Complying with Philly's Tune-Up Policy

By Katie Bartolotta

Posted November 10, 2020

Regulations are here for Philadelphia’s Building Energy Performance Policy!

After an active comment period and a virtual hearing, the regulations have been finalized and are in effect. We break down the key clarifications and next steps below.

The original legislative language still provides the bulk of the information you’ll need to know

We recommend brushing up on the details of the legislative language before reviewing the regulations. We break this down in detail in our Everything You Need To Know About Philly’s Building Tune-Up Policy from February. The regulations build on this language.  


Covered building exemptions added

Residence halls, dormitories, non-transient large lodging places, parking lots, parking garages, as well as portions of otherwise-covered non-residential buildings used for parking are all exempted from compliance.


Tune-up specialists must submit an application to the Office of Sustainability (OOS)

Applicants must supply a resume that proves out the requisite education and experience including documentation of licensure and/or certification. A specialist must demonstrate, “at least seven (7) years of combined education and experience with commercial building operations and/or building energy management.”

OOS expects to post the application for qualified tune-up specialists in the near future. We will add a link when it is made available.


In-house compliance is permitted for large portfolio owners, with some caveats

If in-house staff completes tune-up reports for more than 85% of an owner’s total covered square footage in any compliance year, the owner must conduct a third-party quality assurance audit of the completed work. Details on the audit requirements and course of action should deficiencies be identified is detailed in the regulations.

If an owner does not meet the large portfolio threshold, they can petition for a hardship exemption to allow in-house staff to conduct the tune-up.


Guidelines for use of the tune-up workbook added

The regulations include the latest version of the tune-up workbook, which is the standard compliance path for buildings. This spreadsheet can be used directly but so long as all of the required information in the spreadsheet is addressed, tune up specialists and building owners may select a different format for submission. 

Also in the regulations, specialists are given guidance on what to do if particular assessment elements do not apply to a building, exemption of inefficiencies that are in the interest of public health, instructions on sampling, among other notes for successful compliance with the tune-up workbook.


Exemption pathways clarified


There are two key overarching requirements for alternate compliance paths: (1) owners must apply and provide evidence to support a particular exemption pathway and (2) an owner may only apply if the building has been in compliance with the city’s benchmarking policy for two consecutive years in the lead-up to its tune-up compliance date.

Another important note - building owners must apply to pursue their chosen exemption path 180 days prior to their building's compliance deadline. 

Active Optimization

If base building systems are not covered by an automated system (e.g. lighting), evidence of manual ongoing commissioning may be submitted to demonstrate compliance.

ENERGY STAR Certification

Given the delays and changes to ENERGY STAR Certification during the pandemic, 2019 ENERGY STAR Certification will be accepted as an alternate compliance path for buildings with a compliance deadline in 2021 or 2022. For buildings complying in 2023 and beyond, this compliance pathways will require documentation of ENERGY STAR Certification within the year immediately preceding the compliance deadline.

Low Site EUI 

OOS has the authority to approve additional exemption pathways, as appropriate. One such pathway that was added via the regulations was the low site EUI exemption. A building is eligible if it can demonstrate a weather-normalized site eui that is less than or equal to 20 kBtus/square foot for two of the three years preceding the compliance date. 


All Other Exemption Pathways 

For all other acceptable exemption pathways not yet mentioned, including green building certification, retro-commissioning consistent with Act 129 guidelines, fifteen percent energy savings, energy audits no less stringent than ASHRAE Level II, the regulations provide guideance on what it required to qualify for the exemption pathway and how to comply. 


Yes, there is an overall COVID-19 extension but it’s by request only.

We saved the biggest announcement for last.

Owners with buildings with a 2021 compliance deadline may submit a 6-month extension request to OOS. The new compliance deadline for buildings that are granted an exemption will be March 30, 2022. This is not an automatic extension. Owners must submit an exemption request 180 days prior to their building's compliance deadline to be considered.


Have additional questions? See the City's Building Energy Peformance Program page. Email to join the mailing list and receive regular updates. 

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