Beyond Code Portal > City Profiles

Below you will find a selection of major cities across the United States that have taken exceptional steps towards increasing the energy efficiency of their buildings.

Chicago | New York City | San Francisco | Washington, DC

Chicago, IL

Chicago’s innovative above code approach offers a strong example of how cities can confront a multifaceted challenge such as improving building performance in a comprehensive and flexible manner. The city understands that no single action or program will be sufficient to “solve” building inefficiency and unsustainable urban design, nor that one single solution will work for everyone. Rather, it has designed multiple programs to address different areas of need and accommodate different perspectives.

City Energy Code or Above Code Effort(s): The Chicago Energy Conservation Code (CECC). Residential buildings must comply with energy-efficient measures that go beyond those required by the minimum Illinois Building Energy Code. The applicability of the CECC to commercial construction was superseded when the state of Illinois adopted a more stringent IECC 2009 model code.

Public Buildings Minimum Requirement:
Executive Order 111 (2001)
Some municipal buildings in Chicago are required to track and verify energy consumption using the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Portfolio Manager every three years.

Sustainability or Climate Action Plan:
Sustainable Chicago 2015 Action Agenda outlines 7 themes, 24 goals, and 100 actions to make Chicago more competitive, livable, and sustainable.

Retrofit Chicago is a voluntary, cross-sector program to promote energy efficiency and Chicago’s legacy of innovation and leadership in building technology.

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New York, NY

New York City is the largest city in the country and one of the world’s commercial, financial, cultural, and diplomatic centers. It also boasts an impressive skyline. By almost any measure, its impact on the world is undeniable. Increasingly, though, the city is choosing to evaluate its impact by two other measures: Btu and greenhouse gases.

Central to each of these issues is the impact of New York’s extraordinary building stock. Due to its mass transit system, population density, and relative lack of heavy industry, buildings account for 75 percent of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions, well above the national average of 40 percent.

City Energy Code or Above Code Effort(s):
The New York City Energy Conservation Code (NYCECC) sets energy-efficiency standards for new construction and alterations to existing buildings. All new building and alteration applications filed on or after January 1, 2015 must comply with the 2014 edition of the NYCECC. The NYCECC is a series of local laws governing energy efficiency based on the current Energy Conservation Construction Code of New York State (ECCCNYS). By State law, all local government energy codes, including the NYCECC, must be more stringent than the ECCCNYS.

Article: New Energy Code Means Big Efficiency Gains for City and State July 14, 2016

Laws with regard to the energy code:

  • Local Law 1 of 2011 – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the City of New York, in relation to amending the New York City energy conservation code.
  • Local Law 48 of 2010 – To amend the administrative code of the City of New York, in relation to energy efficiency in commercial buildings.
  • Local Law 87 of 2009 – A Local Law to amend the New York City charter and the administrative code of the City of New York, in relation to requiring energy audits and retro-commissioning of base building systems of certain buildings and retro-fitting of certain City-owned buildings.
  • Local Law 85 of 2009 – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the City of New York, in relation to establishing a New York City energy code.
  • Local Law 84 of 2009 – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the City of New York, in relation to benchmarking the energy and water efficiency of buildings.

News: Passage of NYC Legislation Will Bring Greener City Buildings to the Big Apple March 11, 2016

Board or Committee In Charge of Updating Building Energy Code: NYC Department of Buildings

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Map of NYC’s Green Buildings

Estimated Total Annual Building Energy Consumption at the Block and Lot Level for NYC
In an effort to take some of the mystery out of energy usage in a city like New York, Vijay Modi, a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University, and graduate student Bianca Howard conducted a project to put the city’s energy consumption on the map. The results of their work are displayed on an interactive map estimating the total annual energy consumption for nearly every building across the five boroughs.
WSJ Article: New York City Energy Use All Over the Map

San Francisco, CA

City Energy Code: San Francisco Green Building Code

San Francisco is implementing a groundbreaking, comprehensive suite of policy initiatives and incentive programs to improve the performance of new and existing buildings. While the city ensured that building construction and renovation are sustainable as possible, a large portion of San Francisco’s future lies in the existing building stock. To address this issue, the Mayor has put together The Task Force on Existing Commercial Buildings to recommend policy and actions for greater energy efficiency.

