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Boulder Building Performance

Boulder Building Performance

Energy Efficiency for Commercial and Industrial Buildings

In support of community energy and climate goals, the Boulder City Council adopted the Boulder Building Performance Ordinance (Ordinance No. 8071) on Oct. 20, 2015. These rating and reporting and energy efficiency requirements move beyond current voluntary programs to require actions that reduce energy use and improve the quality of Boulder’s commercial and industrial building stock.

View the Boulder Building Performance infographic for a quick overview of the requirements and compliance timeline. 

City Manager Rules:The city manager is authorized to adopt rules and regulations necessary in order to interpret, further define, or implement provisions of this ordinance. 

For information on Background, Rebates, Training, Enforcement, or FAQs, please scroll down.

Ordinance Requirements

Rating and Reporting Definition This ordinance requires privately-owned commercial and industrial buildings and city-owned buildings to do the following:

  1. Annually rate and report (R&R) building energy use;
  2. Perform energy assessments (EA) every ten years;
  3. Perform retrocommissioning (RCx) every ten years and implement cost effective 1 RCx measures within two years of the study; and
  4. Implement one-time lighting upgrades.

For further information on these requirements, view  How to comply.

What is Required of Me?

Building Owners

  • Rate and report building energy use.
    • Collect whole building electricity and natural gas use data for the calendar year.
    • Enter data into ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager (ESPM).
    • Enter the Boulder Energy Reporting ID and run the Data Quality Checker in ESPM.
    • Report ESPM data to the City of Boulder and share with the building tenants.
  • Implement energy efficiency measures within the required timeline.

Building Tenants

  • Work with the building owner to share energy bills and allow access to space within 30 days of the request.
  • Encouraged to better understand energy performance in your space/building.
  • Encouraged to collaborate with the building owner to reduce energy waste.


Deadlines for each requirement are listed by affected building type and square footage (sf) below.

Large Industrial Campuses have separate requirements and timelines.

Requirement Existing Buildings ≥ 50,000 sf, New Buildings 2 ≥ 10,000 sf, City Buildings ≥ 5,000 sf Existing Buildings ≥ 30,000 sf Existing Buildings ≥ 20,000 sf
Rating and Reporting 2016 2018 2020
Energy Assessments and Public Disclosure 2019 2021 2023
Lighting Upgrades and RCx 2021 2023 2025
Implement Cost Effective Measures 2023 2025 2027

1 Any investment or project with a predicted payback period of two years or less.

2 This refers to any commercial or industrial building for which an initial building permit was issued on or before Jan. 21, 2014. This was the date when the city starting enforcing the new commercial energy code (from IECC 2006 to 30 percent better than IECC 2012). This data is being collected to determine how buildings are performing relative to energy model predictions calculated during the permit process.

2016 Rating and Reporting Results

The city's online map shows 2016 compliance results for all affected buildings and energy metrics for city-owned buildings. 

2017 Rating & Reporting

The Building Performance Ordinance features a phased compliance schedule with 2017 deadlines for rating and reporting shown below.

Affected Building   Deadline  
City Buildings ≥ 5,000 sf   May 1, 2017
Large Industrial Campuses June 1, 2017
Existing Buildings ≥ 50,000 sf, New Buildings ≥ 10,000 sf June 1, 2017

Additional Information

Review detailed timeline information and guidance on How to comply.

For compliance assistance and information on training, rebates and incentives, please see Resources.

For detailed background on rating and reporting, similar requirements in other cities, and the history of the Building Performance Ordinance, please see Background.


Download the exemption request form pdf  for information on the exemptions available and to apply for an exemption.

For additional guidance and examples, please see Chapter 4. Exemptions in the Efficiency Requirements How-to Guide pdf.

Commercial and industrial building owners may be exempt from the requirements if: the building is unconditioned and unlit; if the building does not have a full year’s worth of utility data; or if the building owner can provide proof of financial hardship.

