Seattle is the latest city to announce that it has taken giant leaps when it comes to multifamily energy benchmarking. Under the new Seattle Energy Benchmarking and Reporting Ordinance, the city compiled energy data on 87 percent of its commercial and multifamily buildings that are 50,000 square feet or greater, in 2011.

Why is this important? For years, owners looking for the funds to do green retrofits faced a major obstacle—a lack of data to help justify the expenditures. This benchmarking effort will help provide metrics around the long-term savings associated with green rehabs and new development, which may spur more favorable underwriting from the financiers investing in such deals.

Seattle is in good company. In other large cities, similar ordinances have already been passed into legislation. Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, Austin, and Philadelphia already require energy benchmarking data on commercial and multifamily structures to be reported.

According to Jill Simmons, director of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment, the initiative is one that draws a line in the sand that will go a long way toward helping the city and multifamily owners in the long run.

“Seattle’s benchmarking program has helped many building owners who have never tracked energy use before better understand their building’s energy performance,” said Simmons. “Reporting the information to the city will help us improve and create programs to help owners upgrade their facilities to save energy and money.”

Energy data for 2012 is required to be submitted by April 1, 2013 in each of the cities mentioned above.