State and Local Policy Database

Houston

City Scorecard Rank

13

Houston, TX

51.00Scored out of 100Updated 5/2015
Local Government Operations
Score: 10 out of 15 points
Local Government Summary List All

Houston has not adopted a framework for sustainability or energy efficiency, but its Multi-Pollutant Emissions Reduction Plan has led the city to take actions, including retrofitting municipal buildings to make its local government operations more efficient. Responsibility for implementing strategies to reduce pollution and increase energy efficiency is split between the Mayor’s Office and the Energy Section of the General Services Department.

Last updated: December 2014

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

Houston has a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from local government operations by 36% by 2016, but we could not confirm if this was adopted by the city council or formalized in an executive action. The Planning Department is leading the effort to create a general plan for the city and the city has drafted a sustainability plan for municipal operations.

According to their 2014 submission to CDP, the city reduced its greenhouse gas emissions from local government operations by 43% between 2007 and 2013. The city is currently on track for its local government goal.

Last updated: December 2014

Performance Management Strategies List All

Houston does not have a dedicated funding source or budgeting mechanism for local government efficiency investments.

The City of Houston annually reports to the Carbon Disclosure Project on its government and community sustainability initiatives. The data is made publicly available through the CDP website. Schneider Electric provides energy savings reports as part of their energy service performance contract (ESPC) with the city.  

Houston has several municipal staff dedicated to energy efficiency efforts within government operations including 4 to 5 fulltime staff in the General Services Department, Finance Department, and Mayor’s Office and an energy manager who oversees the energy performance in ESCO projects. Houston does not offer financial or non-financial incentives for energy efficiency actions to departments or individual staff.

Last updated: February 2015

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

Houston does not have a fuel efficiency requirement for its vehicle fleet. Approximately 50% of the city’s non-specialty, light-duty fleet has been replaced with hybrid vehicles and the city has 27 Nissan LEAFs and 15 plug-in hybrids in its fleet, although it is unclear if the vehicle replacements were due to formalized policy. The city also has an anti-idling policy for municipal vehicles. The city started Houston Fleet Share through which 50 city-owned fleet vehicles were outfitted with ZipCar’s proprietary car-sharing technology, which will help right-size the fleet.

Note: For local fleet initiatives, policies listed must make a specific, mandatory requirement for increasing fleet efficiency. Local alternative-fuel vehicle procurement requirements that give a voluntary option to count efficient vehicles are thus not included.

Public Lighting

Houston has not adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance. CenterPoint Energy, in partnership with Houston, will convert approximately 165,000 streetlights from high pressure sodium, mercury vapor and metal halide to LED technology. This replacement project will reduce the city’s streetlight energy usage by approximately 50% and save the city over $28 million over the life of the project. Streetlights have photo sensors so they only operate when needed.

New Buildings and Equipment

The city has a green building policy that sets a target of LEED Silver certification for new construction, replacement facilities, and major renovations of city-owned or -funded buildings and facilities with more than 10,000 square feet of occupied space, but the policy does not emphasize energy points specifically. Administrative Procedure 7-1 City Energy Efficiency Policy (Section 7.2.7 Equipment Purchasing) specifies that all purchases of equipment, appliances, and computers should be ENERGY STAR– rated when feasible.

Last updated: December 2014

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

100% of Houston’s municipal buildings are benchmarked. Houston is a DOE Better Buildings Challenge Community Partner, with 30 million square feet committed, and benchmarking of municipal buildings was part of the commitment. The city also has made investments in energy efficiency in municipal buildings.

Sustainable Infrastructure Policies

On April 3, 2013, the City of Houston passed the Developer Drainage Impact Fee Ordinance (Ordinance #2013-281), effective April 3, 2014. Any new development within a Developer Drainage Impact Fee Service Area requires the issuance of a building permit or a connection to the City’s drainage system. Also, increases in the amount of impervious surface may be required to pay a Developer Drainage Impact Fee at the time of building permit. The city uses life-cycle cost considerations in specific instances, including water main replacement.