High performing, energy-efficient buildings will still be required to rate and report, but will be exempt from the other efficiency requirements. Buildings will be considered for the efficiency exemption if they meet any of the following criteria:

There is also an exemption from the energy assessment requirement if a building owner can demonstrate that he or she conducted an equivalent energy assessment within ten years of the first deadline for energy assessments, and implemented the cost-effective actions that were recommended.

There are also large industrial campus special exemptions.

Applications must be received sixty days before the applicable requirement deadline.


Commercial and industrial buildings are responsible for 53 percent of Boulder’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Buildings that rate their energy performance typically attain an average energy savings of two to three percent per year. The estimated total GHG reduction anticipated as a result of these requirements is equivalent to taking more than 21,000 cars off the road every year. The estimated annual net benefit to the local economy is $8.5 to $14 million.

Anticipated Benefits
The city anticipates that the Boulder Building Performance Ordinance will generate significant long-term emissions and economic benefits for our community. In addition to these high-level community benefits, the city anticipates a number of direct benefits to commercial and industrial business owners and tenants:

  • Improving the quality of Boulder’s commercial building stock;
  • Saving money on utility bills through cost-effective efficiency measures;
  • Helping building owners understand and manage their buildings’ energy use;
  • Educating tenants and real estate professionals about building energy performance;
  • Informing future energy programs and services for the commercial and industrial sector; and
  • Marketing buildings in compliance as efficient and high-performing.

Watch this video to learn more about the benefits of rating and reporting.

Public Disclosure

The city plans to publicly disclose building energy use and energy performance ratings after a two year grace period to provide owners time to improve their buildings’ rating. For buildings that are reporting in 2016, this two year grace period will end in 2019. Therefore, after setting the baseline in the first reporting year and allowing two full rating cycles to improve the score, 2018 energy use and performance will be disclosed in 2019. Any information submitted to the city, including information shared during the grace period, will be subject to the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). Building owners concerned about their information being subject to a CORA request during the grace period or thereafter can apply for an exemption pdf. If the submission is sufficient and exemption is approved, the city will withhold the information from any CORA request. If you have questions on CORA, please view this additional information.

City energy efficiency projects and accomplishments as well as energy use data and energy performance ratings for buildings owned by the City of Boulder are currently available to the public.


If you are the owner of an affected building, you are required to rate and report building energy data to the City of Boulder by the deadlines posted (see above).   Failure to do so can result in fines of $0.0025 per square foot up to $1,000 per day of non-compliance.

Any tenant of an owner subject to the provisions of this chapter shall, within 30 days of a request, provide to the owner any information that cannot otherwise be acquired by the owner and that is needed to comply with the provisions of this chapter. Failure to do so may result in similar fines.

For Service Providers

Please view the Service Provider page for more information on becoming a qualified service provider or finding a service provider.


1. The square footage of my building is incorrect in the Affected Building List –What do I do? Send the correct square footage to the City of Boulder at . In addition, make sure you use the corrected square footage in your Portfolio Manager account.

2. My building square footage is less than 50,000. Do I need to do anything now? If your building is not on the 2016 Affected Buildings List, or the correct square footage of your building is less than 50,000 sf and you have reported this to the City of Boulder, you are not required to do anything in 2016. However, if your building will be required to comply in future years as shown in the timeline above on the main page, you can start now by reaching out to Partners for a Clean Environment (PACE) for FREE assistance to figure out the best way to get ahead of the game. Contact a Business Sustainability Advisor at 303-786-7223 or email .

3. My space use type isn't listed - what do I select? I f you cannot find your space use type in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, contact a Business Sustainability Advisor at 303-786-7223 or email . Keep in mind as you enter your information in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager that not all space use types are eligible to receive an ENERGY STAR score.

