D.C. Community-Wide Engagement Plan


The District of Columbia’s (the District) approach to engaging its local community to achieve energy reduction goals relies on three major components:

  • A robust community-wide planning initiative;
  • Comprehensive, enabling legislation; and,
  • A series of public-private partnerships.


Community-wide Planning Initiative - Sustainable DC engaged the local community in developing the City’s first sustainability plan. Based on the feedback from the local community, recommendations from nine public working groups, and insight from the Green Ribbon Committee – a group of civic leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors – the District delivered “A Vision for a Sustainable DC,” which provides the framework and goals for a detailed implementation plan to be released in 2013.

Enabling Legislation - Another component of the District’s approach relied on legislated policies to drive energy efficiency in both public and private buildings across the City. The District Council passed a suite of policies that established a number of energy efficiency requirements for both public and private buildings and created various tools to encourage building owners, managers, and operators to address energy efficiency. In April 2012, the District Council introduced a bill that, if enacted, would provide access to private financial capital for energy efficiency improvements, promote renewable energy systems, and fully fund the staff and technology necessary to implement and enforce the ENERGY STAR building benchmarking and disclosure program.

Public Private Partnerships - The City partnered with the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (DowntownDC BID) to reach its members and provide targeted training and resources. In addition, the DowntownDC BID established the DowntownDC ecoDistrict to serve as the platform for a number of sustainability initiatives targeting the geographic area. The District also partnered with the Institute for Market Transformation for technical assistance in developing legislation and to implement the City’s ENERGY STAR building benchmarking and disclosure program and the DC Sustainable Energy Utility to serve as a one-stop shop for deploying the City’s energy efficiency solutions.


In July 2011, the District launched Sustainable DC, an initiative designed to help the District meet its goal to become the greenest, healthiest, and most livable city in the U.S. by developing a sustainability plan. In order for the District’s first sustainability plan to be crafted for and by the City’s community, the District created a dedicatedSustainable DC website, which hosts a portal to collect citizen feedback on the direction of the initiative.

Working Groups - In November 2011, the District launched nine public working groups to gather feedback from and draw on the expertise of residents, local businesses, nonprofits, academic institutions, industry associations, and the local and federal government. These working groups were open to the public and facilitated by District agency staff and experienced community members. Over the winter of 2011-2012, volunteers in the working groups met every other week and examined best practices, existing conditions, and public comments to identify and prioritize potential goals and actions. The identification and prioritization of goals and actions in these nine topic areas ultimately led to the development of recommendations for the City’s sustainability plan. Working group topics included: Built EnvironmentClimateEnergyFoodGreen EconomyNatureTransportationWaste, and Water.

Planning Framework - After 10 months of deliberation in working groups, “A Vision for a Sustainable DC,” was publicly released, providing the framework and goals for a detailed sustainability implementation plan to be released in 2013. In addition to continued support from the working groups, the plan will be further developed by a Green Ribbon Committee comprised of civic leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors. The Committee has been charged with helping to reach out to communities within the District that have not traditionally been part of sustainability planning, offering expertise and context to ensure coordination, assisting in identifying and securing financing to promote sustainability implementation initiatives, and monitoring final plan initiatives.

Leading by Example - Alongside the Sustainable DC initiative focused on addressing sustainability in the broader community, the District government was also leading by example in addressing sustainability within its own operations. The Mayor convened a Green Cabinet, led by the City Administrator and composed of agency directors and key government officials, tasked with determining how District agencies could incorporate sustainable practices while advancing their core missions.



The District has passed policies that:

  • Require new commercial buildings to meet green building standards;
  • Create energy efficiency financing tools for building owners;
  • Require energy performance of public and private buildings be annually benchmarked and disclosed;
  • Authorize the creation of a sustainable energy utility; and,
  • Mandated LEED certification for certain public and private buildings.


The District is building on these policies with additional proposals that, if enacted, would provide access to private financial capital for energy efficiency improvements, promote renewable energy systems, and fully fund the ENERGY STAR building benchmarking program.

Enacted Policies - Green Building Act of 2006 required that the District pursue green and energy-efficient building codes to the greatest extent reasonable. The Act mandated public buildings 10,000 square feet and greater obtain U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Silver certification and private buildings 50,000 square feet and greater acquire the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Certified level certification. The Act also created an incentive program to encourage early adopters of green building practices through expedited permitting and established a Green Building Fund funded through slight increases in permitting fees.

Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008 (CAEA) was the first law in any U.S. jurisdiction that required the energy performance of large publically-owned and privately-owned buildings be annually benchmarked and disclosed. The legislation is a phased approach with the initial reporting requirement affecting larger buildings first (150,000+ square feet in 2012, 100,000+ square feet in 2013, and 50,000+ square feet in 2014). CAEA also included the creation of a privately-contracted, publicly-funded sustainable energy program provider, the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU), and the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (SETF) which will fund the SEU. The SETF is financed by a non-bypassable surcharge on the electric and natural gas bills of utility customers. The SEU received $7.5 million in year one and $15 million in year two through the SETF. In year three, the SEU is expected to receive $17.5 million and $20 million in year four and beyond to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

Energy Efficiency Financing Act of 2010 provided authority for the issuance of up to $250 million in District revenue bonds for a property assessed clean energy (PACE) program. The Act authorized the Mayor to use the bond proceeds to provide funding for the initial installation of energy efficiency and renewable energy retrofits and improvements and authorized property tax assessments as the loan payback mechanism for participating property owners.

Proposed Legislation - Sustainable DC Act of 2012 would amend the Energy Efficiency Financing Act of 2010 to encourage the installation of energy efficiency improvements and further incentivize participation in programs that encourage conservation of natural resources by:

  • Authorizing the issuance of bonds to private financing institutions that make an energy efficiency loan to a property owner;
  • Exempting from computation as District of Columbia gross taxable income, incentives received from District Department of the Environment RiverSmart programs that encourage the conservation and protection of natural resources.


Sustainable DC Act of 2012 would also amend the Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008 to fully fund the benchmarking program and allow the District to continue to administer renewable energy rebates by:

  • Allowing support for data management of benchmarking requirements be funded by the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund;
  • Permitting the District to continue to administer the SEU programs that provide renewable energy rebates, and support additional energy and sustainability-related efforts in the District.




The District engaged in a number of partnerships accessing others’ technical expertise, network of stakeholders, and relationships with property owners to realize the City’s energy efficiency and sustainability goals.

DowntownDC Business Improvement District (DowntownDC BID) was established to provide capital improvements, resources, and research to help diversify the economy and enhance the downtown experience. This special district, where property owners have agreed to tax themselves to fund services, encompasses a 138-block area of approximately 825 properties. In April 2011, the DowntownDC BID launched the DowntownDC ecoDistrict to reduce the DowntownDC BID area's resource consumption and carbon footprint and to aid the City in achieving the Better Buildings Challenge goals.

The Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) is a nonprofit organization that promotes energy efficiency, green building, and environmental protection. The District partnered with IMT, through support from the Kresge Foundation, to provide technical analysis assistance for the Green Building Act of 2006, the Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008, and to oversee implementation of the benchmarking and disclosure program. In addition, IMT, through funding from the DC Sustainable Energy Utility, provided the District with one full-time staff member to support benchmarking implementation, as well as provided technical trainings to the private sector on codes and energy-aligned leasing.

Mayor’s Sustainability Pledges with Higher Education and Embassies - Nine university presidents joined Mayor Gray to sign the “District of Columbia Mayor’s College and University Sustainability Pledge” with the goal of making the District the “Greenest College Town in America.” The pledge is an agreement by the schools to pursue a range of sustainability measures and monitoring and reporting progress. In a similar commitment, ambassadors representing more than 40 countries joined Mayor Gray and other officials by signing an international community pledge of sustainability in the District. The pledge, which is coordinated by the U.S. State Department’s D.C. Greening Embassies Forum, encourages embassies to pursue and promote sustainable practices.



Through the DC Smarter Business Challenge, the DowntownDC ecoDistrict is targeting more than 90 million square feet of buildings to make significant improvements in energy efficiency. The DowntownDC ecoDistrict established an online platform to share information and resources, collect data, and celebrate the commitment of the District’s Better Buildings Challenge participants.

Marketing Materials - The District, through its partners, encouraged building owners to participate in the DC Smarter Business Challenge at a number of forums. The following materials are examples of presentations given at some of those forums.



Website - The District, through its partners, developed an online portal that will be utilized to establish baselines and guide future decisions across a range of building and business types in the City; pilot was launched in the of summer 2012 in the DowntownDC ecoDistrict followed by the full launch citywide in the fall of 2012. Showcase projects and successful best practices by the Better Buildings Challenge participants will be featured on the DC Smarter Business Challenge website.



PR Materials - The District issued a press release announcing its participation in the Better Buildings Challenge.



The District utilized legislation to authorize a commercial PACE program and created energy efficiency financing tools targeting commercial building owners.