Public Employees

The city participates in Flex in the City, a program implemented by the city to encourage employers to try alternative scheduling options such as compressed work weeks, telecommuting, and using flexible start and end times. The city’s employee transit program (Administrative Procedure 3-6) offers Metropolitan Transit Authority Q Cards to city employees working in downtown Houston, at no cost to the employee.

Last updated: February 2015

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 3.5 out of 10 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability leads Houston’s implementation of its general community-wide sustainability initiatives.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

Houston’s Mayor Parker committed the city to an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2050 at the Mayors' National Climate Action Agenda. Houston is a Better Buildings Challenge partner and has committed to a 20% energy use reduction by 2020 for 30 million square feet of building space in Houston. The city is in the process of developing a formal sustainability action plan, but we were unable to find evidence that this goal has been formally adopted through either a city council resolution or mayoral executive order.

Houston does not release regular reports on progress toward energy efficiency goals.

Last updated: January 2017

Performance Management StrategiesList All

Houston has 3 to 4 fulltime staff in the Mayor’s Office working on sustainability initiatives, including a C40 City Director who advises on energy efficiency goals. We could not confirm if the city uses an independent firm for EM&V of savings from community-wide efficiency projects. We could not find information regarding other performance management strategies. Information that we were unable to obtain includes the frequency of public reporting on community-wide energy efficiency initiatives and the existence of a dedicated funding source or budgeting mechanism for community-wide energy management or efficiency investments

Last updated: December 2014

Efficient Distributed Energy Systems - District Energy and Combined Heat and PowerList All

We did not find information on any programs or policies to plan for future district energy systems.   

Last updated: January 2017

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

 

Million Trees + Houston established a three- to five-year goal to plant one million trees.

A cool roof policy is included in the city’s Energy Conservation Code. The code requires cool roofs on all commercial buildings. Residential buildings with low sloped roofs must have minimum solar reflectance of 0.70 and thermal emittance of 0.75.

The city has also provides development incentives for preservation of open space. The city has not adopted a private tree protections ordinance.

Last updated: January 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 12 out of 18 points
Buildings Summary List All

Houston has some building sector initiatives to improve efficiency including an energy savings target, upfront code support and incentives for efficient building. The Building Code Enforcement Branch of the Department of Planning and Development Services manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of Houston.

Last Updated: December 2014

Stringency of Energy CodesList All

The State of Texas allows its local jurisdictions to adopt building energy codes more stringent than the Texas Building Energy Code. The minimum state standard for single-family residential construction must comply with the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC). All other residential and commercial building construction must comply with the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). State-funded building construction must comply with ASHRAE 90.1-2013. To learn more about the building energy code requirements for the State of Texas, please visit the State Policy Database.

Commercial

Houston adopted the 2015 IECC for commercial buildings with amendments. The city also adopted ASHRAE 90.1-2013 with amendments. The 2015 IECC went into effect in on September 1, 2016. The commercial IECC amendments went into effect on December 9, 2016. The ASHRAE 90.1-2013 amendments went into effect on December 9, 2016.

Residential

Houston adopted the 2015 IECC for residential buildings with amendments. The 2015 IECC went into effect in on September 1, 2016. The commercial amendments went into effect on October 2016.

Last Updated: January 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Houston reported a budget of $18,300,000 for the building code department in 2013. This level of spending normalizes to $11 per $1,000 of residential construction spending for the city.

Houston has established participation in third-party plan review and performance testing as a voluntary building energy code compliance option through the Code Green Houston resource center. Houston provides upfront code support for all builders and developers through the Green Building Resource Center in the Code Enforcement Department. The director of the program offers plan reviews, cost-effective green options, and energy efficiency classes. The City of Houston code officials attend and vote in the IECC code development process.

Last Updated: March 2015

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

Building Energy Savings Goals

Houston has set an energy savings goal in conjunction with its involvement as a DOE Better Buildings Challenge Community Partner. Houston has committed to reduce energy intensity by 20% by 2020. This commitment cover 30 million square feet of private building stock.

Green Building Requirements

Houston has a Green Building Resolution, which sets a target of LEED-Silver certification for new construction, replacement facilities and major renovations of city-funded or owned buildings and facilities with more than 10,000 square feet of occupied space. Privately funded commercial and residential buildings are not subject to green building requirements.

