The complexity of an energy audit and the potential for savings vary with the size, intricacy, and use of a building.

San Francisco Environment Code Chapter 20 sets a high standard: audits must meet or exceed the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Procedures for Commercial Building Audits, with larger facilities required to receive a more rigorous evaluation than smaller facilities.

Audit Requirements

  • Buildings 50,000 square feet and larger: ASHRAE Level II - An “intermediate” survey and energy analysis
  • Buildings 10,000 to 49,999 square feet: ASHRAE Level I - A basic energy analysis

For a summary of what each level of effort entails, ASHRAE has provided the Department of Environment with this excerpt from the Procedures for Commercial Building Audits. (The excerpt is provided by ASHRAE solely for the purpose of completing audits as required by the Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance. The full book and Standard 211 for Commercial Building Energy Audits are available directly from ASHRAE.)

Other Options

Strategic Decarbonization Assessment

Strategic Decarbonization Assessment is a financial planning method for managing carbon emissions and energy efficiency. SDA entails developing plans for improvement and eventual replacement of building systems that compares scenarios, including the cost of not acting, to upgrades consistent with the owner's objectives, investment strategy, and regulatory requirements. Completion of an SDA will fullfill the energy audit requirement of the Existing Buildings Ordinance. 


Large facilities and buildings with complex systems are encouraged to undergo a retrocommissioning study, a systematic, detailed examination of all systems and operations to ensure they are operating as designed, and to identify opportunities for operational and capital improvements. Retrocommissioning will fulfill the audit requirement, but is a voluntary best practice that is most common in buildings seeking LEED certification or the ENERGY STAR. The California Commissioning Collaborative provides an excellent guide to selecting a retrocommissioning provider.


All building owners must have at least 12 months notice between the date they are notified an audit is required, and the date when the first Confirmation of Energy Audit is due. Notification of audit requirements is sent to the party listed by the Office of the Assessor Recorder as the contact for property tax. The owner is responsible for filing a Confirmation of Energy Audit on or before the due date. 

SF Environment assigned audit due dates for each individual buildings on a rolling deadline so that buildings of a given size do not all have the same deadline.

Related Content

Energy Audit Guidelines (PDF)