How to Reduce Building Emissions and Center Equity: A New Framework for Policymakers and Communities

Framework co-developed with cities shows how Building Performance Standards can address city climate priorities and aid in promoting equitable economic recovery

To support efforts to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings, eight organizations came together with support from the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge (Climate Challenge) to develop and publish a framework for cities to develop Building Performance Standards (BPS). BPS are an emerging policy tool that cities are developing and implementing to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions from buildings in order to reach ambitious climate goals. The framework provides guidance for policymakers in preparing, developing, and implementing a BPS, while integrating equity, economic inclusion, and stakeholder engagement at each step of the process.

Energy used in the operation of existing residential and commercial buildings represents nearly 30% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S. and can represent close to 75% of emissions in cities where buildings are larger and more densely constructed. Most of the buildings that exist today will still be operating in 2050 and beyond, well past the deadlines for most city, state, and national climate goals. In April, the U.S. established a new nationally determined contribution to reduce climate emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2050. Meeting this target is simply not possible without bold action from cities and states to reduce emissions from existing buildings. The BPS framework is designed to support these actions.

“Given the increasing attention of cities and states on the imperative for policies like the one passed in St. Louis to meet climate goals, we contributed our successes and challenges to the development of the Climate Challenge framework with the hope of helping others meet the needs of a comprehensive policy.  I hope what we have accomplished in St. Louis can be a model for cities across the country to use and go further with it.” Rajiv Ravulapati, City of St. Louis

A BPS establishes targets for existing buildings to reduce energy use, GHG emissions, or to improve other metrics over time, requiring buildings to achieve a performance threshold by specific dates, and tracking progress by requiring performance to be benchmarked. While most BPS will focus on energy and GHG reductions, successful policies also include complementary support programs and assistance for covered buildings, local workforce, and underserved populations.

An Inclusive Framework for Action

Several jurisdictions in the U.S. have adopted BPS, including St. Louis, New York City, Washington D.C., and the states of Colorado and Washington. This framework builds off these examples and incorporates the feedback of others who are developing or are in the process of adopting BPS. The goal of the framework is to support local government staff working on building policy and program design, by providing a reference to aid in walking through the process of BPS preparation, policy design, and implementation. The framework is also intended to support other stakeholders involved with city policymaking, such as community advocacy groups and professional trade organizations.

“This BPS framework is a great example of what the American Cities Climate Challenge is all about: bringing cities and partners together to drive necessary climate solutions,” Kelly Shultz, lead for sustainable cities and the American Cities Climate Challenge at Bloomberg Philanthropies said. “Designed to maximize climate, equity and health impacts, the framework will help cities pass stronger and more inclusive policies, driving forward our national climate progress while also delivering benefits for local communities. Bloomberg Philanthropies is proud to support this framework and empower cities in the fight against climate change.”

The framework was developed with support from the Climate Challenge by a group of national partners, which include the Building Electrification Institute, Emerald Cities Collaborative, the Institute for Market Transformation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, New Buildings Institute, Upright Consulting Services, and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network.

More information about the Climate Challenge and the BPS framework are available on the Urban Sustainability Directors Network website.



Alexandra Laney, Institute for Market Transformation
[email protected]


The American Cities Climate Challenge (Climate Challenge), supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, is an initiative that empowers 25 of the largest U.S. cities to implement near-term climate goals and become primary drivers of progress towards meeting America’s pledge on climate. Recognizing that cities account for more than 70% of global carbon emissions—and that mayors have significant authority over cities’ highest emitting sectors: transportation and buildings—the Climate Challenge aims to enhance the work already being done by mayors across the U.S. and to support cities in the fight against climate change.


For more than 25 years, the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) has partnered with government, business, and philanthropy to improve the spaces where we live, work, and play. IMT focuses on innovative and pragmatic solutions that fuel greater investment in high performing, energy-efficient buildings. IMT offers hands-on technical assistance and market research, alongside expertise in policy and program development and deployment and promotion of best practices and knowledge exchange. Our innovations have helped reduce carbon emissions and energy costs across billions of square feet of real estate in major U.S. cities; empowered landlords and tenants to overcome barriers to mutually-beneficial building improvements; and increased overall demand for better buildings.


New Buildings Institute (NBI) is a nonprofit organization driving better energy performance in buildings to make them better for people and the environment. We work collaboratively with industry market players—governments, utilities, energy efficiency advocates, and building professionals—to promote advanced design practices, innovative technologies, public policies, and programs that improve energy efficiency.