November 15, 2022 | Zachary Hart, James Burton

What is the potential impact of a Building Performance Standard (BPS) on people’s lives?

Zachary Hart: BPS are the most direct and effective tool we have to drive performance improvements in existing buildings. These can lead to better conditions for both those living and working in buildings, and also those that own and operate them. BPS are the best way to make the places we live, work, and play more comfortable, safer, and reduce the negative impacts that buildings have on our environment.

James Burton: Tenants in both commercial and multifamily properties can expect to see their energy bills decrease over time. They will experience more comfortable and consistent temperatures throughout the year, if insulation and air sealing improvements are made. If fossil fuel heating and cooling systems are replaced with modern HVACs and heat pump technologies, then people can expect to breathe cleaner air. Building owners can expect to see reduced operating costs as they make those improvements and may also see reduced tenant turnover as people experience the benefits of high-performance buildings.

What do people need to understand about these policies?

Hart: A BPS provides communities a real opportunity to capitalize on the secondary benefits we can expect to see from implementing these laws, such as job creation and economic growth, and provides more than just a means to meet climate goals. Local service providers, such as energy auditors, contractors, HVAC specialists, and architects, can expect to see a huge increase in demand for their services. If they can invest in training local apprentices, in order to bolster their staff numbers, then these service providers can expect to reap the benefits. Local providers are uniquely positioned to help building owners comply with the BPS targets because they know the building stock and their customers better than anyone.

Burton: It should be stressed to building owners and local service providers that they should not delay in scoping out the improvements they will need to make in order to comply with a BPS. As soon as a building owner is aware of the performance targets they will need to adhere to, they should ensure they are benchmarking and conducting investigations to identify what improvements they need to make. Investing time and money early on can pay off dividends in the future by providing building owners with as much time as possible to meet performance targets.

How does the Implementation Guide play into IMT’s larger goals of equity and efficiency?

Hart: Equity was a primary concern for IMT in developing this guide. Unquestionably, the guide’s biggest contribution to the project of making BPS policies more equitable is the Community Accountability Board. The CAB is an advisory body made up of representatives from frontline communities — those that experience the negative impacts of climate change first and most directly. The group is tasked with keeping tabs on the BPS’ effects on frontline communities and the buildings that serve them. The guide recommends some specific powers for the CAB including determining how financial and technical assistance is distributed, and recommending ways that supporting programs and alternative compliance options could be structured to address priority needs of frontline communities.

Burton: Continual stakeholder engagement is crucial if a BPS is to be successful, and is a core tenet of the resources that IMT produces to provide guidance to governments and communities. Ensuring that a wide spectrum of stakeholders are represented in the engagement process, from the outset of the BPS, allows for issues to be raised and addressed in a more equitable manner. In order to achieve this, frontline communities need to be involved in the policy making process. These groups have historically been neglected, or actively barred, from participating in policy development processes.

In order to ensure frontline communities benefit from BPS, IMT encourages governments at all levels to engage directly with these citizens, and ensure they are represented in administrative bodies that may be set up as part of the BPS process such as a CAB. A well constructed BPS law can greatly increase the efficiency of the local existing building stock. Ensuring equity is centered in this work is crucial in order to guarantee that frontline communities reap the benefits.

Why should jurisdictions use IMT’s Model BPS Laws or Implementation Guide?

Hart: These resources have benefitted from the input of a variety of stakeholders, and are informed by best practices from a number of jurisdictions. As such, the Implementation Guide provides a wealth of knowledge for jurisdictions that are interested in creating a BPS, and provides great detail into how they should best proceed. The Guide is not just for newcomers to BPS — it can also provide answers to questions that those already implementing a BPS law may be struggling with.

Burton: The two IMT Model BPS Laws provide different options that will suit different legislative preferences. The IMT Full Model BPS Law provides in-depth language, and covers the various aspects of BPS policy in a more comprehensive manner, for jurisdictions that have a preference for passing detailed laws. For legislatures that may have a preference for leaving more of the detailed work to the rulemaking stage of the legislative process, then the IMT Short Model BPS Law provides a streamlined version for them to use.

Quote from Zachary Hart: "BPS are the best way to make the places we live, work, and play more comfortable, safer, and reduce the negative impacts that buildings have on our environment."

Do you have any tips for people using these documents?

Hart: The Implementation Guide is written to correspond with IMT’s Full Model BPS Law and elaborates on many of the ideas introduced in that resource, such as the CAB, the Building Performance Improvement Board (BPIB), Building Performance Action Plans (BPAP), and the “Trajectory Approach” to setting interim and final performance standards. That said, the Guide has relevant information for any jurisdiction that has adopted or is considering adopting a BPS policy, regardless of how closely it resembles IMT’s Full or Short Model Law. A few highlights include:

  • information on how leading jurisdictions are staffing their BPS programs
  • guidance on the treatment of various types of performance metrics
  • recommendations for setting criteria for alternative, customized compliance paths
  • ideas for how to incorporate equity into BPS implementation

Burton: Ctrl+F is going to be your friend. On a more serious note, the best advice I have is to read these documents with an open mind. This may be a different policy approach than previously taken, and so some of the recommendations made in these documents may seem unfamiliar. Engagement with frontline communities and Community Based Organizations (CBO) is not something that all lawmakers have experience with, and so opening up policy discussions with these groups may seem daunting. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that sincere, continual, respectful, community engagement can lead to more effective and well-rounded policies. CBOs that use these resources should feel empowered to drive energy efficiency measures in buildings, and improve the livelihoods and lived experiences of those they represent.

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Meet the Authors

Zachary Hart

Former Director, Building Performance
Senior Associate, Policy

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