He's bona fide. What are you?

I spent last week in D.C. at the City Energy Project retreat, where NRDC, IMT and staff from each of the 10 CEP cities gathered to discuss how to move forward on city policies to eliminate energy waste in big buildings. (Refresher: CEP is a multiyear, multimillion dollar energy efficiency effort in the cities shown on the map below.)

CEPmap

It was great to hear what the cities are planning, and when you consider their plans in the context of what is happening in New York, Portland, Seattle, D.C., etc., you realize what a fundamental wave of change is happening around the country. Nearly all major American commercial real estate markets will soon begin to emphasize the importance of smart building operations and minimizing energy use. I'm convinced we are fast approaching the tipping point for big buildings, where line between "green" and "brown" will become very clear.

The total square footage of commercial built space in each of the 10 CEP cities adds up to a big number. Add the built space in New York, D.C. and others cities that are moving ahead as well and you get an even bigger number. These cities make up a huge portion of the total built space in the U.S.

After the tipping point, good building operations will be business as usual. Not doing it will stand out more than doing it.

Of course, for some of the leaders in the real estate business, smart building operations are already business as usual. Their executives can speak competently to the declining energy use in their portfolio, and increasing numbers of LEED, Energy Star or otherwise pedigreed properties.

But what about building owners and operators that cannot speak to what their building's energy use is or should be, much less the trend?

I can't help but think of Penny, from "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?"

"He's bona fide. What are you?"