With a week of air that has been some of the worst in the country, it’s no wonder we’re all feeling frustrated. Salt Lake City’s current air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups and requires mandatory action of limited driving and no wood burning. For most of us, Salt Lake City’s notoriously bad air is a nuisance and health concern, limiting our activities and turning our skyline grey. Moreover, pollutants like PM 2.5 are dangerous, especially for older residents, children, pregnant women, and people with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Air quality is a public health concern, as well as an economic one.
It may come as a surprise that although transportation currently contributes nearly half of the emissions causing Salt Lake City’s bad air, buildings are catching up. Indeed, houses and buildings currently contribute roughly 38% of emissions, and industry point sources produce the other 13%. As emissions standards on cars are becoming more strict, managing emissions from houses and buildings is a growing priority.
PM 2.5 is the primary winter concern in Salt Lake City’s airshed. The particulate matter poses serious health risks and gets trapped in the Salt Lake valley during inversion. Most of the PM 2.5 is a direct result of precursor emissions from tailpipes, smokestacks, and chemicals that mix to form PM 2.5 in the atmosphere.
When you look outside, it may feel like there’s no good news. However, per capita pollution in Utah is decreasing. Salt Lake City is taking steps to help clean the air and protect our public health and environment. Find out how you can keep our airshed (and lungs!) clean and healthy.
What is SLC doing?
Reducing combustion and emissions are a key step towards cleaning the air.
Salt Lake City has many air quality initiatives in place that are helping clean the air. Among these include the continued expansion of EV infrastructure, expanding cleaner vehicles in our fleet, and implementing our energy benchmarking ordinance for nearly 1,000 commercial buildings. Additionally, the HIVE pass provides residents with access to UTA’s public transit system at a reduced cost.
Today, Salt Lake City honored buildings with high energy performance at the annual Elevate Buildings Awards. The Department of Sustainability invited all buildings who participated in the City’s energy efficiency benchmarking program and received an ENERGY STAR score of 75 or above to the reception this afternoon attended by Mayor Biskupski.
A score of 75
indicates exceptional energy performance.
In addition, the City opened up nominations for buildings to have a particular energy project recognized. Three awards were given this afternoon:
Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Elevate Buildings Awards, highlighting organizations that have taken action to enhance the energy performance of their buildings. Improved efficiency reduces local air pollution, as well as overall greenhouse gas emissions, making it an important component of the capital city’s work to achieve its Climate Positive goals.
“Area sources, including buildings, are having a significant and growing impact on our airshed,” said Mayor Jackie Biskupski. “But they also have a critical role to play in being part of the solution. The organizations we are highlighting this year through the Elevate Buildings Awards are all examples of community leadership in ‘walking the walk’ to improve air quality year round.”
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 30 percent of the average commercial building’s energy consumption is wasted through inefficient building operation. That makes energy efficiency the “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to improving air quality and reducing Salt Lake City’s community carbon footprint—a goal made all the more important by the recent release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report showing the urgency of reducing emissions from all sources. Read more
At their August 29, 2017 Public Hearing, the Salt Lake City Council passed an ordinance proposed by Mayor Jackie Biskupski and the Sustainability Department aimed at cutting energy costs, improving local air quality, and reducing the city’s carbon footprint.
With one dissenting vote, the Council approved the “Energy Benchmarking & Transparency Ordinance,” which is projected to save local buildings owners $15.8 million in annual energy costs and eliminate over 29 tons of criteria pollutants from Salt Lake City’s air each year.
The market-based ordinance works by phasing-in new requirements for buildings over 25,000 square feet to “benchmark” or measure their energy usage annually.
“This ordinance has been in the works for over a year,” said Mayor Biskupski. “Over that time, it’s been a case study in collaborative policy making and I want to thank all the stakeholders involved. I’m proud that we ended up with a policy that will help clear the air, save building owners’ money, improve transparency, and reduce Salt Lake City’s carbon footprint.” Read more
Also known as “area sources,” this sector is the second-largest source of emissions and is forecasted to become the largest one in the coming years (as cars continually get cleaner due to federal regulations).
This is why everything we can do to reduce emissions from our homes and buildings can make a difference to our environment and public health. It’s also why the City is focused on educating residents and businesses about the crucial role of efficiency to our airshed and to our carbon footprint. To this end, we provide guides for home improvements, including details on thermostat controls, home insulation and efficient appliances to help move residential buildings toward a cleaner energy future.
Our skyline’s largest buildings also have a role to play. While there is no “silver bullet” for wiping away all of Salt Lake City’s air pollution problems, the city’s commercial buildings can help simply by measuring their energy usage and making efficiency improvements where feasible.Read more
Last Friday, Salt Lake City was recognized by The White House and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for its efforts to unlock access to energy data for building owners and improve energy efficiency.
Since 2013, Salt Lake City has partnered with both Rocky Mountain Power and Questar to provide whole-building energy data access to building owners through the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager Tool. The effort, which is on track for completion in 2017, will ensure effortless energy data management for building owners, providing a complete picture as to building energy use and enabling them to employ more responsive strategies.
“Salt Lake City, Rocky Mountain Power and Questar are working together to help building owners understand how their building is operating and to identify opportunities to improve energy management,” says Vicki Bennett, sustainability director for Salt Lake City. “By automating and streamlining the process, more Salt Lake City building owners will be able to improve energy efficiency – ultimately saving energy, money and emissions.”
Salt Lake City is committed to improving air quality, and buildings play an important role in emissions. The most recent data from the Utah Division of Air Quality show that 39% of existing air pollution comes from area sources (i.e. homes and businesses). This percentage is expected to increase significantly over the next 20 years as vehicles become more efficient, making building energy efficiency efforts more and more important.
Last week, Mayor Jackie Biskupski extended an invitation to leading industry experts to share their ideas and best practices for energy efficiency in buildings, as part of the Elevate Buildings process.
“There is nothing more important than the air we breathe, and working to clear our skies is a top priority of my administration,” says Mayor Biskupksi. “By collaborating with industry experts we will help improve air quality through increased energy efficiency our city’s largest buildings.”