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What do the New State of Colorado Building Performance Standards Mean for You?

Oct 12, 2023

U.S. Engineering

As anticipated, new sustainable building regulations continue to develop. Recently the City and County of Denver launched Energize Denver, a regulatory effort to address climate change by decreasing commercial and multi-family building energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Now the State of Colorado has published Regulation 28, “Building Benchmarking and Performance Standards.” The Colorado Energy Office (CEO) will administer these State Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC)-approved rules. The new regulations satisfy the requirements of State House Bill 21-1286, which directs the AQCC to adopt rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in buildings 7% by 2026, and 20% by 2030 (based on a 2021 baseline).

For a long time, U.S. Engineering has been collaborating with clients and partners to address sustainability in the built environment. When Energize Denver and Regulation 28 were on the horizon, we recognized that we needed to step up our game and internally prepare to help our customers navigate these significant regulatory changes.

U.S. Engineering will take the lessons learned from previous sustainable projects with energy efficiency and electrification features to assist owners in achieving the new energy use and GHG intensity reduction targets for new construction and renovation projects. Together, we will apply advanced technologies and innovative approaches to meet building performance milestones.

In this article, we look closely at the new state building performance standards and explore what they may mean for your organization.



With some exceptions, these new state regulations apply to “Covered Buildings” with a gross floor area of 50,000 sq ft or more, occupied by a single occupant or group of tenants. This regulation does not apply to covered buildings that are storage facilities, stand-alone parking garages, an airplane hanger, a single family home, duplex or triplex. It does not apply to a building in which more than half of the gross floor area is used for manufacturing, industrial, or agricultural purposes.


A “public building” is a covered building owned by the state, a local government, a special district regulated by Title 32, a state or private institution of higher education, a school district, and a charter district defined by Title 22 (Colorado Revised Statutes).  Public buildings are subject to benchmarking but not the building performance standards unless they undergo a renovation project with an estimated cost over $500,000 and that impacts at least 25% of the covered building’s gross floor area.


Under-resourced buildings are facilities with limited access to funding, including revenues, grants, or gifts that can assist with complying with the requirements of this regulation. This designation includes buildings owned by organizations that qualify as tax exempt under Section 501(c) of the Internal Review Code.


Owners with buildings over 50,000 sq ft are required to report their previous calendar year’s energy use each year. The first deadline to report 2021 benchmarking data was December 1, 2022, and subsequent years of benchmarking data are due on June 1 the following year. For example, 2022 benchmarking data was due on June 1, 2023. Benchmarking data must be submitted through Energy Star Portfolio Manager. You can find the reported benchmarking data for each building over 50,000 sq ft on the state’s website.

Building Performance Standards (BPS)

The new state-established BPS apply to all existing facilities over 50,000 sq ft. According to Colorado’s GHG Pollution Reduction Roadmap, BPS will be one method employed to achieve the state’s goal of reducing GHG emissions 50% by 2030, compared to a 2005 baseline. There are currently four compliance pathways:

  • Option 1. Building must meet a prescribed Energy Use Intensity (EUI) target.
  • Option 2. Buildings can achieve a standard site EUI percent reduction of 13% in 2026 and a reduction of 29% in 2030 (both compared to a 2021 benchmarked baseline).
  • Option 3. Building can also hit a targeted GHG intensity instead of EUI intensity. GHG emissions will be calculated through an emissions calculator that is provided within Energy Star Portfolio Manager, the same tool used for benchmarking.
  • Option 4.  Similar to Option 2, buildings can also achieve a GHG reduction of 13% in 2026 and a reduction of 29% in 2030 (both compared to a 2021 baseline).

The graphic below outlines the four compliance pathways.

Below is a comparison of the 2026 and 2030 EUI and GHG targets for various building types.

Some comments related to these targets:

  • Option 2 provides a cap for maximum EUI reduction for facilities that are operating well above the 2030 target (i.e. more than 30% above target). 
  • If a facility employs an approach to install customer-owned renewable electric generation or reduces carbon emissions by substituting a substantial amount of their annual fossil fuel heating hours with heat pump technology, then Option 3 and 4 may be the preferred approach. 
  • Building property types are defined by Portfolio Manager. If a building or property has multiple uses, for the purposes of benchmarking, the property type is based on the use that accounts for more than 50% of the building’s gross floor area. If there is not one single use type that represents 50% or more of a building’s gross floor area, the property type is classified as mixed use. 


According to the current rules, penalties will be applied starting January 1, 2024. 


A building owner that does not submit a benchmarking report will be subject to a fine up to $500 for a first violation and up to $2,000/year for each subsequent violation. Penalties for benchmarking non-compliance will begin in 2024.

Building Performance

A building owner that fails to meet the building performance standards by the targeted deadline is subject to a fine up to $2,000 for a first violation and up to $5,000 per month for each subsequent violation. These fines are applied monthly until the building owner complies with the BPS.

Public Building Owners

They are not subject to penalties unless the building undergoes a renovation project with an estimated cost over $500,000 and impacts at least 25% of the covered building’s gross floor area.


The State notes that a building owner may be subject to additional civil penalties if they fail to demonstrate progress towards compliance.

Timeline or Target Adjustments 

A building owner can request an adjusted timeline or a performance target adjustment.  Applications for these adjustments must be submitted by December 31, 2025, for the 2026 target and by December 31, 2029, for the 2030 target. These requests must be submitted on a CEO-approved form based on an energy audit completed by a certified energy auditor.

If a compliance plan is submitted and approved, the building owner must submit monthly reports to the CEO to demonstrate compliance. If the building owner does not demonstrate progress toward compliance, the building owner is subject to a monthly building performance penalty until it meets the EUI or GHG target or required percent reduction.

Next Steps

The CEO released these technical guidance documents. Accordingly, here are some next steps in this process.

Benchmarking. Make sure to complete utility benchmarking for all facilities over 50,000 sq ft. Benchmarking data is required to be submitted each year, not just once. Fines will start in 2024 for facilities that do not submit energy consumption data.

Organizational Status. Building owners should review the details of “Public Buildings” and “Under-resourced buildings” to determine whether they fall under those categories. It is possible that community-based or tax-exempt facilities would receive relief.

Training. The State of Colorado has been providing training sessions to define the BPS regulation and to provide resources to help organizations comply with these state rules.  U.S. Engineering is also offering lunch and learns to inform our clients and partners about the new Energize Denver and Regulation 28 requirements.

Planning. A major first step in complying with these rules is to perform energy audits and facility condition assessments of your buildings that can inform the creation of a compliance plan and preliminary budget. U.S. Engineering can connect our customers and partners to our service team members, who are ready to deploy energy audit and facility condition assessment expertise and identify BPS improvements to meet compliance deadlines.

Let’s Talk

As we’ve said, our teams are keeping up with the evolution of these regulations and are here to help.

Reach out to Tom Poeling (email) or Caryn Becker (email) in our Rocky Mountain region, or email to start the conversation about your facilities and how you can reach compliance with the new state BPS regulations.

Tom Poeling, Director of Energy Services and Sustainability, U.S Engineering Service
Caryn Becker, Director of Business Development, U.S. Engineering Construction
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