Learn More About Benchmarking and Transparency
What is Energy Use Benchmarking?
Energy use benchmarking is measuring a buildings energy use over time, and comparing it to other similar buildings.
The DOE defines energy benchmarking as “The process of accounting for and comparing a metered building’s current energy performance with its energy baseline, or comparing a metered building’s energy performance with the energy performance of similar types of buildings (based on use, such as comparing the energy performance of a hospital to that of other hospitals). Benchmarking can be used to compare performance over time, within and between peer groups, or to document top savings from conservation measures.
References and Additional Resources
What are the Benefits of Benchmarking?
Energy benchmarking helps us understand our energy use, so that we can make changes that will help plan and prioritize limited resources in order to save money and save energy.
According to ENERGY STAR® “Energy expenditures average more than $2 per square foot in commercial and government buildings, making energy a cost worth managing. By making energy performance measurable and visible, building owners can improve the efficiency of their buildings, which can drive new investment and create an estimated 5 to 15 green jobs per $1 million invested. Efficient buildings are also more profitable and more valuable at resale, which can increase property tax revenues. Building owners seek benchmarking data to differentiate a building or company, help value rental rates, and inform the sale or acquisition of existing buildings.”
What is Disclosure or Transparency?
Building benchmarking policies often include a component “disclosure” or “transparency”. These policies typically require either regular reporting to the government or making energy performance data available when a property is sold or leased. Most government reporting programs include a provision for that information to be made public in some manner. When performance data is disclosed, there is greater knowledge in the market that will help tenants, building owners/operators, as well as those purchasing buildings consider cost of operating a building. This information also can indicate the quality of the building and how well it is being operated. However, there can be significant concern in the building owner/operator segment that building data may be disclosed in a way that does not allow for accurate comparisons. To remedy this, it is particularly important to make sure that the building being compared are similar.
Another option that has not been pursued by Cities, but may be useful, is to follow a model similar to DOE’s building performance database. Different from the Philadelphia and Washington DC model, all data is aggregated with no specific building identification information provided. A building owner interested in how they compare with their peer group can choose a variety of building, climate, use characteristics that will allow them to do an apples to apples comparison between their facility and others in the city. This is similar to the Chicago model, however, it allows for a bit more of a dynamic comparison. This model is important to consider if the City is facing significant challenges when developing its transparency policy.
References and Additional Resources
What are the types of benchmarking programs?
There are three main types of benchmarking programs: government building programs, voluntary benchmarking programs, and mandatory benchmarking programs. Communities often begin with benchmarking their own government facilities.
Many communities want to lead by example and want to understand how benchmarking works for themselves before designing a program for other buildings in their community. Therefore, these communities begin the process by benchmarking their own energy use.
Government building benchmarking lets communities lead by example, demonstrating that energy benchmarking:
- provides objective data on energy use and the benefits of improvements;
- increases awareness, which may lead to behavior change;
- facilitates planning;
- identifies best practices that can be used by others
- provides a baseline for measuring improvements, and helps to develop a comprehensive energy management action plan
- provides data to evaluate the business case for capital investments in energy retrofits.
The City of Houston has conducted data collection and benchmarking of city facilities and is releasing building energy performance data for all municipal facilities over 25,000 feet, totaling over 5 million square feet of municipal buildings. According to their website “Benchmarking allows the City to measure building performance over time, prioritize those facilities with the highest energy intensity and take appropriate action if building performance diminishes. The City expects that benchmarking will help it achieve ENERGY STAR® Certification, as well as maintain this certification through constant data monitoring over time.” They have an interactive map that displays building information and 2013 site EUIs. Website provides information and resources about energy efficiency and benchmarking best practices. HoustonCityEnergyProject.org
The City of Knoxville, TN convened a public-private task force to develop a Comprehensive Energy Plan plan, entered into an energy services performance contract to retrofit municipal facilities, and implemented an energy data tracking system. Even states have implemented benchmarking of government buildings.
The State of Michigan has benchmarked 35.5 million square feet of building space in Portfolio Manager. Benchmarking has helped the state to actively manage buildings’ energy consumption and implement energy saving measures and best practices, reducing energy costs statewide. For example, the state’s Secondary Complex in Dimondale reduced consumption by 18% between 2010 and 2015.
The State of Ohio Executive Order 2007 - 02S (2007) directed each state agency, board, and commission to conduct a statewide energy audit of its respective facilities, both owned and leased, and to achieve an overall reduction of 5% in building energy use for its facilities within a year and 15% by the end of four fiscal years. The order required the use of Portfolio Manager as a benchmarking tool for state-owned facilities. H.B. 251, also enacted in 2007, requires an energy consumption analysis for state leases of buildings over 20,000 square feet. The bill also calls for institutions of higher education to reduce energy consumption by at least 20% by 2014 from a 2004 baseline.
The State of Delaware utilized EPA’s Portfolio Manager to benchmark state building energy use, develop a centralized data repository, analyze building energy performance, and strategically identify and prioritize retrofit projects.
References and Additional Resources
Voluntary programs are designed to encourage building owners to benchmark their energy use. Communities may use their successes and lessons they learned in their own benchmarking programs to design and communicate the benefits of a voluntary program.
Voluntary programs encourage other building owners/operators in the community to benchmark their facilities. However, there is no requirement to benchmark as there are with mandatory programs. These programs typically communicate the successes of the participants in the programs to encourage additional buildings to participate.
The City of Houston The Houston Green Office Challenge is a friendly competition for commercial property owners, managers and office tenants that celebrates achievements in greening operations through Mayoral and media recognition. This Houston-wide program will bring local, state and national sustainability experts together with businesses and properties to learn and engage in both introductory and high performance green building practices through free workshops and training. The Challenge also helps participants improve their sustainability and work toward third-party green building certifications such as ENERGY STAR® and LEED®.
