Energy used by buildings accounts for most of a city's carbon emissions—as much as 80% in New York's case, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The good news is that more cities are getting this message and encouraging owners and real estate developers to make buildings less wasteful. Since 1999, 23,000 commercial buildings have earned the EPA’s Energy Star rating, a measure of efficiency relative to similar buildings around the country. (To qualify, buildings are ranked on a 100 point scale, with 50 being average, and above-75 winning an Energy Star).
The agency recently produced a ranking of cities with the most certified buildings in 2013. Los Angeles comes top with 443 buildings, followed by Washington, D.C., with 435, and Atlanta with 318. New York came fourth with 303.
It's the sixth year in a row that L.A. has come first, reflecting the large levels of state incentives for developers. Buildings owned by the likes of FedEx, Hertz, Johnson & Johnson all qualified last year. In total, 7,000 got Energy Stars in 2013, saving a total of $1.4 billion, or 7.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.
"On average, Energy Star-certified buildings generate 35% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than typical buildings, are less expensive to operate, and are more attractive to tenants," the EPA said in a statement.