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Los Angeles tops EPA's Energy Star buildings list


Los Angeles is once again king of the hill when it comes to the number of energy-efficient buildings, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s second ranking of cities nationwide.

The scorecard calculates how many commercial structures in 2009 earned the agency’s Energy Star rating, which is given to buildings that perform in the top 25% of similar buildings nationwide. Eligibility extends to 13 types of structures such as schools, hospitals, office buildings, retail stores and supermarkets.

Los Angeles had 293 buildings with the label in 2009, covering 76 million square feet and saving an estimated $93.9 million in costs.

Washington, D.C., came in second in the rankings, which also included major cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and New York.

Nearly 3,900 buildings earned the rating last year, more than a 40% boost over the year before. The energy-efficient qualities of the buildings represent more than $900 million in utility bill savings and more than 4.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions averted, according to the agency.

As of the end of 2009, the nearly 9,000 buildings across the country with the Energy Star designation are responsible for overall annual utility savings of around $1.6 billion and avoided greenhouse gas emissions from the equivalent of a million homes a year.

“The good news is we currently have the technology, the know-how and a workforce that is ready to retrofit our homes and commercial buildings to make them more efficient, while dramatically reducing pollution," said Alex Wall, clean energy associate for advocacy group Environment America in a statement. “However, home and business owners need incentives and financing mechanisms that will make it feasible to invest in making their buildings more energy efficient and to reap the tremendous benefits for our economy and our environment."

The Energy Star program reached its 10-year anniversary in December.

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Toyota's Torrance corporate office has the Energy Star label. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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Energy Star, the government, and local utilities have been offering rebates for property owners on measures like energy audits, insulation and duct sealing. SBI Energy predicts that the U.S. home energy retrofit market will grow about 15 percent per year to $35 billion by 2013, up from $20.7 billion in 2007.

David Leathers, senior vice president of energy services for mechanical contractor Limbach, confides that U.S. commercial building in the U.S. five years or older can likely benefit from a retrofit with payback for most measures taken in less than five years.

I would like to get better energy efficient windows for my house, but the cost would prohibitive - a minimum of $40,000. It would take a hundred years or more to realize the cost savings.
Much better assistance is needed to retrofit older homes.


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