Many renters are searching for apartments that have eco-friendly qualities, like energy-efficient air conditioning and lighting, solar panels and low-emissivity windows. This is where benchmarking comes into play.

The overall intention of benchmarking is good: It aims to conserve energy in the multifamily housing industry by keeping an eye on energy performance. This way, the city will be able to see on average how much energy usage and water consumption is occurring in any particular apartment complex.

However, the issue with benchmarking laws is that they negatively affect older buildings. An old building is naturally going to use more energy than a brand new apartment complex would. New buildings are being constructed all the time that are in accordance with energy-efficiency standards and regulations, but the improvement of old buildings seems to be getting lost in the shuffle.

So what happens if these older buildings don’t comply with these benchmarking standards? Depending on where the complex is located, building owners can get a fine. For example, in Seattle, building owners can be hit with a fine up to $1,000 per quarter if they don’t meet specified benchmarks. And if a building submits a report that happens to be inaccurate due to a resident not disclosing information, this leads to another fine.

Owners hope that policymakers consider the energy limitations of older buildings and keep that in mind when going over benchmarking reports. It’s simply unrealistic to expect the same energy consumption for a historic landmark and a brand new building. Newer buildings often have energy efficiency in mind as a number one priority during construction, while older buildings may not have.