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While the city hopes the new ordinance drives change, Marion has more work to do to make the system work as well as intended.

More than half of the city’s buildings have already reported their energy use but many have not. Hundreds of the city’s largest buildings, including many prominent ones such as Heinz Field, Rivers Casino and the August Wilson African American Center, haven’t yet complied with the ordinance. PublicSource reached out to all three building owners but didn’t receive a response.

“Some of them are deliberately not participating but some might not have seen the official letters for various reasons,” Marion wrote in an email.

In some buildings, collecting the data continues to be a challenge. If the tenant in the building effectively runs the building, she said, it can be hard to get the owner to force the tenant to report their energy use. Property managers can change from year to year, and it’s time-consuming to track the facility managers down. And in shopping malls it has been a challenge to get all of the businesses to collectively report their energy use.

New York, meanwhile, has changed its laws so that reducing energy use is no longer optional. While its universities and office buildings showed improvements after it started reporting building data publicly, hotels and hospitals didn’t show much improvement. So now New York’s buildings are required to lower their energy use or face large fines. New York is hoping this will lead to billions of dollars of investments in energy efficiency.

Marion and Ervin said Pittsburgh isn’t likely to use fines. Instead, they said, the city will try to lead by example. It recently passed a net-zero energy ordinance, began training city staff in passive house construction methods and have started to receive building design bids that incorporate energy efficiency.

“I’m really looking forward to in a year or two when those buildings are built or retrofitted to showcase that it worked and that we didn’t have to spend more money than we would have with a normal building because we thought about energy at the forefront,” Marion said.

Oliver Morrison is PublicSource’s environment and health reporter. He can be reached at oliver@publicsource.org or on Twitter @ORMorrison.

This story was fact checked by Amanda Hernández and James Bell.

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