If your building is a manufacturing facility, there is an alternative tool for you to use instead of ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager: the ENERGY STAR Energy Tracking Tool or the ENERGY STAR Energy Performance Indicators Tool. The city is providing financial support to the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project to help owners of manufacturing facilities benchmark their buildings. Contact Neil Kolwey at 303-499-0213 or to determine what tool you should use.

4. My tenants pay their own utility bills. How do I collect their energy use?  Xcel Energy has launched a new energy benchmarking portal that allows you to connect your property in Portfolio Manager to Xcel Energy and receive automatic uploading of whole-building energy consumption data. See the How-to Guide pdf for details on getting your tenants' energy data from Xcel Energy. If you need use details from your tenants, such as operating hours or number of computers, the Tenant Information Request Form pdf will be useful for requesting those details from your tenants. Remember, tenants are required to share their energy consumption and/or use details with their affected building owner within 30 days of the request or would be in violation of the Boulder Revised Code, Title10 Chapter 7.7.

5. My building recently underwent a renovation/efficiency upgrades. Do I still need to comply? All affected buildings are required to rate and report energy use – this is a good way to see the impact your upgrades/renovations have had and also to set the bar for your peers! Additionally, your upgrade/renovations may mean your building is eligible for an exemption pdf from the other efficiency requirements.

6. We regularly maintain our HVAC equipment. If we supply the records to prove this must we still be held to the retrocommissioning requirement? Regular maintenance is not a substitute for retrocommissioning, which targets optimizing controls and operation to maximize energy efficiency. 

7. My building received a Level I energy assessment already – does this count for the assessment requirement? If your building is less than 50,000 sf, an energy assessment equivalent to an ASHRAE Level I is accepted for compliance if it meets the requirements outlined in the City Manager Rules pdf. However, if your building is larger than 50,000 sf, a Level I assessment will not count toward your assessment requirement. To ensure compliance, the Level II energy assessment must meet all of the requirements of an ASHRAE Level II assessment, as outlined in the City Manager Rules pdf. However, if you have already received a Level I assessment, simply implementing some of the recommended measures could mean your building is eligible for an exemption pdf from the efficiency requirements (including the Level II assessment for large buildings). Contact a PACE advisor for assistance at 303-786-7223 or email .

8. How will I know when new forms/resources are available? Check out the website frequently for updates and sign up for our Monthly Newsletter on the homepage of to stay up-to-date and keep informed. Direct your specific questions to a Business Sustainability Advisor at 303-786-7223 or email or the City of Boulder's Program Administrator at 303-441-4227 or .

9. What are the consequences of not complying with one or more of the requirements? The penalty is listed under the Enforcement drop down on the main webpage and is a fine of $0.0025 per square foot per day (up to $1,000 per day) of non-compliance.

10. My building includes a marijuana grow facility and my energy performance will look skewed. How should I report?  Contact the Program Administrator  at 303-441-4227 or for guidance.

11. I have a cell tower that is responsible for some of the energy use at my building. How do I report it? If the cell tower is sub-metered, you can exclude it from your property's energy use in Portfolio Manager. Simply exclude that meter if you are entering data manually. If you are using Xcel's benchmarking portal to automatically upload whole-building energy consumption, work with Xcel during the set-up to ensure the cell tower sub-meter is excluded from the whole-building data upload.

12. How do energy service providers apply to get on the Qualified List?   The city is requiring providers complete an online training. Once the training is completed, service providers will be able to register and indicate which of the required credentials they posses. The city will then verify those credentials and add you to the List of Qualified Service Providers for the Ordinance requirements. Please view the Service Provider page for more information.

13. What is the different criteria for which measures are required to be implemented: "less than 2 years" vs "less than 5 years" payback. The retrocommissioning (RCx) requirement of the ordinance requires that RCx measures with a 2 year or less payback be implemented. The only time measures with a 5 year payback must be implemented is if a building owner is trying to receive an exemption from the energy assessment requirement due to having had an equivalent energy assessment within 10 years of the first assessment deadline. In that case and only that case, all measures identified in the assessment with 5 years or less payback must have been implemented to receive the exemption from the energy assessment requirement.

