State and Local Government Toolkit

This toolkit is for states and local jurisdictions looking to reduce energy use and carbon emissions in both their own publicly owned commercial buildings and the general community building stock. Cities, counties, state agencies, school districts, and other governing bodies can use this toolkit to lead by example by getting on a path to zero energy and carbon in their own buildings as well as policies that impact other buildings. The toolkit includes resources expertly curated from sources across the country that fall under four broad categories listed below. Click on anyone of the categories to see what resources are available. You can further filter on topics by clicking the filtering options on the left hand side of the page. Interested in learning more about what your state or city can do?  Contact Webly Bowles at NBI at [email protected]. The creation of this toolkit was supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

States, cities and counties can lead by example through strategic, portfolio-wide improvements to the energy performance of their own municipal, state, or agency buildings. This section contains resources to help jurisdictional staff and allies think, plan, and act strategically to advance the performance of their own public building portfolios.
States and local jurisdictions can prepare for tomorrow by designing and procuring ultra-low and zero energy in new construction public building projects. This section provides a variety of best practices and tools to support individual projects including developing energy targets, procurement decisionmaking and operational considerations.
Codes and policy are powerful tools to drive major energy improvements across communities at scale. States and cities looking to the built environment to help achieve energy and climate action goals can leverage best-in-class practices included in this section to make quick progress.
Consistent language and communications help tell the story of ultra-high performance goals and policy leadership. These resources can be used to accelerate market development by providing key messaging and materials for stakeholders about the value and benefits of ultra-low energy performance buildings.

Filter by TopicSelect one or more topics to filter the list of resources


High-Performance and Zero Energy Building Recognition Programs

Recognition programs honor early innovation and leadership in this market and showcase the people, buildings, and policies that are driving the movement toward ZE and carbon neutral buildings. These programs help demonstrate that high-performance and ZE buildings are achievable and can be used in a wide variety of contexts. NBI has helped a variety of jurisdictions launch their own building recognition programs. This brief description provides core guidance, lessons learned, and recommended examples of existing programs.

Schools and Public Buildings

K-12 schools, colleges and public buildings represent key opportunities for local governments to lead on ultra-low and zero energy policies and practices. As local examples of the feasibility and benefits of ZNE increase, schools and public buildings can educate the broader public about sustainability and green building, and show a commitment to reducing climate impacts. This factsheet shares how schools and public buildings are moving toward high efficiency goals.

Getting to Zero Facts for Owners and Operators

Beyond the environmental benefits of reduced carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, ZNE buildings provide substantive business advantages. ZNE performance helps reduce exposure to risk by ensuring that an asset is more resilient, has higher employee and tenant retention, and enjoys higher rents. This factsheet for owners and operators provides quick facts about the benefits of ultra-low and zero energy investments.

Architecture and Engineering for Ultra-Low Energy

As sustainable design practices and goals are more commonly adopted by the architectural and engineering communities, designing for zero energy (ZE) goals offers firms and consultants an opportunity to distinguish themselves from the field. Demonstrating the expertise needed to create ZE-level performance signals a proficiency in the advanced technology application and design strategies needed to achieve this goal. This factsheet explains the advantages of being a getting to zero-capable firm.

Design Fundamentals of Ultra-Low and Zero Energy

Achieving a zero energy goal for any new commercial construction or deep renovation project requires a commitment by the design team to a fully integrated process where the interrelationships between the building and its systems, surroundings and occupants make efficient and effective use of all resources. This factsheet explains the design must-haves for achieving success in ultra-low energy buildings.

A Guide to Zero Energy Terminology

A zero energy (ZE) building is an energy-efficient building that produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year, usually by incorporating solar PV onsite. ZE (also known as a Zero Net Energy Building or Net Zero Energy) is a fast growing segment of the nation’s building industry and it is hard to keep up with the new and changing terminology. This fact sheet is provides an explanation of the language and terms people commonly use when they discuss ultra-low and zero energy.

