In the waning days of 2019, the City of Philadelphia passed a Building Tune-up law as a step towards reducing carbon emission in the city by 25% by 2025. Philadelphia joined a growing list of cities - including Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle and Washington DC - that have enacted Building Energy Performance Policies during the last decade. To learn more about Philadelphia’s Building Tune-up law and the Building Energy Performance Policies that have been enacted in several American cities, ACE IoT’s William Maguire interviewed Megan O’Neil, Manager of City Solutions at the Institute for Market Transformation.

Five Questions for Megan O’Neil at the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT)

WM: What is the Institute for Market Transformation and how does IMT help advance Building Energy Performance Policies?

MO: IMT is a non-profit organization based in Washington. Since 1996, IMT has worked toward a future in which all buildings are highly efficient. IMT’s work focuses on the intersection of market dynamics and public policy to advance widespread and lasting demand for high-performing buildings. With respect to advocating for Building Energy Performance Policies, IMT is a partner to government officials and key stakeholders providing guidance and support as they consider the best approaches to meet their city’s goals. Folks interested in more information about IMT’s partnerships with cities can visit

WM: You worked closely with the City of Philadelphia to enact its Building Tune-up law. What does the law require and what were the city’s goals associated with the law?

MO: Philadelphia’s Building Energy Performance Policy requires office buildings 50,000 square feet and larger to submit a certification of high energy performance to the City or conduct a tune-up to bring existing building energy systems up to a state of good repair. Tune-ups are small tweaks to existing systems and controls that will lead to cost savings for building owners.

The minor tweaks called-for by Philadelphia’s Building Tune-Up Policies will result – on average – in 10-15% annual energy savings, more comfortable tenants, and less equipment failure issues down the road.”

Megan O’Neil, Manager of City Solutions at the Institute for Market Transformation

In conjunction with the passage of the Building Tune-up law, Philadelphia conducted a pilot tune-up on a Juvenile Justice Center and found that a $12,000 investment will result in $24,000 in annual energy savings. The Building Energy Performance Policy will help Philadelphia cut carbon emissions by nearly 200,000 metric tons.

WM: At ACE IoT we work with our clients to help them acquire, access and manage building energy and operations data. We believe having unfettered access to granular operations data is critical to assessing and improving a building’s performance. Do you think this is true?

MO: Yes, I do. Before joining IMT, I worked for the City of Atlanta where I oversaw the implementation of the Commercial Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance. In Atlanta, I saw first-hand that access to granular, real-time data can be incredibly valuable. Access to the data helps facilities professionals identify problems like equipment failure. Access to data also helps organizations identify the investments of time and money that will have the greatest impact on a building’s performance.

WM: How is Philadelphia’s Building Tune-up law different from - or similar to - building performance programs enacted in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle and Washington DC?

MO: Atlanta, Boston and Los Angeles have implemented energy audit and/or retro-commissioning programs. Seattle was the first city to enact a Building Tune-up policy. In Washington DC, IMT worked closely with the city to pass the Clean Energy Omnibus Act, a law that mandates energy use improvements across a wide range of existing buildings. Similar to Washington DC, New York City has passed Local Law 97 requiring building owners to achieve a certain level of performance with hefty fines for those who do not comply.

In addition, there are also a total of 31 cities with building energy benchmarking ordnances. Time has shown that these ordinances result in a 5-6% reduction in carbon emissions. The various building performance programs enacted in Atlanta, Boston, New York City and the other cities you mentioned are designed to build-upon the impact of previously enacted building energy benchmarking policies.

WM: Included among the readers of ACE IoT’s blog are facilities managers and their HVAC, Controls and Analytics partners. What opportunities or challenges do Building Energy Performance Programs create for these constituencies?

MO: The Philadelphia Building Tune-up policy alone has the potential to create 600 new jobs within the first five years of implementation. The building energy performance policies create opportunities for careers in the local clean energy economy. Since making a building more energy efficient requires professionals to work directly in a building, energy efficiency jobs are locally-based opportunities that can’t be outsourced. At IMT, we project that the de-carbonization economy will create thousands of jobs in American cities. There is no doubt that HVAC, controls and building data analytics companies are all going to have a large and important role in the clean energy economy.

WM: Thank you very much, Megan. I learned a lot and it was a pleasure to speak with you about such an interesting and important topic.

MO: Thank you for your interest, William. It was my pleasure.

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