14. My organization has a smaller building at 23,000 sf. Can I perform a Level II energy audit and get any benefits/rebates from Xcel Energy? Affected buildings less than 50,000 sf can comply with the ordinance by getting a free Level I assessment from PACE. However, if you would like to get a Level II energy assessment for your affected building that is accepted. Note, Xcel Energy does not offer Level II energy assessments. However, Xcel Energy's Level I energy assessment would be a good foundation before requesting a Level II energy assessment from the same or a different service provider (as long as they are on the city's Qualified List). In addition, this building would be eligible for the city Level II rebates, though keep in mind the rebates are first come first served pending funding availability.

15. Would Green Globe certification be allowed in lieu of LEED? If a building owner is looking to request an exemption from the efficiency requirements and has achieved a Green Globe certification, they can submit the exemption request. They would need to complete the “Other” exemption and provide a justification of why the Green Globe certification should be considered equivalent to the LEED EBOM certification. The city may request additional supporting documentation as part of its review and certification.

16. As a manufacturer, how can we upload the energy data from Xcel Energy if we use the Energy Tracking Tool? Xcel Energy will still be able to provide you the aggregated whole-building energy data for the reporting year. However, the monthly automatic upload is only for use in Portfolio Manager, so the manufacturer would have to request the aggregated building data from Xcel Energy in spreadsheet format every year and manually enter that data into the Energy Tracking Tool to complete rating and reporting with that alternative tool.

17. Is the production data on the Energy Tracking Tool , e.g., how many items we produced, shown in the public disclosure part of the program?  Unless an exemption is filed from public disclosure, the total energy use and the energy use metric chosen (which may be per unit of production) would be publicly disclosed. However, the city offers an exemption from public disclosure in the case information includes proprietary information or trade secrets. Therefore, if a manufacturing facility using the Energy Tracking Tool can prove that disclosing production info would threaten their competitive advantage or trade secrets, they can submit an exemption request. If approved, the city would publicly disclose EITHER the energy use per unit of production OR the total energy use, but not both (which would allow someone to calculate the total units produced in the reporting year). However, the production information would still be submitted to the city for compliance purposes as part of the energy report. The exemption would only ensure that the confidential information would not be publicly reported.

18. There are many other firms that can provide RCx but may not be on Xcel Energy’s list. Can they provide RCx services? Affected building owners are not required to meet the retrocommissioning requirement through Xcel’s programs. Therefore, as long as the retrocommissioning professional is on the City of Boulder’s Qualified List of Service Providers, that professional can provide the retrocommissioning service for the building owner to meet the scope of activities outlined in the City Manager Rules on the program website. However, if an affected building owner wants to use Xcel Energy’s programs (which offer significant discounts and rebates) to comply, the city will accept that scope for compliance and the owner must select a provider that is both approved by the city AND meets Xcel Energy’s program participation requirements. Therefore, if an affected building owner decides to comply with the retrocommissioning requirement by going through Xcel Energy’s program, it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure the provider they select is listed on the City of Boulder's Qualified List for retrocommissioning.

19. Does this ordinance apply to existing buildings under 20K sq. ft?  Existing buildings that are less than 20,000 sf are not subject to these requirements. The exceptions to this are for city-owned buildings, which are subject if 5,000 sf or larger, and new construction buildings permitted since the last energy code update of Jan. 31, 2014, which are subject if 10,000 sf or larger.

20. Are manufacturing facilities eligible for exemptions? Yes. Manufacturing facilities are eligible for all exemptions listed in the Exemption Form on the homepage of the website. If the facility does not meet one of the specific exemption pathways, but believes it should be exempt, the facility owner can select an alternative method for proving its high efficiency and submit the request with that justification for the city’s consideration.

