Many people know how their cars rate in miles per gallon of gasoline. But buildings in a city? There’s no equivalent public standard for measuring the energy efficiency of city structures.

That’s unfortunate, because at least according to a 2018 report for New York City, buildings are responsible for nearly 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. Clean up building emissions, and you can significantly improve urban air quality.

During our US Ignite Forum event on Smart City Sustainability in April, Katrina Managan, head of Denver’s energy efficient building department, showed how her city is tackling the green building challenge. Managan leads a program that is collecting data on energy performance and using that information to create a public map. The map displays buildings based on their Energy Star score, with color coding to indicate strong performers, and those buildings that need improvement. The map also includes popup windows providing details about the number rank of each building, plus how much money could be saved annually if energy efficiency improved by 30%.

This benchmarking initiative has two major benefits. It creates incentive to reduce greenhouse emissions, and it demonstrates the economic benefit of improving energy performance. According to Managan, if Denver invests $340 million in greener buildings, it could unlock $1.3 billion in energy savings throughout the city.

Making buildings more energy efficient is just one part of the Denver Climate Action Plan, which establishes a goal of reducing regional greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, set from a baseline in 2005. Want to learn more about how Denver is working to improve citywide sustainability? Check out the Environmental Quality page of Denver’s site for the Department of Public Health and Environment. And look for the US Ignite Smart City Sustainability playbook coming in June, part of our library of resources from US Ignite Forum events.