Outcome Based Codes and Policy Recommendations

Current energy code strategies consider only a limited number of the factors that impact building energy performance. They don’t address all those elements of design and construction that influence performance, and they don’t address how buildings use energy once completed. Outcome based codes and policies can help ensure that the real-world energy use of buildings aligns with jurisdictional goals.

Moving Energy Codes Forward: A Guide for Cities and States

This guide provides critical steps to achieve significant code improvements through the adoption of stretch codes and provides a practical framework for implementing advanced codes and outcome policies. It offers guidance, resources, and examples of advanced code adoption based on NBI’s stretch code development and adoption experience working with states and communities.

Zero Energy FAQ

This Frequently Asked Questions factsheet explains the important aspects of zero energy buildings and busts common myths about feasibility and cost of these projects.

Getting to Zero Policies HUB

An increasing number of cities, counties, and states around the US are committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. This page provides a curated list of leading energy goals, policies, and energy stretch codes from states and local jurisdictions, as well as programs that support jurisdictions. Resources include strategic plans, energy and climate action plans, and stretch codes.

ACEEE Local Energy Efficiency Policy Database

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) State and Local Policy Database includes comprehensive information on energy efficiency policies and programs being implemented in dozens of leading localities around the United States. The City Scorecard ranks many of the most populated cities in the country on a wide array of policies, offering at-a-glance views of where the cities stand and what they can do to improve their scores. More tailored policy resources are available for local governments, states, low income programs, and multifamily programs.

Carbon-Free Cities and Regions Handbooks

Rocky Mountain Institute’s Carbon-Free Cities and Regions Handbooks outline dozens of actions, and associated resources, for local, state, and regional governments to move their communities toward climate neutrality. Review the buildings sections of each handbook for more in-depth information on how policies can drive emissions reductions across a public building portfolio.

DOE Energy Efficiency Policies and Programs

State and local governments can lead by example by promoting energy efficiency programs and policies for public facilities, equipment, and government operations through energy data management and evaluation, energy efficiency building standards, enacting existing building retrofit programs, procuring energy-efficient appliances and equipment (including vehicles), and establishing energy efficiency operations and maintenance procedures. This site from DOE provides sample programs and standards for public entities.

Benchmarking Data Open-Source Software Tools

In collaboration with NBI, Open Spaces NW, NEEA, US DOE, and other partners, Maalka has developed a handful of free and open-source tools to help users manage their data-driven programs. These tools are intended to help portfolio holders, especially public building owners, understand the quality of their data and the performance of their buildings. These free and open source tools can be used as they are presented or may be customized.

Master Buildings List Template

Developing a comprehensive list of all buildings within a portfolio is the first step to tracking their energy usage, and forms the foundation of any strategic energy plans. This Excel template can be used to catalog all buildings within a portfolio and contains the key data points most useful for prioritization and strategic planning. Use this as is, or customize it to create a master buildings list that tracks the key information you need for each building in your portfolio.

Performance Based Procurement

Building owners can be confident that their new construction projects will have system-integrated, cost-effective efficiency strategies and renewable technologies that will perform as intended by using a well-planned energy-performance-based procurement process that includes clear energy goals and an appropriate project delivery approach. This National Renewable Energy Laboratory guide leverages real projects to provide best practices and lessons learned so other building owners can replicate these experiences to construct market-viable, world-class, energy-efficient buildings.

Green Lease Guidance

Jurisdictions can reduce their environmental footprint, minimize utility costs, and maximize productivity and health by leasing green buildings. This brief guide provides context and links to selected reference guides, best practices, and other recommended resources that can help public building lease decision makers ensure that the buildings they are leasing are as efficient, healthy, and sustainable as possible.

Public Building Benchmarking Guidance

Building energy benchmarking can lead to real energy and cost savings for building owners. Fundamentally, benchmarking involves tracking building energy performance over time. This helps owners and managers better understand their assets, identify operational opportunities, and track performance against targets over time. This document provides the context, general method, and several recommended resources to help jurisdictions benchmark their own buildings.