Financial Incentives – The Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008 created the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU), a privately-contracted, publicly-funded sustainable energy program provider. The SEU is designed to help District households, businesses, and institutions save energy and money through energy efficiency and renewable energy programs and is funded through systems benefit charge funds. The SEU is under contract to the District Department of the Environment (DDOE). The SEU is managed by the Sustainable Energy Partnership; a team of organizations that collectively brings together national leadership in energy efficiency, renewable energy, program planning and implementation, and local community networks.



Access to Capital – The District authorized a PACE program with $250 million in bonding authority to issue PACE revenue bonds. The goal of the DC PACE commercial program is to provide building owners access to affordable financing for energy and water upgrades. The program provides financing for projects costing at least $100,000.



Creating a Marketplace – Partners, including the Carbon War Room, hosted energy finance forums, which brought capital providers together with building owners seeking financing for their projects.


Technical Resources

The District and its partners provided building owners with implementation assistance and training to help identify, implement, and finance energy efficiency measures in their buildings.

Implementation Assistance - The District is providing assistance to building owners through their District programs as well as through their partnerships.

  • The District Small Business Energy Efficiency Program (SBEEP) provides technical and financial assistance to help qualified small businesses identify and install energy efficiency measures that can reduce energy consumption and overall operating costs.
  • DC Sustainable Energy Utility Commercial and Institutional Servicesprograms provide financial incentives, technical assistance, and valuable information designed to help business owners make informed decisions on energy efficiency measures that can help their businesses save energy and money now and in the future.
  • Downtown DC ecoDistrict enlisted six initial Energy Allies with expertise on a wide range of energy solutions, from audits to finance, to provide services to building owners and managers.




Training - The District and its partner organizations are supporting efficiency improvements by providing trainings and additional educational resources for its business community.

  • Seminar Series - DowntownDC BID partnered with CoR Advisors, a for-profit energy management and intelligent building systems integrator, to provide a sponsor-based education and engagement seminar series for Better Buildings Challenge participants. The three part seminar presented is entitled "The Road to Energy Efficiency" and addresses critical steps in energy management, such as establishing a baseline and implementing a program for regular energy monitoring and reporting. The three parts are designed to build upon each other and to recognize that existing buildings all enter the road at different stages of the journey towards efficiency.


  • Summits - As a follow up to the 2012 Building Energy Summit, the DowntownDC BID has partnered again with CoR Advisors to produce the 2013 DC Building Energy Summit. The 2013 Summit will combine keynote presentations by industry leaders and energy experts, educational breakout sessions for hands-on learning, case study presentations demonstrating real projects and real results, and networking opportunities for collaborating with colleagues and solution providers. Speakers will present case studies of some of the most efficient buildings in the country. The 2013 Building Energy Summit will highlight and showcase the efforts of the ecoDistrict and individual leaders that have championed the Better Buildings Challenge and the DC Smarter Business Challenge, in order to significantly reduce energy consumption across the City.


Data Management

The Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008 requires the energy performance of private buildings over 50,000 square feet, both non-residential and residential, to be benchmarked using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager (Portfolio Manager), with the results disclosed annually to the public.

Data Reporting and Tracking – In order to address building owners’ concern about sharing propriety information, the District developed a custom report in Portfolio Manager, excluding energy costs, for building owners to annually report their energy performance data to the District Department of the Environment. Annual disclosure will occur via an online database open to the public and administered by the District. Information included in the annual building disclosure includes the following data elements:

  • Address
  • Space Types(s)
  • Energy Performance Rating (1-100)
  • Electricity Use
  • Water Use
  • Optional Narrative Informatiion
  • Year Built
  • Gross Building Area
  • Energy Use Intensity (EUI)
  • Natural Gas Use
  • Other Fuel Use
  • CO2 Emissions


Through a grant from the Kresge Foundation, the District partnered with the Institute for Market Transformation to implement its energy benchmarking and disclosure program. This partnership funds one full-time staff person at DDOE, a Benchmarking Coordinator, to oversee implementation of the program. The District is utilizing Portfolio Manager and the Standard Energy Efficiency Data Platform (SEED), an open source database which allows the District easy storage of their data on benchmarking and related activities.


Data Reporting and Tracking


Data Display – The City will utilize tools offered by Honest Buildingsand U.S. Green Building Council to display energy efficiency and green building characteristics of buildings in the District.



Data Related Training – The District and its partner organizations are supporting energy benchmarking by providing trainings and additional educational resources for its business community.


Image Gallery

Pennsylvania Avenue in Downtown Washington, D.C.