City Energy Code or Above Code Effort(s): All new construction in San Francisco must meet all applicable California codes, beat California’s energy code (Title 24 Part 6) by at least 15% and provide on-site facilities for recycling and composting. New residential and many common types of new non-residential buildings (such as office, retail, assembly, and institutional buildings), as well as certain major alterations and first time tenant improvements, must be built to show achievement of GreenPoint Rated standards. For example, building applications for new homes must demonstrate that at least 75 GreenPoints will be achieved.

Public Buildings Minimum Requirement: Environment Code Chapter 7 requires LEED Gold certification for all municipal new construction and major alteration projects of 5,000 square feet or more in city-owned facilities and city leaseholds.

Green Building Program: San Francisco’s green building program is charting a course to address the challenges of climate change and resource stewardship while enhancing the economic and social health of the City. San Francisco is leading the way to a sustainable future with innovative green building projects and policies. Home to many of the most skillful and imaginative architects, engineers, planners, and real estate professionals in the world, a growing proportion of municipal, commercial, and residential buildings have received third-party certification for green construction and operations.

Board or Committee In Charge of Updating Building Energy Code: San Francisco Building Inspection Commission

More Information:

Map of Green Buildings in San Francisco

Washington, DC

Washington, D.C. is the nation’s capital and political power center. Unlike many older cities on the Eastern seaboard, the District is a planned city on a grid with broad streets and diagonal boulevards connecting many parts of the city its centerpiece, the U.S. Capitol building. Home to many federal offices and grand national monuments, the District and its unique views have been most influenced by laws setting building high limits that functionally prohibit construction much higher than 12 stories. While this allows for stunning glimpses of the Capitol and Washington Monument, it also restricts density and growth. Nonetheless, D.C. development has been reborn in the past decade into burgeoning destination for young professionals that is adding over 1,000 new residents every month.

Houses and multifamily residential construction three stories or less are exempt. Alternative compliance paths include LEED certification, Enterprise Green Communities, 2012 IgCC, ASHRAE 189.1-2011, or ICC-700 certification. Additionally, all non residential new building projects greater than 10,000 square feet must also satisfy 75 points on the Energy Star Target Finder Tool which correlates to performing at a minimum better than 75% of similar buildings across the country.

City Energy Code or Above Code Effort(s): The 2013 DC Construction Codes are based on the 2012 model codes published by the International Code Council (ICC) with more than 500 local DC amendments developed by the Construction Codes Coordinating Board (CCCB). The 2013 DC Energy Conservation Code is based on the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code. It will require that new buildings perform as much as 30 percent more efficiently compared to the city’s previous code.

The city also adopted the inaugural 2013 DC Green Construction Code to extend the building practices legislated by the DC Green Building Act of 2006 as a significant step toward meeting the goals of the Sustainable DC initiative. It is based on the 2012 International Green Construction Code (IgCC) from ICC.

The Green Construction Code is mandatory for all new construction and major renovations greater than 10,000 square feet and all multi-family residential construction four stories or larger. Single family homes, townhouses and multifamily residential construction three stories or less are exempt. Alternative compliance paths include LEED certification, Enterprise Green Communities, 2012 IgCC, ASHRAE 189.1-2011, or ICC-700 certification. Additionally, all non residential new building projects greater than 10,000 square feet must also satisfy 75 points on the Energy Star Target Finder Tool which correlates to performing at a minimum better than 75% of similar buildings across the country.

In 2006, D.C. was the first city to mandate that certain privately owned new building construction meet LEED standards, a move that was soon followed by other major cities including Boston and Los Angeles. In recent years, D.C. has consistently topped USGBC’s list of the highest ranked LEED cities in the country. In 2013 alone, 106 projects were certified in the District, adding almost 20 million total square feet of LEED-certified real estate and an impressive 32.45 square feet of LEED space per resident.

All of the 2013 DC Construction Codes became effective upon publication in the DC Register on March 28, 2014.

Laws with regard to the energy code: DC Green Building Act of 2006

Board or Committee In Charge of Updating Building Energy Code: The DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Construction Codes Coordinating Board (CCCB) is appointed by the Mayor and reviews and accepts or rejects proposals for changes, deletions and/or additions to the District of Columbia’s Construction Codes. Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs) are established to support the work of the CCCB.

Federal Buildings Requirement: Note that the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) determines the minimum requirements for all federal building construction and renovation within the District. These projects are not subject to the DC Construction Codes.

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Go to DC’s full code status page →

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This page was last modified on: March 20, 2017