To reduce the air pollution caused by commercial building energy use, EPA is expanding the Energy Star program to include new commercial buildings by encouraging the design of energy efficient buildings. Architecture firms will now be able to distinguish buildings that have been designed to be among the most efficient buildings in the country as “Designed to Earn the Energy Star.”Washington, D.C. – June 3, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] Recognizing the influence that the nation’s architects can have in reducing the environmental impact of buildings, EPA is providing this new designation. Commercial buildings alone emit about 20 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. A building design will be eligible for the new designation if the building is expected to qualify for the Energy Star label once in operation. The Energy Star is EPA’s designation for superior energy performance. Buildings that have been in operation for at least one year qualify for the Energy Star by scoring 75 or higher on EPA’s 100-point national energy rating scale. Existing buildings that have earned the Energy Star label use about 40 percent less energy than average buildings, without compromising comfort or services. They also conserve natural gas. EPA finds that newly constructed buildings are not significantly more efficient than buildings constructed years ago. With this new designation, EPA hopes to call attention to building design practices that are expected to deliver high quality and energy efficient commercial building space. In 1999, EPA announced its national energy performance rating system for commercial buildings. The rating system now includes 10 types of buildings representing more than 50 percent of commercial building square footage across the country. Currently, more than 19,000 buildings have been rated nationwide, and more than 1,400 have earned the Energy Star. By earning and displaying the Energy Star plaque, organizations demonstrate their commitment to energy efficiency and environmental stewardship – while saving money on power bills. Introduced by EPA in 1992 for energy-efficient computers, the Energy Star label is now featured on products in more than 40 categories, including lighting, appliances, home office equipment, home electronics, and heating and cooling equipment. Since the mid-1990s, EPA has collaborated with the U.S. Department of Energy, which has responsibility for certain product categories. Efficient new homes became eligible for the Energy Star label in 1995. Last year alone, Energy Star helped Americans save enough energy to power about 20 million homes, reducing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 18 million vehicles. These reductions also saved Americans collectively $9 billion on their energy bills.