Measuring Energy is the First Step to Improving It
With the growing popularity of and need for sustainability, many property owners are looking to increase their energy efficiency. In order to improve efficiency a property owner or manager needs to understand how efficiently the building is currently operating. In order to understand current energy use and efficiency as well as to improve upon the existing level a process called energy benchmarking is used.
What is energy benchmarking?
Energy benchmarking is a process in place in order to control a standard of energy efficiency and usage for commercial properties. This allows for an understanding of how efficiently a property uses energy and subsequently how much they need to improve and in what areas. Energy benchmarking for commercial properties involves comparison of energy use and efficiency to expectations based on size, location, and other aspects of a building to other properties as well as to an expected standard for a building of that type.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program provides benchmarking standards for commercial buildings in the U.S. based on how they compare to similar buildings with similar functionality. Every benchmarked property is given a score from 1-100 based on the percentage of peer buildings which they are more efficient then, those properties which earn a score over 75 are eligible to apply for Energy Star Certification due to their outstanding energy efficiency.
What is the process of benchmarking?
If a property strives for energy efficiency, as it should, benchmarking is an important step in achieving that. The energy benchmarking process is assisted with tools that can be obtained through Energy Star. Benchmarking involves collection of data about the property and its functionality as well an analysis of current energy use.
Benchmarking is an important process to take part in, not only once but on a regular basis, energy trends change and properties change therefore it is important to know where a property stands at any given point in time. With the knowledge of a property’s energy efficiency it can be determined whether efforts be efficient are successful or if the property is falling behind in energy efficiency and what can be to potentially change that.
Benchmarking allows for qualification for Energy Star certification and higher asset value is statistically associated with Energy Star certified buildings; in fact in some instances Energy Star certified buildings have been able to charge rent price premiums of 5% or more and sales price premiums of 10% or more over non Energy Star certified buildings.
Several cities and states, including New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Orlando, and the state of California, actually require commercial buildings above a certain size to benchmark yearly. This ensures that buildings are contributing to a more energy efficient city. Benchmarking is likely going to become required by more states and cities in the future so beginning to benchmark now could prepare property owners for when it is required by legislation.
What does benchmarking mean about a property?
Benchmarking helps determine whether a property consumes energy efficiently. Determinants of whether a property is energy efficient include not only where the energy comes from and how much energy is used, but also what the function of the property is, what the physical facility is like, and the energy using fixtures in the property themselves. If, through benchmarking, it is found that a property is less energy efficient than peer properties this could be due to practices taking place by employees and/or customers without a consciousness of the need to conserve energy. Lack of efficiency could also mean lighting, HVAC, systems, and appliances are using more energy than necessary.
What are the next steps in efficiency after benchmarking?
Benchmarking is not a one time activity, it needs to be done on a regular basis in order to maintain efficiency. If efficiency needs to be improved, updating lighting, HVAC, and other physical aspects of a property is an important step. It is also vital to educate and instill in the foundation of a company the need for efficiency in order to prioritize it and continually keep a company up to date in efficiency. For properties that are already succeeding in efficiency, it is important that this is maintained, as developments in sustainability are made they should be adopted in order to constantly prioritize efficiency and modernize the property.
Sustainability and energy efficiency are important because of the overall effect on the environment, but also because customers want to be patrons of sustainable companies and people want to live in a sustainable company. Energy performance benchmarking is the first step in being energy efficient and allows for an understanding of improvement that needs to be made. An Energy Star benchmarking score of 75 or higher makes a property eligible for Energy Star certification which is a way of publicly showcasing a property’s energy efficiency and work towards becoming sustainable.
 The Value of ENERGY STAR Certification.” ENERGY STAR Buildings and Plants | ENERGY STAR, www.energystar.gov/buildings/facility-owners-and-managers/existing-buildings/learn-benefits/value-energy-star-certification.
 “Interactive Maps for Energy Benchmarking Data, Programs, and Policies.” ENERGY STAR Buildings and Plants | ENERGY STAR, www.energystar.gov/buildings/program-administrators/state-and-local-governments/see-federal-state-and-local-benchmarking-policies.
“Building Energy Use Benchmarking.” Energy.gov, www.energy.gov/eere/slsc/building-energy-use-benchmarking.
“Use ENERGY STAR Benchmarking Tools.” ENERGY STAR Buildings and Plants | ENERGY STAR, www.energystar.gov/buildings/about-us/how-can-we-help-you/benchmark-energy-use/use-energy-star-benchmarking-tools.