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Understanding the State of Colorado’s “Energy Performance for Buildings” Statute

Jun 03, 2024

Recently we have written about Energize Denver—the city’s bold steps to address global climate change with regulations and programs that prioritize equity while enhancing energy in commercial buildings. It’s not just Denver—the state of Colorado also has a program designed to optimize energy efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the building sector.

This started with the “Energy Performance for Buildings” Statute (House Bill 21-1286), which passed the Colorado General Assembly on June 1, 2021, and went into effect on September 6, 2021. This law requires owners of large commercial, multifamily, and public buildings 50,000 square feet or more to annually benchmark their whole-building energy use to the Colorado Energy Office.

Colorado Energy Benchmarking Purpose

Building Performance Colorado is a statewide program aimed at increasing energy efficiency and decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in buildings. Created from the “Energy Performance for Buildings” Statute, the program is administered by the Colorado Energy Office. The goal of the program is to help Colorado building owners understand and track energy use of large buildings and to reduce GHG pollution. Benchmarking is the measurement and tracking of energy usage in buildings, which helps building owners and tenants better understand how their building’s energy efficiency performance compares to similar buildings across the nation. Once poor performing buildings are identified, the next step is to identify opportunities in those buildings to reduce energy waste and save money.

What Types of Buildings Are Required to Comply?

Covered buildings are defined as buildings that have a gross floor area of 50,000 square feet or larger, that are occupied by a single occupant or a group of tenants. This includes commercial, multifamily, industrial, and manufacturing, public, and other types of buildings. Mixed-use buildings that include a combination of the covered building types are also included in this definition.

Additionally, starting in 2026, buildings will be required to meet energy performance targets as part of Colorado’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What are Building Performance Requirements?

Performance standards create energy performance targets for buildings to meet over the coming years, through specific reductions in energy use or GHG emissions. These important standards drive investments in energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, and renewable energy, which will save energy and money while reducing GHG pollution from buildings over time. As established in HB21-1286, all buildings under this program must collectively meet the overall emission reduction goal of 7% by 2026, and 20% by 2030, from the 2021 energy use baseline. Using the benchmarking data submitted for the calendar year 2021, property type targets were established by individual property types, such that the overall emission goals of the program would be met. These targets are listed in Appendix A of the CO Draft BPS Technical Guide.

What are the fines?

Penalties for benchmarking non-compliance will begin in 2024. A building owner who fails to meet the building performance standards by the targeted deadline is subject to a fine of up to $2,000 for the first violation and up to $5,000 per month for each subsequent violation.

How Do I Comply?

Benchmarking Compliance: Building owners must report their energy usage data to EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, a reporting tool that allows building owners to compare their building’s energy consumption with similar buildings.

To comply with Building Performance Colorado, all building owners are required to pay an annual fee of $100 per covered building.

Building Performance Standard Compliance: Owners can choose to comply with the BPS requirements by selecting one of the following compliance pathways and its corresponding metric.

  • Energy Efficiency Pathway: Reduce the building’s energy use through the implementation of energy efficiency measures and/or technologies.

    • Metric: Site EUI Property Type Target
    • Reporting Requirement: Demonstrate EUI target was met through the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager benchmarking report.
  • GHG Reduction Pathway: Reduce the building’s greenhouse gas emissions through replacing fossil fuel equipment with high-efficiency electric equipment, or through the use or purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).

    • Metric: GHGI Property Type Target
    • Reporting Requirement: Demonstrate GHGI target was met through the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager Building Emissions Calculator report.
  • Standard % Reduction Pathway: Reduce the building’s energy or GHG emissions by the following percent reductions in each reporting period:

    • 2026 – 2029: 13%
    • 2030 – 2050: 29%
    • Metric: Site EUI or GHGI Target
    • Reporting Requirement: Demonstrate EUI Target was met through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager benchmarking report, OR GHGI Target was met through Portfolio Manager Building Emissions Calculator report.

Compliance Strategies

To comply with the BPS, building owners can take several approaches including making energy efficiency upgrades, electrifying a building’s systems, using renewables, or implementing some combination of the three. Reducing energy consumption per the Energy Efficiency Pathway can be achieved via building upgrades and/or modifications to occupant behavior.

Making energy efficiency upgrades and thereby reducing a building’s energy use results in less GHG emissions. Efficiency upgrades allow for a building owner to continue operation in the same (or better) manner than it does at present, while reducing the energy used to do so.

Energy auditing a building can help a building owner identify and cost-estimate efficiency upgrades for that specific building. Creating an energy efficiency roadmap that meets the required performance target and timeline may help building owners plan for improvements over time.

Colorado Energy Benchmarking & Building Performance Standards Resources

Some jurisdictions in Colorado, such as Denver, Fort Collins, Boulder, and Aspen also have their own energy benchmarking programs that may require additional compliance for your large building. The State’s Building Performance Standard requirements do not supersede or replace local jurisdictions’ requirements. Building owners must comply with both Building Performance Requirements at the local and state level. Learn more about the requirements of each city below:

To learn more about measuring performance, identifying high-performance strategies, or navigating the Energize Denver Ordinance specifically, contact or

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Marx|Okubo is a national architecture/engineering/construction consulting firm that works with real estate owners, investors and lenders—at every point of the property lifecycle—to evaluate their building projects, solve complex challenges and implement tailored solutions. We help clients understand their projects’ complexities, so they can make more informed decisions and, ultimately, mitigate their risk.