Colorado air quality regulators vote to slash climate pollution from large buildings statewide, save renters money on energy costs

To help Colorado meet its climate goals, building performance standards policy will achieve a 7% cut in emissions from large buildings by 2026, and 20% by 2030

August 18, 2023

Peter Jensen, Sunstone Strategies |


[DENVER, CO] – On Thursday, Colorado air quality regulators voted to take a major step forward in slashing climate pollution from 8,000 of the state’s largest buildings while fighting high energy costs, including lowering monthly bills for apartment tenants. The Air Quality Control Commission voted to approve a Building Performance Standards (BPS) policy that will upgrade buildings over 50,000 square feet in size, including approximately 1,000 apartment buildings, to use less energy by switching to highly efficient clean energy appliances like heat pumps and induction cooktops or by upgrading building components like lighting, windows, and insulation.

As the BPS policy is phased in over the next several years, it will achieve a 7 percent cut in emissions from these large buildings by 2026, and 20 percent by 2030 – as required by a law passed by legislators in 2021. Large buildings account for 20% of all emissions statewide. The BPS policy approved by air quality regulators was based on the work of a Task Force composed of building owners, healthcare representatives, utilities, community groups, and building systems experts.

In response to the commission’s vote to approve this groundbreaking policy, representatives from Rocky Mountain NAACP, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), and RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute) provided these comments:

Rocky Mountain NAACP State Conference

“Too many communities of color in our state are forced to live with higher air pollution burdens and unaffordable energy bills. While we must take additional, urgent actions to address air pollution at the source, Colorado’s BPS will better protect the health and safety of our black and brown communities by upgrading their homes to prevent air pollution both inside and out. These efficiency upgrades will be of enormous benefit during wildfire smoke season and summer ozone spikes, and also help fight high energy costs,” said Portia Prescott, President of the Rocky Mountain NAACP State Conference. 


“This welcome standard is a win-win for Coloradans’ health and climate,” said Alana Miller, Colorado Policy Director for NRDC. “It will spur local job creation and enable tenants and residents to live and work in healthier, more affordable homes and businesses, while also lowering dangerous greenhouse gas pollution. Reducing these emissions from large existing buildings is urgently needed, and the state is taking a critical step toward meeting Colorado’s climate goals, which aim to protect people from climate change.”


“This policy is an enormous leap forward in meeting Colorado’s climate goals, but its benefits will extend far beyond combating climate change. It will improve the health, comfort, safety, energy efficiency, and livability for tenants of approximately 1,000 apartment buildings statewide as well as employees in 7,000 other large buildings statewide. We are pleased that the Air Quality Control Commission approved a policy that is flexible for building owners and cognizant of unique building types while still achieving the climate improvements we desperately need,” said Christine Brinker, Senior Buildings Policy Manager for SWEEP. 


“We applaud the Air Quality Control Commissioners for recognizing the urgency of the climate crisis that’s affecting Coloradans’ health, safety, and livelihoods,” said Jonny Kocher, Building Regulations Manager at RMI. “This policy will help address a major climate problem while simultaneously bolstering our climate resilience. By getting superior clean energy appliances like heat pumps into more homes and buildings in Colorado, we will create jobs and economic investment across the state.”


The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) is a public interest organization promoting greater energy efficiency and clean transportation in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.