21. If a building has monitoring based commissioning, will that exempt it from the RCx requirements, or even lengthen the time period between when RCx is required? Monitoring based commissioning (MBCx) is an excellent strategy to maintain the persistence of savings generated from a full Retrocommissioning (RCx) effort, but it is not a substitute for the RCx. However, if a building had RCx conducted in the past and can produce records from the subsequent MBCx to prove the persistence of savings, and to show that issues that were identified through the MBCx were addressed, the city would consider that as an exemption for the next RCx deadline. Also, any building with MBCx is likely energy efficient, and could therefore try to achieve an exemption to all efficiency requirements by achieving ENERGY STAR certification.

22. I have started setting up my property in Portfolio Manager but I’m stuck. How can I get help? PACE Business Sustainability Advisors are your go-to resource to help you out. They can help with setting up your property in the system, collecting your data, and connecting with Xcel’s benchmarking portal. Contact PACE at 303-786-7223 or . In addition, the rating and reporting how-to guide has frequently asked questions specific to rating and reporting in the tool and detailed step-by-step instructions. The Portfolio Manager website has Q&A lunch sessions, guidance documents and quick videos, and online trainings.

23. I just purchased the building, do I have to report? Buildings that have transferred ownership are not exempt from the reporting requirements. The only exemption from reporting is if your certificate of occupancy at the building shows less than 12 calendar months of data.The previous owner is required to provide any information the new owner may need to ensure compliance can be achieved by the deadline.

24. I have a manufacturing facility where I meet the definition of manufacturing because more than 50% of the buildings energy use is from processing, but my building also has other space uses in it, like a restaurant and office. Which reporting tool should I use, Portfolio Manager or the Tracking Tool? Ultimately, it is up to you and how you want to understand your energy use. If you want to track each space use energy use separately, you may want to use Portfolio Manager. But since processing is the main energy consumer in your building, you may want to track your energy use building-wide through a more relevant metric that sf, in which case you can use the Tracking Tool and just look a whole-building energy use. Neil Kolwey from SWEEP (303-499-0213 or ) can help you figure out the best tool; the city will accept either for compliance.

25. My building is a strip-mall where the tenants own their HVAC equipment. How am I supposed to comply when I can’t impact the equipment? In this case, contact the city to determine the best steps moving forward for the efficiency requirements. The owner will still be required to rate and report the energy use of the whole building.

26. What legal right does the City have for implementing these rules? This ordinance is similar to any other building code, in that the city’s authority to enact the ordinance is derived from the city charter, in furtherance of the public health, safety and welfare.

27. What are the policy justifications for establishing the ordinance?  The May 2015 study session memorandum in the background section of the website addresses this. To summarize, the commercial and industrial building sector energy use is the largest contributing sector to the city’s GHG emissions. Therefore, City Council has prioritized efficiency efforts in the sector. Voluntary programs have been in place for a number of years but have not resulted in increased efficiency in the sector due to limited participation. Therefore, Council directed in 2012 a three-phase strategy to make the existing commercial and industrial buildings more efficient by building on the voluntary programs and requiring rating and reporting and mandatory efficiency improvements.  

28. How might this program change if City of Boulder’s municipalization effort succeeds?  The program requirements and administration would not change, but our collaboration with Xcel on access to data and supporting rebate programs would be replaced by municipal utility rebate and data access programs. There are about 20 other cities in the U.S. with similar ordinances – some have municipal utilities and others partner with a third party utility, but the programs function much the same. The program’s goals of reducing wasted energy and increasing owners and tenants understanding of building energy use are shared goals of both the city and Xcel Energy.

29. What is the difference between a Level I and Level II energy assessment?  A Level I energy assessment includes many of the same tasks as the Level II energy assessment, but is not as extensive, the energy savings calculations and estimated costs are not required to be as accurate, and there is less information provided. There is also more of a focus on low to no cost measures. The reason for this is that smaller facilities have less equipment, are typically smaller and less complex, and so measures are more limited. Also, the energy costs are typically lower in smaller facilities and would not justify incurring the higher cost of performing a Level II energy assessment.

