Measuring and Managing a Building’s Energy Performance

February 3, 2011

Last week, in Part 1 of our series on building energy management performance, we reported on whether or not San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors would proceed to launch a new ordinance requiring owners of existing buildings to annually benchmark energy use in those buildings.

In Part 2, we explore exactly what energy benchmarking is and how it is being used throughout the country.

For those unsure of what energy benchmarking is, it involves measuring the energy use of a building, and then comparing it to other similar buildings to obtain an energy rating. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers a free online benchmarking tool called Energy Star Portfolio Manager (ESPM) that many owners currently use. ESPM scores range from 1 to 100, with a score of 50 being the average. A score of 75 or higher is needed to apply for an Energy Star label. See EPA photo of US Airways headquarters.

Benchmarking and auditing represent important first steps that let building owners where they stand and what steps they can take to save energy and money, thus making their buildings more competitive, says Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) – a policy think tank on building energy rating and disclosure.

“Energy is one of the biggest expenses of building ownership and will be an even greater financial burden for owners in the future as energy prices escalate. Owners can’t take control of energy costs if they don’t know where to begin. Benchmarking – or measuring and rating – a building’s energy performance is that critical first step owners can take to start controlling energy costs and saving money.”

A number of different studies linked through IMT  show that buildings with good energy ratings will command higher rents, sell for higher prices and have lower vacancy rates than other buildings.

On its website, IMT states that most U.S. building owners, including governments, have not measured the energy efficiency of their buildings. The result of such inaction has historically limited an owner’s ability to “manage and reduce energy consumption.”

Such energy consumption management also has a direct impact on the overall profitability of a building. According to a March 2008 national study by the CoStar Group, rental rates in Energy Star-labeled buildings command a $2.40 per square foot premium over similar non-labeled buildings and have 3.6 percent higher occupancy rates.

Another study by the University of California at Berkeley reported that buildings with the Energy Star label sold for 16 percent more than identical buildings without such labels.

The endeavor to benchmark and manage  appears to be well worth the effort.

Next, in Part 3, we will provide energy details from the InterContinental Hotel in San Francisco.

Photos from EPA’s Energy Star buildings: The photos of US Airways headquarters & Phoenix Tower  are courtesy of Hines


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Glenn Meyers

Writer, documentary producer, and director. Meyers is a contributor to CleanTechnica, and founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.
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