The City of Fort Worth Better Buildings Challenge, encourages city businesses and communities to save energy in their buildings. Building a network of partners and allies including local energy and water utilities, the Fort Worth Better Buildings Challenge effectively provides a local education and outreach program promoting energy conservation and efficiency as well as technical support for partners to measure and track their energy use. Through the Better Buildings Challenge, Fort Worth has achieved 8% energy savings across 19 million square feet of public and private sector buildings since 2009. The city is on-track to meet a ten year goal to improve energy use by 20% by 2020.
The City of Columbus For the Columbus Energy Challenge, each participating business is provided with information about energy benchmarking, training opportunities, tutorials on how to register buildings using ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager®, and a spreadsheet template that makes automatically uploading utility data easy. Participants were also informed about utility rebates and other resources to help reduce energy use and save money. The goal of the Columbus Green Community Plan is having 70% of commercial and industrial buildings over 50,000 square feet registered in the program, and a 20% reduction in community-wide energy use by the year 2020.
The City of Pittsburgh The Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge (GWC) encourages benchmarking of office buildings using ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager. The program enables businesses, nonprofits, municipalities, and colleges/universities to participate in a friendly competition where they can receive recognition for their sustainable actions and achievements. Actions that demonstrate measurable change provide organizations with a baseline for comparison in the future. Consequently, the challenge includes a number of measurable and verifiable actions for participants to implement, which results in earning points.
Salt Lake City The Mayor’s Skyline Challenge is a multi-year competition starting in May 2014, that encourages building owners across the city to proactively meet the air quality and energy-saving targets of Sustainable Salt Lake Plan 2015 by evaluating their building’s energy use, setting energy-saving goals and undertaking energy-saving projects. Leading buildings will receive special recognition by the Mayor.
St. Louis Region The St. Louis High Performance Building Initiative challenges buildings in the region to benchmark building energy use in Portfolio Manager, aiming for a 25% reduction in building energy consumption by the year 2020.
The City of Virginia Beach Does not a have a program that recognizes success like many of the other voluntary programs. But, they do offer monthly training session on how to use Portfolio Manager in order to encourage benchmarking.
References and Additional Resources
Mandatory programs are those where a community has adopted a policy requiring energy benchmarking.
U.S. Building Benchmarking and Transparency Policies
A mandatory program assures the participation of most of the covered properties, it provides additional information for comparison, and increased participation in benchmarking should lead to greater energy savings.
City of Austin has both commercial and residential mandatory programs:
Commercial: Austin's Energy Conservation and Audit Disclosure Ordinance (ECAD) requires commercial buildings to obtain ENERGY STAR® ratings and disclose ratings to prospective buyers starting in 2012. This ordinance was adopted in November 2008 and was implemented in June 2009. Compliance deadlines began June 2012. Building owners who do not comply may be subject to fines. There are resources available for building owners to help with compliance.
Residential: Austin's Energy Conservation and Audit Disclosure Ordinance (ECAD) requires audits of single-family homes prior to a sale and audits of large multifamily buildings. This ordinance was adopted in November 2008 and was implemented in June 2009. There are resources available for building owners to help with compliance. Austin MLS, the multiple listing service serving the Austin region, includes fields for energy efficiency features of homes listed on the market.
City of Boston has both commercial and residential mandatory programs:
Commercial: In April 2013, the city council adopted the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance. The ordinance requires that all commercial buildings over 35,000 square feet benchmark their energy and water use using Portfolio Manager and report the data to the city annually. The city publicly discloses the annual building-level energy use information on a website. The policy includes mechanisms for enforcement and penalties for non-compliance. Boston has provided outreach and support to help property owners comply.
Residential: The Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance also requires that all residential buildings over 35 units benchmark their energy and water use using Portfolio Manager and report the data to the city annually. The city publicly discloses the building-level energy use information on a website annually. The policy includes mechanisms for enforcement and penalties in cases of non-compliance.
City of Minneapolis In February of 2013, the Minneapolis City Council adopted ordinance 47.190 requiring commercial buildings 50,000 square feet and over and city-owned buildings 25,000 square feet and over to annually benchmark their energy consumption and report this information to the City. This ordinance will allow building owners and the City to track energy and water usage year to year to determine opportunities for improvement, recognize high performers, and determine progress towards the City's Climate Action Plan goals. Benchmarking results are available to the public annually. If a building owner does not comply with the ordinance, the action may result in loss of business license.
City of Seattle has both commercial and residential programs:
Commercial: CB 116731 requires commercial buildings over 20,000 square feet to benchmark and disclose energy usage data upon request to prospective buyers, tenants, lenders, or existing tenants. Any building under 20,000 square feet may voluntarily benchmark and disclose. The policy was adopted in January 2010, and was implemented throughout 2011. Compliance requirements went into effect in April 2012. There is an online help room and a helpline for training and guidance. The policy is enforced by the director through a fine, or at the director’s discretion. The building owner must disclose upon request to prospective buyers, tenants, lenders or existing tenants.
Residential: CB 116731 requires multifamily buildings over 20,000 square feet to benchmark and disclose energy usage data upon request to prospective buyers, tenants, lenders, or existing tenants. Any building under 20,000 square feet may voluntarily benchmark and disclose. The policy was adopted in January 2010, and was implemented throughout 2011. Compliance requirements went into effect in April 2012. There is an online help room and a helpline for training and guidance. The policy is enforced by the director through a fine, or at the director’s discretion.