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NEEP: Centering Equity in the Rules and Regulations of a Building Performance Standard

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Overview

This is a guide for policymakers, regulators, and others involved in program design to use as the rules and regulations for Building Performance Standards are crafted.

History shows that energy and climate policies can perpetuate inequity and create additional economic hardship for already disadvantaged communities. Policies and programs that aim to reduce energy consumption and emissions from buildings tend to favor those with the means and capital required to take on improvement projects. There are many benefits to improving the performance of buildings including reduced energy costs, improved indoor comfort, and healthier living environments. For some, building performance policies facilitate these improvements. For others, these policies impose significant barriers. With state and local governments working towards achieving climate goals, it is critical to develop equitable programs that deliver benefits to all buildings, owners and tenants.

Building performance standards (BPS) are emerging as a tool that policymakers can implement to reduce carbon emissions from the existing building sector. However, these policies need to be designed carefully so they do not perpetuate inequity but instead provide the intended benefits to all building owners. It is critical that policymakers center equity in a BPS by engaging the community using restorative justice principles. Restorative justice is “a process where all the stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been affected by the injustice and to decide what should be done to repair the harm.” Regulators should listen to community members and identify specific
challenges, needs, and opportunities that can be reflected in the regulations and implementation.

Building performance standards are relatively new in practice and there is no uniform standard for how they are designed or operated. This document is meant to guide policymakers, regulators, and others involved in program design, specifically as the rules and regulations for a BPS are crafted. The sections identify the benefits of a BPS policy, the points of inequity, and specific sections of regulatory development where equity must take center stage. Because every jurisdiction has different needs and barriers, the recommendations in this document are not intended to be exhaustive and may not work for every location.

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