Public Buildings

January 1, 2015

Program Planning

Once a locality determines what actions it wants to take, local governments should adopt a portfolio-wide, systematic approach for energy efficiency in facilities and operations. A comprehensive program ensures greater levels of savings and enables governments to pursue more substantial energy efficiency projects. A portfolio-wide approach also generates greater momentum for energy efficiency activities throughout the public and private sector, which can lead to sustained implementation and continued savings.

EPA offers a model strategy for energy management in public buildings with tools and resources to help each step of the way.

Step 1: Make Commitments

Step 2: Assess Performance

Step 3: Set Goals

Step 4: Create Action Plan

Step 5: Implement Action Plan

Step 6: Evaluate Progress

Step 7: Recognize Achievements

The EPA Local Strategy Guide for energy efficiency in Local Government Facilities and Operations explains these steps in detail and provides useful resources for further information.

Understanding energy use in facilities and operations is essential to program planning. Documenting the baseline energy use of government facilities and identifying patterns of waste strengthens the business case for an LBE program by demonstrating the certainty of energy cost savings. By targeting facilities with the most room for improvement, benchmarking ensures the most cost-effective distribution of resources across governmental agencies. ENERGY STAR offers numerous resources on building benchmarking, including the ENERGY STAR Benchmarking Starter Kit and its widely used Portfolio Manager tool. 

Financing LBE programs is another critical consideration addressed in the planning phase. The State Policy Toolkit section on LBE programs has information on Energy Savings Performance Contracting, which allow government facilities to enter into a performance-based agreement with an Energy Service Company (ESCO), which performs building retrofits that achieve significant energy and dollar savings. More information on financing programs is available at the Flex Your Power best practice toolkit.

Foundational Policy Support

Local governments can adopt foundational policies to reduce energy use throughout municipally-operated facilities. Policies may target existing building stocks by requiring all government executive agencies to reduce their energy use by a set percentage over a certain amount of time. Many local governments also target new construction by requiring new buildings or new construction (i.e., renovations) to meet energy performance requirements, such as an extension of the building energy code to include greater energy savings measures of a certain level above code, or through the application of an existing energy saving standards, such as those set forth by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria, or the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) protocol for K-12 school construction or renovation.

Executive Policies or Agendas

Mayors and county executives can have a great deal of influence over the creation and development of energy efficiency programs. Many local government executives have initiated energy efficiency programs through executive orders and policy agendas. Salt Lake City's mayor issued an executive order in July 2005 requiring that all public buildings owned and controlled by the city be built or renovated to meet the requirements of LEED Silver certification, at a minimum. A subsequent, related executive order was issued in January 2006. 

City or County Council Resolutions

Many city or county councils have initiated energy efficiency policies via resolutions or bills. City councils in a number of local governments, such as Dallas, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; and Seattle, Washington, have established policies requiring that new buildings and major renovations be designed in accordance with specific energy efficiency performance standards.In Dallas, for example, the City Council passed a resolution requiring that all new municipal buildings larger than 10,000 square feet be constructed to meet LEED Silver certification standards. 

City and County Planning Processes

Many cities and counties have developed energy plans that guide decision making on energy-related issues. These plans often include recommendations or requirements to improve energy efficiency in local government facilities and operations. Other local governments have incorporated energy efficiency components into climate change action plans. Local governments have also used other planning documents, such as land use, transportation, and waste management plans, as vehicles for establishing energy efficiency goals in their facilities and operations.

In 2009, the Jacksonville City Office of Sustainability Initiatives announced the creation of the Sustainable Building Program. As part of the program, all new city-owned buildings must meet nationally recognized certification standards. In addition, in city-owned buildings where renovations are being made to more than 50% of the total building square footage, renovations must meet sustainable building certification standards. The buildings must be certified by LEED, Green Globes, or Florida Green Building Coalition. The Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board is also permitted to adopt an alternative sustainable building certification system.

Implementation Strategies

When implementing a program, it is critical to leverage the existing resources available to local governments. Communication strategies to engage the community are also important for the long-term success of programs. The ACEEE State Policy Toolkit section on Lead by Example programs has more information on internal and external strategies for program implementation. Even more information can be found in Section 6.1.6 of the EPA Local Strategy Guide. Finally, as laid out in the EPA Energy Management steps above, evaluating progress allows for continuous improvement of programs. Information on evaluation, monitoring, and verification of energy savings is also available at the ACEEE State Policy Toolkit


Local governments may also target the equipment and electronics within their facilities by requiring the purchase of energy-efficient products. Product procurement policies often require offices to procure ENERGY STAR-labeled products. EPA offers a complete local government strategy guide for energy-efficient product procurement.

Vehicle Fleets

Governments seeking to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicle fleets may enact procurement policies that call for a fleet-wide reduction in fuel consumption, or an increase in average miles per gallon (mpg). The National League of Cities provides a policy brief listing case studies of municipal alternative fuel vehicle programs.

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