Bryan Howard

This week, the House of Representatives took a major step in advancing building efficiency legislation with the passage of H.R. 2126, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act. This bipartisan bill cleared the House on a vote of 375-36.

The legislation includes most of the Better Buildings Act, as well as provisions from H.R. 540, the Efficient Government Technologies Act, and language related to improving energy benchmarking of federally owned buildings and leased space.

The bill seeks to catalyze the important opportunities available for efficiency gains in tenant spaces of commercial and retail properties, while improving the efficiency of federally operated facilities. Specifically, the legislation establishes a voluntary recognition program dubbed “Tenant Star,” which would be developed by the Environmental Protection Agency administrator in consultation with the secretary of energy. When the program gets off the ground, it will act as an ENERGY STAR designation for tenant fit-outs.

With regards to federal building efficiency, the bill promotes federal data center energy efficiency by working with private and public stakeholders to develop best practices, improve interagency coordination, and enhance building benchmarking by making it a requirement for federally leased space in buildings that have not received an ENERGY STAR label.

In his floor speech, bill sponsor Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) praised the message of efficiency and the legislation. "Saving energy creates jobs, saves money and improves the environment," he said. "We have disagreements on the causes of climate change and the best fuel mix to meet America’s energy demands, but we can all agree that using less is more. We can all agree that creating demand for American-made energy efficient products will create good jobs. And we can all agree that cutting the energy bills of homeowners, businesses and the federal government is a good thing.”

USGBC has been working with elected officials and real estate organizations to advance elements of the bill in both the House and Senate. USGBC commends the members of the House who supported the bill. While progress on the bill is positive, it isn't certain if this bill is a part of a series of efficiency-related bills, or if this will create some momentum for the Senate to consider the reintroduced Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC) any time soon. USGBC will be keeping track of these events and will update readers as other legislation progresses.