Public Buildings Portfolio Management Implementation Guide

This comprehensive guide outlines a process to help jurisdictional staff and their allies engage stakeholders, set tangible goals, target opportunities, and develop and implement a strategic plan to achieve deep and ongoing energy reductions in public building portfolios.

Energy Savings Performance Contract Model Documents

Public building owners often use Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC) to unlock energy efficiency savings while minimizing upfront capital costs. This guidance, provided by the US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, provides a model contract template and companion documents to support building owners seeking to develop or update procurement and contracting documents for ESPC projects and programs.

Multifamily Guide

The Multifamily Guide outlines packages of prescriptive measures to help design practitioners and owners improve energy performance in multifamily new construction projects. The packages deliver savings whether the project is subject to the residential or the commercial version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The 13 core measures and six additional efficiency packages described in the guide result in savings of 15-25% over the 2015 IECC.

Advanced Energy Design Guides

To promote building energy efficiency, ASHRAE and its partners have created a series of free guides to promote varying levels of energy reduction in buildings: 30%, 50%, and zero energy. These guides provide a cost-effective approach to achieve advanced levels of energy savings. They offer contractors and designers the tools needed for achieving deep energy reductions, including recommendations for practical products and off-the-shelf technology.

Advanced Buildings New Construction Guide

Increasing energy code stringency and owner demand for higher efficiency in buildings are challenging design teams to deliver high performance without adding costs. The New Construction Guide offers a comprehensive approach to new commercial construction projects that achieves efficiencies up to 30% higher than conventional buildings.

Getting to Zero: ZNE Integrated Design Charrette Toolkit

A well-run design charrette can make a huge difference in the outcome of a building design. NBI’s ZNE Charrette Toolkit provides teams with materials to help plan and lead a successful charrette. This toolkit lays out a step-by-step process, starting with pre-charrette planning and continuing through post-charrette actions. It can be used by almost any team aiming for high levels of energy efficiency or sustainability, whether specifically pursuing zero energy or not.

Plug Load Best Practices Guide

Plug loads can account for more than half of a ZE building’s energy use, requiring efficient equipment and occupant education to keep actual energy consumption on target. NBI’s Plug Load Best Practices Guide outlines no-cost and low-cost measures to reduce the energy and costs associated with plug loads, or any device that is plugged into a building’s electrical system: appliances, smart devices, computers, printers, and servers.

Getting to Zero: Zero Energy Guide

The ZE Project Guide helps guide teams along the path to zero energy by focusing on best practices throughout the design process. This helps project managers and design teams build on the shoulders of the leaders before them when planning, designing, constructing, and operating a new zero energy building.

Zero Net Energy Project Design Guide for State Buildings

The Zero Net Energy Project Guide for State Buildings was created by NBI to provide California state agencies an in-depth step by step guide and checklist for getting new buildings to zero energy. Project managers can use this resource to gain stakeholder support, select a qualified design team, identify key technologies and strategies, successfully navigate the design and construction process, operate the building as designed, and verify ZNE operations.

Owners Project Requirements Guidance

An Owners Project Requirements (OPR) document is used to define project goals and expectations when procuring a new building. Several template and sample high-performance public-building OPRs are linked here. These templates can be customized or used as guidance to explain key ideas, concepts, and criteria, providing direction for the design team and ensuring that the owner gets a building that meets their needs.

Design Team Interview Questions

Selecting the right design, and the right design team, is a critical step in procuring a high-performance building. This handbook shares best practices to consider when interviewing design teams that have responded to a public-building RFP, as well as sample questions organized by category.

Request for Proposals/Qualifications

A Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Qualification (RFQ)is typically used when procuring new public buildings. This resource provides best practice recommendations and a framework that can help city and other procurement officials procure a high-performance building right out of the gate. Selected sample RFPs are linked for comparison and inspiration.