30.What is the difference between recommissioning and retrocommissioning? Both of these commissioning processes are conducted on existing buildings. When new buildings are designed and constructed, they sometimes go through a quality control process that verifies that the owner’s project requirements are met, and that the building is constructed per the agreed upon design. If a building has been commissioned previously, the term “recommissioning” is used and means that the process brings the building back into compliance with the original requirements. If a building has never been commissioned, the goal of retrocommissioning is to bring the operations of the building in line with what the intent of the design was. For this program, we don’t distinguish between these two RCx types, and in fact go beyond just bringing the building’s systems back into line with these requirements. The RCx process seeks additional ways to improve energy efficiency based on current building operations requirements. Updating operations to meet current building needs often resolves issues and improves comfort. 

31.What is the difference between a measure found in an energy assessment, and an RCx measure? The primary difference is that RCx measures are operational in nature. Changing the scheduling of equipment, calibrating sensors, fixing a failing economizer, or improving a boiler’s sequence of operations are all considered RCx measures. Operational measures are also typically low cost or no cost measures as these can be implemented without major equipment changes or work. Energy assessment measures (except low-cost/no-cost measures) typically require a capital investment and have longer payback periods. Also known as “capital measures”, these measures typically have longer paybacks and sometimes require specific design and construction work. Typical energy assessment measures are replacing lighting fixtures, replacing a chiller or boiler, adding variable frequency drives, increasing insulation, or replacing poor performing windows.

32. What does the lighting upgrade requirement have to do with the City of Boulder Outdoor Lighting Ordinance? The lighting upgrade requirement refers to both interior and interior lighting and controls. The Outdoor Lighting Ordinance primarily refers to aspects of outdoor lighting such as light trespass, glare, reduction of light pollution, and safety and security. Any lighting upgrades undertaken to meet the Building Performance Ordinance requirements will need to also comply with the Outdoor Lighting Ordinance requirements. 

33. Does Xcel Energy continue data upload into Portfolio Manager every month as part of their automated benchmarking service? Yes, they can data load and continue to do so for all months. Note – when the data is loaded, it is normalized by month, and therefore may not match the bills. The continuing upload is part of Xcel’s portal service. You will not need to upload energy data serviced by Xcel manually moving forward, but you will need to upload cost data manually if you would like to track costs in Portfolio Manager. 

34. Can Xcel data load into Portfolio Manager starting from Jan 1, 2015?  They can data load the past 6 months or the past 36 months, and can remove any duplicates. If the properties are new to Portfolio Manager, 36 months is automatic. If you have been manually reporting, either date range may require removal of duplicates after the upload but you can request the timeframe you want uploaded by contacting 

35.  Does the information manually loaded into Portfolio Manager need to be cleared out before signing up for Xcel's auto-upload?  No, Xcel Energy can remove any duplicates.

36.  When will Xcel be able to upload the data into Portfolio Manager?  Within a few weeks at most.

37.  Will Xcel add eGauge readers to their meters?  No – Xcel uses readings performed for billing purposes, which are considered the most accurate.

38. Has Xcel had issues regarding date reconciliation in Portfolio Manager?  Xcel has rigorously tested the data reconciliation process and validated their methodology with the EPA. If there are concerns, please contact Xcel at and they can work to resolve those questions. There have been instances where they system fails to upload a given month (which they are working to resolve), but the data is always available to them to quickly add back in.

39. Does Xcel Energy's Onsite Energy Audit count for compliance with the ordinance? No. Xcel Energy’s assessment does not meet the ASHRAE and ordinance requirements. If you participate in the Xcel Energy program, you should request a separate scope of work from the contractor to “add-on” the ASHRAE and ordinance requirements to the base assessment offered through the program. This would be an agreement between you and the contractor to do the additional work, not between you and Xcel as part of program participation but there may be some cost savings as the contractor will already be onsite.

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