Real estate owners and businesses in Washington, D.C., are urging city officials to slow down on aggressive new green building standards, but they could be fighting a losing battle. A new version of D.C.’s building energy code that is set to be finalized on October 20th and adopted next year will require a host of changes, including providing electric vehicle charging, on-site renewable energy capacity, and all-electric infrastructure in some new commercial buildings. Many D.C. property owners say the costs of meeting the code requirements are too burdensome, and the regulations will push developers and businesses out of the city.
The D.C. Building Industry Association and the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington are two of the leading trade organizations working with D.C. officials to carve out more exemptions to the energy code changes. The D.C. City Council already passed a law this past summer that mandates new commercial properties to be all-electric by 2026. The laws and energy code changes are part of D.C.’s push to make the city run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2032 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. The ambitious climate goals mean the city is looking to phase out natural gas in buildings, which accounted for 72 percent of Washington, D.C.’s carbon emissions in 2020.
The battle between real estate groups and the D.C. government is playing out in other U.S. cities, too, notably New York, where a lawsuit has been filed over that city’s real estate decarbonization law known as Local Law 97. Cities and states are taking the lead in climate regulation in the absence of more robust federal regulation, and environmental rules affecting commercial real estate seem inevitable in many parts of the country. Property owners may be able to work with officials to lighten the regulatory burden, but slowing down the rule-making and planning on compliance, despite its high costs, may be the only option available at this point.