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

Houston does not yet require commercial or residential buildings to take energy efficiency actions such as energy audits or retro commissioning.  

Incentives and Financing for Efficient Buildings

Houston offers tax abatements to commercial buildings through Ordinance No. 2009-858 for buildings that meet LEED standards. Houston offers weatherization to income-qualified homes. Incentives are available for new construction and retrofitting homes for energy efficiency achieving a 60 HERS rating throughout the historical district.

Last Updated: December 2014

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Commercial

Houston has started a Green Office Challenge Program for the business sector, to encourage commercial buildings to benchmark and share energy usage data.

Residential

The Houston Green MLS, the multiple listing service which serves the Houston region includes many fields for energy efficiency features of homes listed on the market.

Last Updated: December 2014

Comprehensive Efficiency Services List All

The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program is available to all homeowners in Houston through Centerpoint Energy.

Last Updated: December 2014

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 10 out of 18 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

CenterPoint Energy, an investor-owned utility (IOU), is the primary gas and electric utility serving the city of Houston. The City of Houston is an active promoter of CenterPoint’s energy efficiency programs. The State of Texas requires electric utilities to offset load-growth through end-use energy efficiency, mandated through an EERS. The utilities must also submit their energy savings goals to the Public Utility Commission of Texas. To learn more about the state-requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the Texas page of the State Database. On the state level, Houston strongly advocates for additional spending requirements for energy efficiency projects for all of its utilities.

The Houston Public Works and Engineering Department is the municipal utility that provides Houston with drinking water services, wastewater treatment, and stormwater management.

Last Updated: December 2014

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2013, according to CenterPoint, they spent $38,283,000 on electric efficiency programs, representing 1.51% of its annual revenue. Due to these programs, CenterPoint reported a net incremental electricity savings of 160,497MWh, representing 0.20% of its retail sales. CenterPoint did not spend or did not report spending on natural gas efficiency programs. Spending on electricity efficiency represented in this section covers the entire Texas service territory, not just Houston. CenterPoint Energy offers natural gas and electric efficiency incentives and technical assistance to residential and commercial/industrial customers.

The City of Houston partners with CenterPoint Energy through the Houston Green Office Challenge which connects business leaders and building owners to energy efficiency workshops and utility incentives. The City of Houston strongly advocates to the Texas PUC on rulemaking, goal setting, and cost adjusting to increase required spending for natural gas and electric efficiency programs.

Last Updated: December 2014

Energy Efficiency Targets & Funding Agreements List All

Houston’s utilities do not have a local target, but they are subject to state targets.

The City of Houston works with CenterPoint Energy to coordinate funding to continue the City's Residential Energy Efficiency Program. CenterPoint committed $2.5 million in 2013, $2.4 million in 2014, and has tentatively committed $3 million in 2015.

Last Updated: December 2014

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

In order for customers to access their own energy data, CenterPoint and their local retail electric providers have committed to providing the Green Button data sharing platform. CenterPoint does not provide energy usage data to building managers for input into benchmarking services. CenterPoint Energy provides community aggregated data to the City of Houston for conducting a community-wide greenhouse gas inventory. The City of Houston, as part of the City Energy Project, is working to accelerate access to energy data to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

Last Updated: December 2014

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

Houston has a water conservation target of reducing unaccounted water use by 11% by 2020 and residents to reduce water usage by little more than 1 gallon per day by 2019 - or a 1.6 percent reduction over five years. The city has committed both labor and resources in support of its Waterworks Education Center, which currently serves as an education center for water-related efforts in the community. The city recently established a water conservation task force to develop conservation goals and best practices for the city.

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

Houston’s Department of Public Works has not yet established an energy efficiency goal for water operations. There is not currently any programs in place for energy efficiency in water operations. The city’s water system does not self-generate its own energy.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

The City of Houston’s Infrastructure Design Manual provides guidance to developers for preventing permanent storm water pollution and controls to minimize impacts for new development and decrease impacts for redevelopment. In addition, there is a drainage fee on properties within the city limits that is based on the amount of impervious surface within each parcel. The fee is reduced if the owner increases the amount of pervious cover, adds additional detention, or uses approved low-impact development best practices (e.g., green roofs, bio-retention, or porous pavement). The city also leads the $205 million Bayou Greenways 2020 initiative, which includes improvements to stormwater management through green infrastructure as one of its objectives.

