City of St. Louis’s Energy Benchmarking Ordinance

Reducing energy use in buildings through energy efficiency measures has an array of benefits that range from job creation and utility bill savings to environmental benefits and improved health conditions for people in the community. The City of St. Louis Sustainability Plan identified programs that result in energy efficiency as a key sustainability objective in realizing these many benefits.[i] Building owners and operators are usually the ones making the decision whether to implement efficiency measures; an energy benchmarking ordinance ensures that the owners and operators of the largest buildings in St. Louis have the energy information they need to make informed decisions. Requiring large building to benchmark and report their energy use on an annual basis has been shown to be an effective driver of behavioral, operational and capital improvements to building energy performance. The “Building Energy Awareness” ordinance was passed on January 27, 2017 by unanimous decision.

Sponsors of the “Building Energy Awareness” ordinance

  • Alderman John J. Coatar
  • President of the Board of Aldermen, Lewis Reed
  • Alderman Terry Kennedy
  • Alderman Chris Carter
  • Alderwoman Christina Ingrassia
  • Alderwoman Cara Spencer
  • Alderwoman Megan-Ellyia Green

If you would like to learn more about the ordinance, you can click here to download a PDF:

The Benchmarking Process

Benchmarking is a critical first step in determining how best to reduce unnecessary energy use in buildings. Buildings are responsible for nearly 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the City of St. Louis. What’s more, a relatively small number of large buildings represent most of these emissions and the associated energy use. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 30 percent of the energy in buildings is used inefficiently or unnecessarily.[i]

Benchmarking means measuring a building’s energy use and comparing it to that of similar buildings. Making this information publicly available will allow owners and occupants to understand how their building’s energy performance compares to that of their peers, as well as identify the extent of the opportunity available for improvement.

A building owner, manager, or his/her staff can benchmark using free software, incurring no cost other than the individual’s time. The EPA provides the free online tool, ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, as well as a number of free benchmarking training tools. This tool has already been used to benchmark more than 450,000 buildings, nationwide, including about half of the commercial floor space in the country.

The City of St. Louis and its partners plan to provide in-person trainings, a dedicated benchmarking website for non-municipal building owners, offer a support desk for benchmarking questions and conduct one-on-one follow-up with owners requesting assistance.

U.S EPA, ENERGY STAR program. "Useful Facts and Stats."

Who's Covered?

After a preparatory phase, the energy benchmarking ordinance will require municipal, institutional, commercial, and multifamily residential buildings of at least 50,000 square feet to track and report their energy and water usage annually using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. The City of St. Louis Building Division will implement and enforce the ordinance. Exemptions for compliance are available for buildings that meet specific criteria that prevent their participation in benchmarking. Municipal buildings are categorized as “Covered 1 Properties.” Non-municipal buildings (institutional, commercial, & multifamily residential) are categorized as “Covered 2 Properties.

Exempted Buildings
  • Owned by the state of Missouri or Federal government
  • Demolition permit issued
  • No certificate of occupancy or temporary certificate of occupancy for all 12 months of the calendar year being benchmarked
  • Property primarily used for manufacturing or other industrial purposes

The program is phased in by building ownership:

  • All municipal buildings of at least 50,000 square feet must comply no later than December 31, 2017 and each May 1 thereafter.
  • Owners of non-municipal buildings (institutional, commercial, and multifamily residential) of at least 50,000 square feet must comply no later than May 1, 2018 and each May 1 thereafter.

Benefits of an Energy Benchmarking Ordinance

  • Building owners and managers can take operational and behavioral actions and implement energy efficiency measures that result in lower operational costs. Having the requisite information is key to making these informed choices. Studies have found that required benchmarking can motivate building owners and managers to take actions that result in annual energy use reductions of 1-2 percent across the building stock.
  • Policymakers and utilities can better identify useful policies, programs and financial incentives, and target them more effectively to segments of the market with the greatest opportunities for energy savings.
  • Citywide, a required benchmarking policy can lead to job creation, reduced pressure on the electricity grid and improved air quality. As interest in building efficiency increases, jobs from the implementation of efficiency measures, including energy audits, retrocommissioning and energy retrofits are likely to result. By reducing unnecessary energy use, utilities are under less pressure to provide power at the busiest hours of the day in the most populated areas. Reduction in electricity demand can help address regional air quality issues, which have positive implications for air quality related health concerns, such as asthma. Building efficiency improvements at the individual level can also help improve indoor air quality.[i]

For more on asthma rates in St. Louis and the relationship to energy and climate change, see NRDC’s Sneezing and Wheezing report at The benefits of energy efficiency improvements for indoor air quality are well-documented and more can be found at ACEEE’s website,

Benefits to Building Owners

By benchmarking your building you can:

  • Become more competitive given that energy-efficient buildings:
    • Cost less to operate
    • Command higher rents
    • Have greater asset values
    • Help attract and retain quality tenants
  • Compare your building's energy scores with other buildings of similar size in St. Louis
  • Track and assess the energy performance of buildings in your portfolio
  • Manage utility costs
  • Target priority improvements
  • Measure the benefits of improvements