WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its seventh-annual list of the top 25 U.S. metropolitan areas with the most Energy Star certified buildings in 2014. This year, Washington, District of Columbia, debuted in the top spot with 480 buildings.

EPA said more than 25,000 buildings across America have earned Energy Star certification since 1999. The buildings have saved nearly $3.4 billion on utility bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to the emissions from the annual electricity use of nearly 2.4 million homes.

Energy use in commercial buildings accounts for 17 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $100 billion per year. Energy Star certified buildings are verified to perform better than 75 percent of similar buildings nationwide, and they use an average of 35 percent less energy and are responsible for 35 percent fewer emissions than typical buildings. Many common building types can earn the Energy Star, including office buildings, K-12 schools, hotels, and retail stores.

The program starts with tools to help building owners or managers understand how their buildings are currently performing and what to aim for in terms of improvements. A typical upgrade includes the following: tuning up building systems; reducing lighting loads; reducing supplemental loads (e.g., equipment, wasteful behaviors, leaky windows, poor insulation, etc.); improving air distribution systems; and making upgrades to HVAC equipment. The stages, when followed in order, account for the interactions between different building systems. For example, replacing heat-producing incandescent bulbs with cool LEDs will mean that a building’s air conditioning won’t have to work as hard in the summer months, so a building may be able to downsize its cooling system based on the new lighting’s heat output. Another benefit of the five-stage approach is that it ensures the lowest-cost measures are tackled first. As organizations progress through the five stages, they can roll their cost savings into larger investments, culminating in the last, most expensive stage. By the time organizations start making upgrades to HVAC equipment, they typically have already amassed substantial cost savings from previous lower-cost improvements.

To create the annual top cities list, EPA tallies the number of Energy Star certified buildings for the end of the previous year within each metropolitan area, as defined by the U.S. Census. These areas include the city itself as well as surrounding towns and suburbs.

The top 25 cities are:

Rank    Metro Area                  Building Count

1          Washington, D.C.        480

2          Los Angeles                 475

3          Atlanta                         328

4          New York                    299

5          San Francisco              292

6          Chicago                       251

7          Dallas-Fort Worth        248

8          Houston                       235

9          Denver                         195

10        Boston                         176

11        Phoenix                       165

12        Philadelphia                 158

13        Seattle                          149

14        Riverside, Calif.           127

15        Minneapolis-St. Paul    122

16        Charlotte, N.C.             95

17        San Diego                    92

18        Miami                           90

19        Sacramento, Calif.       89

20        Virginia Beach, Va.     81

21        Detroit                          80

22        San Jose, Calif.           70

23        Austin, Texas               65

23        Portland, Ore.              65

24        Louisville, Ky.              59

24        Tampa, Fla.                 59

25        Salt Lake City              55

For more information on the 2015 top cities, visit www.energystar.gov/topcities.

For more information about earning the Energy Star label for commercial buildings, visit www.energystar.gov/buildingcertification.

Publication date: 4/6/2015