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Greater Philadelphia's number of Energy Star-certified buildings goes through the roof

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched its hugely popular Energy Star program back in 1992, but during its first few years, the main purpose was simply to promote consumer products that had high levels of energy efficiency, and low levels of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, when the voluntary labeling program first began, computers were the only products that could earn the prestigious logo. And yet in 1999, the Energy Star label was made available to any commercial building that could meet its stringent environmental requirements. Indeed, only the top 25 percent of the nation's energy efficient structures receive the label.

The good news locally is that the Greater Philadelphia area seems to have embraced the program significantly. On March 15, the EPA announced that because the region added so many energy efficient buildings in 2010 - many of them schools - its national ranking has risen to 14th in the nation, up from its 2009 ranking of 24th.

Indeed, the list of Energy Star-certified buildings in the area stretches to 130, and many of the names are surprisingly familiar: There's the Aramark Tower, for instance, and the Wanamaker Building, and dozens of elementary schools. But perhaps one of the most impressive examples locally is the SEPTA building, where lighting sensors and window film were added in an effort to become certified.

According to the EPA's Emily Linn, this is a hugely significant achievement for the region, partly due to the fact that Energy Star-certified buildings typically use 35 percent less energy, and emit 35 percent less carbon dioxide, than non-certified buildings.

"The efforts of the Mayor's Office of Sustainability certainly helped a lot," she says, referring to the city's newly improved rating. Through the process of being certified, "I think (companies are) realizing they can save a lot of money," she adds. "Honestly, I think the program sells itself."

Source: Bonnie Smith and Emily Linn, EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Office
Writer: Dan Eldridge

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