Understanding Washington DC’s Building Energy Performance Standards Program (BEPS)

When it comes to sustainability, Washington has thrown down the gauntlet with its Sustainable DC plan to make the District the healthiest, greenest and most livable city for all residents. Codified in the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018, the plan sets forth the goals of achieving 50% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, 50% reduction in energy use, and 100% renewable electricity in the District by 2032, and a longer term goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Key to achieving these goals is the District’s Building Energy Performance Standards, better known as BEPS. 

What is BEPS and how does it affect the building owner?

According to the Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE), GHG emissions from buildings represent a full 75% of all GHG emissions in the District. To reduce GHG from the built environment, BEPS sets forth specific energy performance thresholds for various property types that building owners will be required to meet starting in 2021. Thresholds will be evaluated and reset every 6 years by the DOEE.

Currently, the minimum threshold of energy performance for existing buildings is no lower than the local median ENERGY STAR score by property type (or equivalent metric). For example, commercial office buildings should be looking to achieve an ENERGY STAR score of 71 or higher and multi-family property types should be looking to achieve an ENERGY STAR score of 66 or higher.

When does BEPS take effect?

Building owners will need to benchmark their buildings beginning in 2021. For buildings under 50,000 SF, a rolling compliance schedule has been established:

  • BEPS 1
    • Privately-owned buildings over 50,000 SF
    • District-owned buildings over 10,000 SF
  • BEPS 2
    • Privately-owned buildings over 25,000 SF
    • District-owned buildings over 10,000 SF
  • BEPS 3
    • Privately-owned buildings over 10,000 SF
    • District-owned buildings over 10,000 SF
  • Second BEPS compliance cycle begins for buildings under 25,000 SF January 1, 2027
  • Third BEPS compliance cycle begins for buildings under 10,000 SF January 1, 2033

*Note that buildings subject to the January 2021 compliance cycle are eligible for an additional one-year compliance delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Building owners who operate campus-like facilities, including universities and hospitals, will be subject to a campus-wide standard currently under development with DOEE. Compliance regulations and deadlines will be established at a later date.

What are the pathways to compliance if a building falls below the standards?

If a building registers below the required performance threshold, the owner will be able to choose multiple pathways to make improvements and bring the building into compliance within a period of five years. A building’s pathway must be selected and provided to DOEE through the Online BEPS Portal by April 1st, 2023.

  • A performance pathway: Buildings are required to demonstrate a greater than 20% decrease in normalized site energy use intensity (the equivalent of total energy consumed on site per square foot). This demonstrated decrease will be averaged over the last two years preceding the first year of the 5-year compliance cycle.
  • A prescriptive pathway: DOEE will provide a list of cost-effective energy efficiency measures to be implemented which will generate comparable savings to the performance pathway
  • Other compliance paths, as established by DOEE

Building owners can request technical and incentive assistance from the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) and use DC PACE as a funding avenue for performance and prescriptive solutions.

Are there fines for non-compliance with BEPS?

How do I learn more about BEPS compliance?

The DOEE’s has published a BEPS Compliance and Enforcement Guidebook for BEPS Compliance Cycle 1 (Guidebook) that contains policies, procedures, examples and technical information to assist property owners in understanding the requirements, compliance pathways and enforcement methods of the BEPS Program. Owners whose properties are subject to the BEPS Program should review the Guidebook carefully to ensure compliance. Owners can also track the compliance status of their buildings through DOEE’s Building Owner Portal. These resources can assist property owners in understanding their obligations under the BEPS Program and determining what tasks remain to be completed within the compliance cycle.

Additionally, D.C. landlords and tenants should review their commercial and residential property leases to determine whether their lease agreements contain provisions relating to which party is responsible for ensuring the property’s compliance with the BEPS Program as well as who will be responsible for payment of any fines assessed by DOEE for violation(s) of the BEPS. 

How can Lilker Energy Solutions help?

Lilker Energy Solutions (LES) can help you assess your current risk and provide you with a longer-term plan to achieve BEPS compliance. We can provide energy audits, benchmarking, commissioning. retro-commissioning and energy consultation services to improve your building’s performance.

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