DOE to toughen energy efficiency standards for new federal buildings

The Energy Department (DOE) on Tuesday will unveil regulations requiring new federal buildings to meet more stringent energy efficiency standards.

The move comes as President Obama aggressively launches a new push on his climate change agenda, implementing a number of executive actions to bypass Congress and promote renewable energy and green technologies. Strengthening energy efficiency standards is a centerpiece of Obama’s efforts.

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Designs for federal commercial buildings and federally built multi-family high rises must adhere to new industry-adopted standards under the rule, which will be effective July 2014, according to a document to be published Tuesday in the Federal Register.

The DOE touted the forthcoming rules, saying they would save 18.2 percent more source energy than earlier building requirements. The change is expected to cut energy costs by an estimated $1.74 billion over 30 years.

The department estimated the tougher standards would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 90 million metric tons over 30 years. It said the standard would curtail nitrogen oxides and mercury emissions by roughly 92,000 and 1.3 metric tons, respectively, through the same period.

But some federal buildings would need to go even further than the baseline standard, the DOE said.

If proposed designs are determined to be “life-cycle cost effective,” the structures must perform at least 30 percent below the baseline level.

At that rate, the rule would slash carbon emissions by roughly 199 million metric tons by 2043, nitrogen oxides by about 203,000 metric tons and mercury emissions by 2.8 metric tons.

The change is based on a more recent 2010 tightening of an American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) building standard. The DOE had been abiding by ASHRAE’s 2007 guidelines.

The agency said federal law forced the change, as the DOE must keep federal baseline energy efficiency standards current with industry practices.