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Plan for Creating a Voluntary Benchmarking Program

General Info

Voluntary programs are designed to encourage buildings 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 buildings in the community to benchmark their facilities. 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, which 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 El Paso: In 2012, the City launched the El Paso Green Business Challenge, encouraging local businesses to conserve energy, reduce waste, save water, and consider alternative means of transportation. Commercial building property managers, property owners and office tenants participating in the challenge will have access to trainings and resources for reducing energy consumption, waste generation and water use. Participants demonstrating achievements in energy efficiency over the course of a year are highlighted in the Challenge’s public outreach campaign and recognized by the Mayor and City Council at a Gala in April.

References and Additional Resources

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholders are in important to success of any benchmarking project. There are two types of stakeholders for a voluntary benchmarking program. There are the team members that work for the community’s government, called internal stakeholders, and then there are the community partners and allies. Creating a voluntary benchmarking program begins with identifying the internal stakeholders.

We have developed a list of typical internal stakeholders for voluntary benchmarking programs to help you identifying your internal stakeholders. Would you like to identify your internal stakeholders now?

Identify Your Internal Stakeholders

These stakeholders help develop, champion, and implement the project. For each stakeholder that is important to your community, please check the box and enter the stakeholders contact information. Additional stakeholders can be added by clicking on the green plus button.

Community Government Stakeholders

Working with External Partners and Allies

Because this is a voluntary program, it is important to clearly communicate with potential participants, along with other people in the community that will be partners and allies to help support the project and drive participation. People that will be involved in implementing the project need to reach out to owners and property managers along with trade organizations, non-profits, utilities, and others.

We have developed a list of typical community partners and allies for voluntary benchmarking programs to help you identify these stakeholders for your community. Would you like to identify your community partners and allies now?

Identify Your Community Partners and Allies

For each stakeholder that is important to your community, please check the box and enter the stakeholders contact information. Additional stakeholders can be added by clicking on the green plus button.

Building Owners/ Operators / Property Mangers

Industry Associations for Buildings – owners/ operators / realtors

Energy Vendors / Engineers / Architects

Industry Associations for Vendors/Engineers/ Architects

Public/Non Profit

Stakeholders Not Listed Above

Scope Your Program

Which Buildings?

Which Data?

Establishing Goals

Establishing the purpose for benchmarking will influence the way data is collected and analyzed. Why is your community interested in benchmarking?

Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics for Success

Here you will be guided through the process of developing objective, strategies and tactics for your benchmarking policy. Please check out the following examples. At the end of the examples, is a template you can fill out to list your objectives, strategies and tactics. You can click on the green plus sign to add as many as you like.


The next step is to identify specific objectives for the goal. Objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, and include a timeline. Examples:

  • Have 1,000 hits on our program home page by the end of year one
  • Have 15% of the commercial buildings participating in the program by the end of year two
  • Educate 100 people about the benefits of benchmarking by 2017


Next your team will need to identify the strategies that you will use to achieve your objectives. You’ll probably need multiple strategies to achieve each objective. These should be high-level strategic ideas. Try to include a target audience for each strategy. Examples:

  • Get key industry players to promote the program
  • Create compelling case study stories that bloggers will want to feature
  • Use every available online vehicle to drive traffic to website


What tactics are you going to use to implement your strategies? For example, if the strategy was "Use peer pressure to motivate companies to reduce energy use" the tactics might include:

  • Create a "pledge form" and invite companies to benchmark and disclose Energy Use Intensity (EUI)
  • Provide official certificate of recognition by the mayor for companies that reduce energy use by 20% or more

Measuring Success

Consider how you will measure success for each of your objectives. That way you can adjust your strategies and tactics if the objectives are not being met. It also allows you to easily report on the results.

Write Your Own Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics for Success

Now that you have an idea of some objectives, strategies and tactics, you can make your own. Enter one objective, and then multiple strategies and tactics, and success measures. You can then click on the green plus sign, and repeat the process with a second objective. Add as many as you like. This information will be printed in the final plan.

Add another objective:


There are a wide variety of tools that can be used to help you reach your project goals. What sort of tools are you going to use?

Examples and Additional Resources

Why Benchmark?

Example Websites

PACE Financing Information

Example Press Release

Example Advertisement

Example One Page Program Summary

Example case studies

Example Blogs

Example Brochures

Example Newsletter

Example Guidebook

Example Radio

Example Video

How to Create a Help Center

How to Create an Energy Efficiency Competition




Example YouTube


The next step is to work with the internal stakeholders to define the budget and resources needed to support the program you have developed. Do you know your approximate budget?

Marketing Material Development and Production
Outside Consultants

Celebrate Success and Communicate Results

It is important that the project team communicate the results of the benchmarking project. Consider the following tips when communicating the benchmarking results and creating an energy strategy.

  • Demonstrate the value—build a case for an energy strategy program by showing the benefits of acting on the information.
  • Be clear about the program intent. Focus on finding opportunities to improve performance cost effectively.
  • Empower stakeholders to integrate benchmarking and strategic energy management into existing operations and provide training.
  • Set timelines for deliverables—establish the program critical path and set an achievable progression of milestones and project checkpoints.
  • Schedule check-ins and share results regularly—build momentum, assess status, and add accountability.

TIP: Use many different methods identified in the Tools to communicate these results.

Evaluate Results

After the initial program kick off, the team should regularly evaluate

  • Is the project meeting the objectives?
  • Are the original objectives still appropriate, so should they be refined?
  • Is information accessible and usable to appropriate parties?

The benchmarking team should compile the information from re-appraisal process, identify opportunities for improvement, and update the plan.

DOE has prepared an excellent guide, “Benchmarking & Transparency Policy and Program Impact Evaluation Handbook”, that can be used to help assess if your project is meeting its objectives.

Thank you for using the How to Create a Voluntary Benchmarking and Disclosure Program