Last Updated: December 2014

Transportation
Score: 15.5 out of 28 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving the city of Houston is The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. METRO also provides the public transportation for the city and the broader metropolitan area, including bus and light rail service. The Houston-Galveston Area Council is the MPO in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses Houston and Galveston, as well as many surrounding towns and counties. The Department of Administration and Regulatory Affairs is the city agency charged with managing the city’s transportation network.

Last updated: December 2014

Location Efficiency List All

Houston has not yet implemented location-efficient zoning codes to be used across the city or in any specific neighborhood. Reduced parking requirements are provided and shared use parking agreements are allowed in areas around transit stations and other mixed-use projects where reduced parking requirements are most appropriate for further encouraging the accommodation of other non-vehicular modes of transportation. In addition, Houston’s parking rules allow the creation of special parking areas for the purposes to businesses, reduced parking rations, and sharking purposes. Houston passed a Complete Streets Policy in 2013. As an incentive to promote location-efficient real estate development, the city passed Ordinance 2012-739 in 2012, establishing and economic development program called the Downtown Living Initiative Chapter 380 Program. The program promotes economic development and stimulates business and commercial activity in the target area byproviding economic and other development incentives for new multifamily residential mixed-use developments.

Last updated: December 2014

Mode Shift List All

Transportation and Land Use Planning

The City of Houston’s City Mobility Planning is a joint initiative between the departments of Planning & Development and Public Works & Engineering (PWE) in partnership with the Houston-Galveston Area Council the regions Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The City of Houston is trying to get ahead of transportation challenges. The Houston Planning Commission has established several committees to examine a range of development and growth issues. Plans for this mobility planning can be found here

Car and Bicycle Sharing

Houston is served both by zipcar and Enterprise CarShare. The city is served by a bikesharing program, Houston B-cycle with 30 operational stations.

Transportation Demand Management Programs

To reduce the frequency of single-occupancy trips, Houston implemented Flex in the City. This is a program to encourage employers to try alternative scheduling options such as compressed work weeks, telecommuting to work, and flexible start and end times, eliminating their employees’ rush-hour commutes on Houston’s roads.

Last updated: February 2015

Transit List All

The Harris County MTA, Harris County Community Services Department, Office of Transit Services, Harris County Improvement District, and Greater Southeast Management District transit systems that serve Houston received $916429082 in total funding in 2012. This funding level is $185 per resident in the service territory of the agency. In comparison, 2011 spending on roads and parking by the city was $191,892,966, or $89 per city resident.  This results in a ratio of per capita regional transit funding to per capita city highway and parking funding of 2.09 to 1.

The Transit Connectivity Index measures how many transit rides are available per week within walking distance from the average household. The City of Houston’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 13,286, putting it in a high mid-range category (10,000 - 20,000) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: December 2014

Efficient Vehicles and Driver Behavior List All

At this time, Houston does not offer incentives for citizens to purchase hybrid, plug-in, or EV vehicles. However, Houston offers the Houston Drives Electric initiative. The City of Houston owns four EV charging stations available for public use. The 2011 Electric Vehicle Readiness Plan mapped Houston’s way to securing funding and installing charging ports. The city has not yet established efficient driving rules, such as an anti-idling ordinance, for private vehicles. The city is part of the Houston-Galveston Clean Cities Coalition. 

Last updated: February 2015

Freight List All

There are 36 intermodal freight facilities within the City of Houston’s boundaries, 30 of which we classify as efficient because they are port- or rail-capable.  Houston’s share of regional freight traffic in 2012, normalized by population, is 165,775 ton-miles.  As a result there are 0.181 efficient intermodal facilities per thousand ton-miles of freight traffic, putting the city in the second lowest category for this metric (>0 to 0.499) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: December 2014