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sustainable building practices and construction Denver Commercial Construction

This article is found originally in Mile High CRE, Denver Ranks No. 7 in 2021 City Clean Energy Scorecard, Beats Aurora and Colorado Springs.


The 2021 City Clean Energy Scorecard, was just released for the year 2021 which examines a hundred major cities in the U.S. regarding their efforts to reduce energy waste. The hope of this study and ranking is to bring attention to more sustainable energy, infrastructure, sustainable building practices and construction, and transportation solutions for communities. By reducing energy waste in homes and buildings the U.S. as a whole can look forward to a more sustainable energy future. The study can also be used to identify areas where energy efficiencies struggle and hopefully spur more improvements in the long run.


For Denver, the mile-high city has shown strong performance and has earned a spot in the top 10. The city (No.7) can continue its improvement by making more progress on transportation policies, local government operations, and sustainable building practices and construction. By comparison, Aurora ranked at No. 30 and Colorado Springs ranked at No.58.

San Francisco took top honors for the first time in this sixth edition of the Scorecard, followed by Seattle (#2), Washington, DC (#3), Minneapolis (#4), and Boston and New York (tied for #5).

Cities earned credit for policies and programs such as requiring large buildings to reduce energy waste or subsidizing access to transit and other efficient transportation options for historically marginalized groups, and for their success in reducing their overall greenhouse gas emissions.


With the recent COVID relief and infrastructure funds coming from Congress, every city has an opportunity to step up and increase its efforts for improving infrastructure and sustainable solutions. Cities can invest in upgrading buildings to cut costly energy waste. They can invest into efficient transportation, including public transit, to help lower-income residents reduce their travel costs and protect the climate. The leading cities provide helpful models for those at much earlier stages of their efforts.



Denver’s climate change mitigation and renewable energy goals set the vision for a clean energy future. Based on emissions data from past years, ACEEE projects the city will come close to achieving its near-term, community-wide climate mitigation goal of 30% below 2005 levels by 2025. Denver’s Climate Protection Fund aims to spend 50% of its budget with a lens towards equity, race, and social justice. The Energy Future Collaborative with Xcel Energy supports the creation of distributed energy systems with integrated energy storage. To mitigate the urban heat island effect, the city aims to increase urban tree canopy to 18% by 2025.


Denver adopted the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code with local amendments. Single- and two-family homes must adhere to EV-readiness requirements, and all new residential construction must be solar-ready. Denver’s Green Building Ordinance requires that all new buildings or additions over 25,0000 square feet take one of eight possible green or energy actions or achieve a combination thereof. Energize Denver requires benchmarking for commercial and multifamily buildings, and Colorado House Bill 21-1286 requires those buildings to meet performance standards, benchmark energy use, and disclose energy use at the time of sale or -rent. The city offers incentives for energy efficiency such as PACE financing and expedited permits. Denver partners with Xcel Energy to provide a clean energy workforce development program and offers a paid solar training program in partnership with GRID Alternatives. These initiatives and updates to building regulations are proving to be widely effective in providing sustainable building practices and construction for the greater Denver metro area.


Of low-income households in Denver, 15.7% have access to high-quality transit. With 68.5 per 100,000 people, the city

has a moderate number of EV charging station ports available for public use. Denver has neither a sustainable freight transportation plan nor policies that address freight efficiency. The city does have a Sustainability Community Mobility Goal to provide mobility options that reduce single-occupancy-vehicle commuting travel to no more than 50% of all trips by 2030 and 80% of all trips by 2050. Transportation entities that serve Denver have received roughly $290.07 per capita on average in local transit funding annually between 2015 and 2019, a moderate funding level.


Compared to other utilities, Xcel Energy shows moderate savings as a percentage of sales for electric efficiency programs and low savings for natural gas efficiency programs. The utility offers a portfolio of energy efficiency programs for low-income customers, including comprehensive programs and health and safety measures for single- and multifamily properties. Denver and Xcel Energy provide community-wide energy use information for planning and evaluation purposes. The city actively participates in regulatory proceedings to advocate for rapid and equitable decarbonization of Xcel’s Colorado grid. The city and county of Denver and Xcel Energy have formed a partnership that lays out an expedited pathway for Denver to pursue independent clean energy projects that help it meet its energy and climate goals. Xcel Energy set a stringent goal to provide customers with 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.


Denver does not have current goals for municipal GHG emissions. The city integrates clean energy into its procurement and construction strategies, it requires the purchase of hybrids and high-efficiency vehicles, and although it has not adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, it has converted 63% of streetlights to LEDs. Denver has installed 1.5 MW of onsite solar capacity on city facilities. We were unable to verify that the city has inclusive contracting policies used for energy projects. Denver benchmarks all public building energy use assesses facilities to identify energy efficiency opportunities and conducts retrofits based on energy use data.

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