The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program is celebrating 10 years of the voluntary initiative that champions and recognizes energy efficiency. Since the program’s founding in 1999, Energy Star partners in the commercial building realm have prevented nearly 120 million metric tones of carbon dioxide equivalent, equal to the electricity used by more than 60 million American homes per year.

The Energy Star program grew out of the EPA’s Green Lights program, which aimed to promote efficient lighting systems in commercial and industrial buildings. The buildings component of Energy Star debuted in 1993 with 23 building owners participating. By the end of 2009, more than 120,000 buildings representing nearly 14 billion square feet have been measured through the program, and more than 5,000 organizations have joined as Energy Star partners. Nearly 9,000 buildings have earned Energy Star status, with representation in all 50 states.

To celebrate the decade anniversary, EPA is releasing “Celebrating a Decade of Energy Star Buildings,” a document detailing the history of the program and its development in the commercial marketplace. The entire document is available for download here: http://www.energystar.gov/decade. Among the highlights:

1992: The EPA introduces the first Energy Star labeled products

1993: The EPA pilots the Energy Star Buildings program

1995: Green Lights merges with Energy Star Buildings

1999: The Energy Star label is extended to office buildings that perform in the top 25 percent of the market

2000: The Energy Star label extended to schools performing in the top 25 percent of the market

2001-2002: Energy Star extends to supermarkets and grocery stores, acute care hospitals, and hotels that perform in the top 25 percent of their markets.

2004: The program expands to include dormitories, bank branches, financial centers, and houses that perform in the top 25 percent of their markets.

2005-2006: Energy Star expands into the industrial realm, including auto assembly plants, cement manufacturing plants, and corn refineries.

Also profiled in the publication are a range case studies from around the country and across several market sectors. Among them are: the City of San Diego’s Ridgehave Green Building, the first Energy Star building; the Aon Center in Chicago, the tallest Energy Star building; Cambridge Savings Bank in Cambridge, Mass., the oldest Energy Star building; and Southface Eco-Office in Atlanta, the newest Energy Star building.

In total, Energy Star is available for 13 types of commercial buildings and to qualify for participation, the buildings typically use 35 percent less energy and emit 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than average buildings.