Late in 2019, Philadelphia’s City Council passed Bill #190600, creating the new Building Energy Performance Program (BEPP). This program was developed to help achieve the city’s ambitious climate goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. According to the city’s Office of Sustainability, “once implemented, [the program] will cut carbon pollution in the City of Philadelphia by nearly 200,000 metric tons. This is the climate pollution equivalent of taking 40,000 automobiles off our roads.
More commonly referred to as a “Building Tune-Up,” this policy affects all non-residential buildings in Philadelphia over 50,000 SF. Like a car, buildings require regular tune-ups to verify the systems are operating within acceptable design parameters and in an energy efficient manner. Philadelphia’s building tune-up consists of a review of the water and energy usage systems, sequences of operation of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems plus, controls and maintenance practices. The tune-up includes an assessment, performed by a city approved Tune-Up Specialist, to identify any building systems that do not comply with the city’s standards. After the assessment, the building owner is required to implement all adjustments and minor corrective actions identified by the Tune-Up Specialist and then submit a report to the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability. The report should detail the results of the assessment and the corrective actions taken.
What is the Tune-Up Process?
Philadelphia has set building tune-up deadlines by size. While there are exceptions, most building types are required to have a tune-up. The first deadline is for buildings over 200,000SF and must be completed by September 29, 2022 (this deadline was moved due to COVID). While this date is over a year away, performing tune-ups now and executing corrective actions will avoid costly daily fines from the city for non-compliance and the building owner can spread out repair costs. The tune-up deadlines for other buildings are determined by the building size and can be found here.
It is important for the building owner to identify if their building qualifies for an exemption from the tune-up program. In addition to exemptions for certain building types, a building may also qualify for an exemption due to current exemplary performance. To qualify for an exemption, there are specific pathways with detailed criteria that must be fulfilled. Bala can help walk owners through the baseline review. If the building is exempt from the tune-up law, the owner must submit the required exemption documentation. Deadlines to file for an exemption can be found here.
Coordination for a building tune-up requires preparation and attentive communication between Bala’s Tune-Up Specialists, the building owner and their facility operators. Facility Managers should have the most recent as-built engineering documents available for review. This can be challenging for buildings that have not undergone renovation in the past decade or more, but it is important to begin compiling the documents prior to the onsite work. The engineering documents should also be accompanied by organized utility bills (energy and water) from the prior 12-month period. The more documents made available to the review team, the more efficient the review process. Additionally, aligning routine maintenance schedules from third-party contractors and vendors provides an opportunity for further efficiency in performing the Building Tune-Up.
Bala will help you navigate the data acquisition process and focus on strategies that will yield the greatest potential benefit with the least associated operational and financial risk.
After the assessment, the building owner must remedy the issues identified in the Tune-up Specialist’s report before submitting the documents to the city. The city has stated that they are looking for minor high-impact improvements noted in the report to be performed so building owners are not overwhelmed by immediate upfront capital costs. The Office of Sustainability has not clearly determined prioritization for the remaining improvements identified during the assessment. However, the Building Tune-Up Specialist will make recommendations in alignment with the best interests of the building owner, facilities management team and the goals of the program.
Are There Benefits to the Owner and the Building?
Yes! Although, these tune-ups are meant to improve Philadelphia’s air quality and to meet the city’s climate goals, any corrective measures should also enhance the building’s operations, its energy and water efficiency and the wellness of the building’s occupants. Improving the efficiency of the equipment and operation of MEP systems in the building should also produce lower building operation costs. Resolving system deficiencies or issues that may have gone unnoticed for years and identifying areas for improvement could extend the life of the facility and improve operating costs.
How Can Bala Help?
Our dedicated, independent Commissioning group has city approved building Tune-Up Specialists. With almost 40 years of engineering design and commissioning experience in all types of buildings, Bala can thoroughly evaluate the building’s current operating conditions, recommend upgrades and educate the facility staff about proposed improvements. The Commissioning group has the onsite field experience working with owners to understand their requirements and help achieve their goals. Our team regularly performs operational testing and installation verification in facilities, and they use building management systems to review sequences of operation and monitoring information. Communication is paramount and we endeavor to facilitate each step of the process.