Note: for details and updates on the rulemaking, see our article.
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 71% 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.
By April 1, 2022, all privately-owned buildings over 25,000 sq. ft. will be required to benchmark (starting with calendar year 2021 data), and by 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.
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.
Nothing! However, you should look ahead to future BEPS periods and make sure the building stays above the Standard for its property type. As overall building performance improves in the District there will be incremental improvements in the Standards over time. So if your building is close to the Standard for its property type, you should consider additional energy conservation measures now, outside of the DOEE regulatory requirements, to stay ahead of the Standard in future periods.
Buildings that do not meet the Standard for a BEPS period will be required to follow one of the Compliance Pathways and meet the associated requirements and deadlines, which vary per Pathway.
Even though the Compliance Period may seem long, there are interim deadlines to be aware of. Building owners whose buildings fall below the BEPS for the first compliance cycle will be required to select a compliance pathway no later than April 1, 2023. There are additional requirements due at that time as well, depending on the Pathway selected.
Additionally, 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.
The Hub is maintaining an up-to-date article on the latest information regarding the BEPS and Benchmarking regulations.
To stay up to date as the rules get finalized, please sign up for the Building Innovation Hub’s newsletter.
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.
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.
Enforcement mechanisms to promote compliance include an alternative compliance penalty for failure to meet the energy performance requirements of a building’s approved Pathway at the end of a Compliance Cycle, and civil infractions for not meeting required, interim reporting deadlines or requirements.
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.
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