under the District’s new buildings code fare against the BEPS requirements, please see Where DC’s Building Code Meets BEPS.
The first compliance cycle, BEPS 1, starts in 2021 and ends in 2027. If your building is performing better than the standard for your property type, you are not required to take action under BEPS (you are however, still required to benchmark your building annually under separate, but related, legislation). If your building is performing worse that the standard for your property type, you will be required to take action during the BEPS 1 compliance cycle.
Under-performing buildings will have to improve performance during the cycle and demonstrate it through benchmarking at the end. The BEPS 1 compliance cycle starts in 2021 and ends in 2026. During that 6-year timeframe, building owners of under-performing buildings will have 5 years to improve their building’s performance (see information about compliance pathways below) and must then demonstrate those improvements through a full calendar year of benchmarking data.
Nothing! However, as a building owner, you should look ahead to future BEPS periods and make sure the building stays above the standard. As buildings improve in the District, there will be incremental improvements in the standard over time, so if your building is close to the standard, you should consider additional energy conservation measures now, outside of the DOEE regulatory requirements, to meet the standard in future periods.
Buildings that do not meet the standard for a BEPS period will be required to improve performance during the subsequent compliance cycle. The building owner has until the end of the cycle to bring their building into compliance following one of the compliance pathways available.
Improving building performance takes time. It takes time to understand your building’s performance, evaluate what options are available, assess your financial situation, prepare drawings and/or get a permit to do improvements, hire contractors to do the work, commission the work to ensure it’s performing as intended, and generate the record of improved performance needed to get full credit for improvements. It behooves building owners to come up with a strategic plan for improving their building’s performance as soon as possible.
During the rulemaking process, the Hub is tracking progress and providing current updates on our blog.
On December 4, 2020, the DC Register published the proposed Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) and updated benchmarking rules. The rules will be finalized in 2021 after a public comment period.
Additionally, the 2021 Building Energy Performance Standards have been established and posted in the DC Register, effective January 1, 2021.
To stay up to date as the rules get finalized, please sign up for the Building Innovation Hub’s newsletter and DOEE’s BEPS newsletter. If you are interested in tracking public meetings related to BEPS, notes are posted regularly on DOEE’s website.
Building owners will have a variety of paths to choose from to bring their buildings into compliance. More details about the pathways will be available once the rules and guidance documents are finalized by DOEE. This is the basic framework of the compliance paths:
Performance Pathway Reduce site energy use intensity 20%; the methods by which are determined by the building owner. Prescriptive Pathway Implement cost-effective energy efficiency measures that follow specific criteria and reporting requirements that will be set by DOEE. Standard Target Pathway Reach the standard for the property type, assuming the property is above the national median. Alternative Compliance Pathway Develop and propose different energy-saving measures that account for special circumstances. If DOEE approves the plan, then the plan becomes a binding enforceable agreement.
Currently, a building owner can access rebates and incentives or request technical assistance from the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU). Additionally, the Building Innovation Hub has developed a Funding and Financing Map that presents the multitude of financial incentives available to assist the District’s building owners improve building performance.
Additionally, DOEE produces “scorecards” that rank a building’s energy performance against similar property types and provide a high-level estimate of potential cost savings. If you are interested in receiving a digital copy of your scorecard, you can request it by contacting DOEE.
The cost of energy efficiency upgrades will vary from property to property depending on existing operations and maintenance levels, previous capital improvement projects, and the types of systems present. As a first step, buildings owners should verify that their benchmarking data is accurate and consider engaging an energy auditor to provide recommendations. The U.S. Department of Energy produced a Guide to Energy Audits for more information about the process.
DOEE has proposed maximum penalties as a part of its rulemaking process. The proposed penalties can be found on the District’s website.
DOEE will establish criteria for qualifying buildings to delay compliance for the first BEPS cycle for up to three years if the owner demonstrates, to the satisfaction of DOEE, financial distress, change of ownership, vacancy, major renovation, pending demolition, or other acceptable circumstances. For BEPS 1, DOEE granted an automatic one-year extension to all buildings due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. DOEE has indicated that vacancies due to COVID-19 will not be grounds for additional extensions except in special circumstances. Affordable housing buildings will be eligible for longer extensions. The BEPS rules will address criteria that allows for a delay of compliance and the process to apply.
There is a common misconception that the principles of sustainability and green building design are at odds with those of historic preservation. Studies show that historic buildings are often more energy efficient than modern construction. In fact, buildings constructed before 1940 require less energy for heating and cooling than buildings built during the subsequent 35 years. Additionally, building systems and components, like HVAC or lighting, that do not contribute to the historic character of a building, may be updated without triggering historic review. Check out the District’s Office of Planning’s Sustainability Guidelines for Older and Historic Buildings for more information.