Courtesy of Navya Gupta.

The Ann Arbor City Council unanimously passed the first reading for an ordinance Monday evening to mandate energy and water benchmarking for certain buildings in the City to promote efficient use of energy and water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The ordinance will be brought back at a future meeting for City Council’s final approval before its policies go into effect.

Benchmarking, according to the ordinance, refers to tracking the energy and water consumption of both city-owned and non-city buildings. City-owned buildings that exceed 10,000 gross square feet in total floor area or rely on the city to pay annual energy or water bills would be required to benchmark. The ordinance also covers non-city properties that exceed 20,000 total square feet in floor area.

Property owners of buildings covered by the ordinance would be required to submit benchmarking reports annually containing information about the building area and usage as well as the amount of energy and water output.

Under the ordinance, city buildings are required to submit benchmarking reports by December 2021. Non-city buildings larger than 100,000 square feet, 50,000 square feet and 20,000 square feet are required to submit reports by June 2022, June 2023 and June 2024, respectively.

Any violation of this ordinance would be considered a civil infraction, and violators could face a fine of up to $500 for the first violation and $1,000 for following violations.

Councilmember Erica Briggs, D-Ward 5, said the ordinance increases transparency about building emissions and allows residents to better choose what type of building they would like to reside in.

“This (ordinance) is exciting for the City in terms of being able to begin getting information about how our buildings are working,” Briggs said. “(The ordinance will) allow people to make more informed, educated decisions about where they can make upgrades (in their residences) and where they might want to live in the future as well.”

Single-family homes, duplexes and residential buildings with less than four units are exempt from this ordinance. State and federal buildings are also not required, but encouraged to follow the legislation. Missy Stults, manager of the Office of Sustainability and Innovations, told Council that University of Michigan buildings are exempt from this ordinance, though the University currently benchmarks all its buildings.

Mayor Christopher Taylor said he wholeheartedly supports the ordinance because its policies align with the city’s A2Zero plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. 

“This benchmarking program will be an important step forward in allowing tenants and allowing property owners and potential property owners to understand what they are getting into and enable them to take measures to reduce their carbon footprint,” Taylor said. 

Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, said that benchmarking was important since it allows the city to track the progress in achieving carbon neutrality and then develop policies moving toward this goal based on the reports.

“Benchmarking is important,” Hayner said. “It’s nice to see where we’re at, where we’ve been, where we’re going and what changes we’ve made.”

Daily Staff Reporter Navya Gupta can be reached at itznavya@umich.edu.