In a bid to get Energy Star certification for the Metro Center in Stamford, Gerrit Blauvelt turned to drought-resistant plants for their water-conservation properties to clinch the deal.
But the Energy Star label itself might be withering on the vine among Fairfield County’s biggest property owners.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certified only a dozen Fairfield County office buildings under its lead energy efficiency program, down from 16 a year earlier. It marked the first drop since 2007, when Energy Star began winning local landlord converts.
In the first quarter, just two buildings had secured the Energy Star label: MerrittView in Norwalk, owned by Malkin Properties where Blauvelt is head of property operations and 1055 Washington Blvd., owned by SL Green Realty Corp.
New York City-based Malkin Properties has one other Energy Star building locally in Stamford’s Metro Center. Next door at the Metro Green Apartments it is seeking the far more rigorous platinum LEED designation from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Malkin Properties pursues Energy Star primarily for the operational cost savings it offers, according to Jeffrey Newman, executive vice president of leasing, but the program has appeal for prospective tenants.
“We do find companies on the cutting edge … that are more aware of energy and more sensitive to cut those costs,” Newman said. “Whether it makes a difference or not in the ultimate location decision, I guess it depends on circumstances.”
The town of Fairfield secured the first Energy Star label for a Fairfield County building, in 2000 for the 34,000-square-foot Independence Hall at 611 Old Post Road, built in 1979.
Not until 2007 did a landlord achieve the Energy Star rating for a major, multitenant office building in Fairfield County – with Albert D. Phelps Inc. doing so for its Merritt 7 Corporate Park in Norwalk. Last year, Clarion Partners and Marcus Partners acquired Merritt 7, which has been the dominant name in the Energy Star certification roster over several years.
Newman said Energy Star recertification generally comes cheaper than the first time through the wringer.
Through 2011, some 16,500 Energy Star-certified buildings across America have helped save nearly $2.3 billion in annual utility bills, according to EPA estimates. The agency did not specify how much money was spent by those buildings to achieve Energy Star status.
The agency is backing a Connecticut bill that would require commercial buildings in excess of 50,000 square feet to upload their data to the Energy Star portfolio manager program maintained by EPA. Some 2,700 buildings in Connecticut already use the Energy Star benchmarking software, according to Leslie Cook, an EPA program manager who testified last month in Hartford in support of the bill.
Under the same bill, homeowners would have to get energy audits on the houses they put up for sale, which the Connecticut Association of Realtors is protesting.
“We have a very high rate of building owners coming back to benchmark over and over again, year after year,” Cook said. “It is something that we feel is critical to informing the building owner so that they can take those steps and understand that savings are to be found.”
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