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July 10, 2012

Energy Benchmarking Laws

A rising number of major cities are passing sunshine laws, or energy usage laws, that require their citizens to report on energy usage. New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Austin and Vancouver are among the international pioneers that are raising awareness for residential, commercial and industrial consumption rates, with the hope that this will lower overall usage., still in beta, is a website that aims to profile buildings in every city in the world, in an effort to facilitate transparency around the environmental impacts of architectural developments.

“It brings together building service providers, occupants, owners, and other stakeholders onto a single portal to exchange information, offerings, and needs,” the website explains. “It provides a voice for everyone who occupies buildings, works with buildings, and owns buildings globally to comment, display projects, and solicit business with the macro goal of creating a more sustainable environment.”

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The website lets anyone search for buildings internationally, and either peruse what others have uploaded, or add content themselves — everything from names of people who have worked on constructing or renovating the buildings, to images of the interiors. Type in an address like 230 Park Avenue (that’s the New York Central Buildings), and you’ll find out that the 24-storey development was built in 1929, but has been renovated in recent years to merit Energystar Ratings of 82, 85 and 86.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, Josh Boltuch, who said that the concept behind Honest Buildings reflects an emerging worldwide transparency trend. He said that as companies and governments become more open with the release of environmental information, citizens are feeling empowered to be greener.

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Boltuch also told me about energy benchmarking laws and programs that are starting to come into place, such as PlaNYC in New York City.

“Think of New York City, and the image that probably comes to mind includes buildings-perhaps a sea of them,” explains. “That is because New York is a dense city of buildings: There are almost a million of them in an area of little more than 300 square miles. So it makes sense that if New York City wants to tackle its environmental issues, it will have to concentrate on the buildings. In New York City, buildings are an important part of our environment, and their design and operation affect our environment too.”

According to Boltuch, the first step in making efforts like this a reality is to collect data, and the next step is allowing the public to help come up with solutions. is such an info collector, but the website also cleans up the data, links it to building profiles, and makes the information searchable, comparable and actionable. Honest Buildings then makes it easy for building owners to approach the engineers, designers and architects who help implement necessarily changes.

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How willing are you to contribute to the environmental health of the city that you live in, whether you own a building, or simply work in one?