Detroit Passes Benchmarking Ordinance as Part of City’s Climate Strategy


Detroit joins the forefront of sustainable urban development with the recent adoption of an energy and water benchmarking policy for existing commercial & multifamily buildings. A formal public hearing on the proposed ordinance was held on November 20, and it unanimously passed City Council the next day. The ordinance, detailed in this Detroit Commercial and Multifamily Benchmarking and Transparency resource, establishes a robust framework for benchmarking energy consumption, which contributes to the city’s sustainability goals. Joining the ranks of leading cities such as Chicago, Columbus, Minneapolis and Ann Arbor, Detroit's new benchmarking policy represents a significant milestone in the city's commitment to energy efficiency.

Commercial & Multifamily Energy & Water Benchmarking Policy 

This policy requires property owners to track and disclose their buildings’ annual energy and water usage. The ordinance also mandates annual reporting of energy and water usage for all municipal buildings and commercial and multifamily buildings over 100,000 gross square feet (GSF), beginning in 2024. Data for the 2023 calendar year is due by October 1, 2024, with subsequent annual data due by June 1st of each following year. Commercial and multifamily buildings between 25,000 GSF and 100,000 GSF will follow suit, reporting their data starting in 2025. This critical tool not only monitors the city's energy and water consumption but also serves as a key action in the Detroit Climate Strategy, unveiled alongside the policy adoption. Building owners will be required to report their data through an online energy and emissions tracking platform, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.  

Buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Detroit, representing 63% of GHG emissions in 2018. Because buildings contribute to such a large portion of GHG emissions, benchmarking policies are often included in city and state energy and climate plans. Benchmarking energy and water use has been shown to reduce consumption, leading to lower operating costs, reduced GHG emissions and increased savings for owners and tenants. Detroit's proactive approach to sustainability is further showcased through collaborative efforts, namely with the Detroit City Council Green Task Force’s Energy Waste Reduction Committee (EWR). EWR conducted outreach and sought input from various stakeholders, with the goal of incorporating equity into benchmarking efforts. Kendal Kuneman, Program Manager with the Detroit 2030 District, co-leads EWR alongside Ben Dueweke, Director of Community Partnerships with Walker-Miller Energy Services. The pair have advocated for the ordinance since 2020, and Kuneman said the city’s next step is to develop a list of buildings required to comply with the ordinance.  

Detroit Climate Strategy 

The benchmarking policy is one of the key actions in the newly launched Detroit Climate Strategy, which was released by the City’s Office of Sustainability on November 22. The Detroit Climate Strategy, a roadmap for the city's climate goals, was shaped by the city’s Climate Equity Action Council with extensive community input over two years. The Detroit Climate Strategy highlights four approaches, each with 3-year milestones: transition Detroit’s energy supply to clean energy; increase access to sustainable mobility options; accelerate energy efficiency and reduce waste; and help communities adapt to a changing climate, with a focus on the city’s most vulnerable residents. Overall, this framework aims to achieve the city's commitment to reduce municipal GHG emissions 75% by 2034 and 100% by 2050. 

For more details on Detroit's groundbreaking initiatives, you can explore the full press release here and find more information on the Detroit 2030 District webpage.