By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Whether they like it or not, owners of office towers and other large buildings in Philadelphia are going to be getting some advice from the city on how to be more energy efficient.

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“The Building Energy and Benchmarking Law” is now in effect and requires large buildings – including offices, schools, hospitals and warehouses – to annually report their electricity, natural gas and water usage.

Alex Dews, Policy and Program Manager in the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, says the building owners will in return receive an energy report card.

“It’s very similar to the way that cars track miles-per-gallon. Now large commercial buildings in the city will have an ‘energy performance score’ as well,” says Dews.

Some buildings already track their energy efficiency but this process, Dews says, will allow for building-to-building comparisons citywide.

“So you’re not just looking at your bill over the last year during the same period, but you’re getting a much more informative peer-to-peer comparison that you can use to understand and gauge your performance in the marketplace,” he explains.

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Dews says after getting the score, building managers can get hooked up with city and utility resources to plan improvements.

“The first step is getting the building owners’ attention on how their buildings are using energy, and then connecting them to a lot of resources that exist through the city, through utility programs like PGW’s Energy Sense and PECO’s Smart Ideas,” he says. “These incentives are there specifically for the purpose of helping owners to understand the opportunity and to make those investments that are going to drive down their energy costs.”

And those energy efficiency ideas aren’t necessarily costly, says Dews.

“In a lot of cases there are five or 10 simple things that you can do to decrease your energy use that cost nothing,” he explains.

The building owners must report their electric and water usage by the end of October and Dews says his office will produce a numbers-crunching report by year’s end.

Dews says making the energy ratings of the buildings public will increase competition among the office towers, as tenants increasingly look for office space that is energy efficient.

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