Benchmarking and building energy performance standards: A primer

By David Borchardt, P.E. — Senior Mechanical Engineer, MD Energy Advisors
And Jared Lyles — Energy Engineer, MD Energy Advisors

We’ve heard the saying “You can’t improve what you don’t measure”, but how does that apply to buildings and facilities?  Energy use is top-of-mind for facility managers and building owners, and one thing they are contemplating is how they compare to others in the market and is there MD Energy Advisors logo 2023 room for improvement.  This information is being made public in many jurisdictions and building owners and operators are being asked to develop long-term plans for improvement.

The good news is that there are tools available today to help you prepare for existing, recently enacted or pending legislation.  Whether you are required to report or not, there are always reasons to save money at your facilities and improve NOI.

Benchmarking is measuring a building or facility’s performance over a period called a baseline and comparing it to itself over a later period or to similar buildings. This can be done by using a free and widely used tool called Energy Star Portfolio Manager.  With this tool you, or a consultant, can compare your building to others of a similar type in your area.  The measurement is ranked from 0-100 and allows you to establish a reference performance level and develop an action plan for improvement.

In some jurisdictions a next step has been established called a Building Energy Performance Standard (BEPs) — these are outcome-based policies and laws aimed at reducing the carbon impact of the built environment.  In short, it means that facilities that do not meet a minimum energy performance threshold will need to develop and implement a plan to improve energy use over a period of time.  For example, Washington DC, allows building owners five years to improve performance.

Why would I benchmark my building if I don’t need to? The primary reasons are to save money, help with capital planning, support budgets, and compare the performance of your properties. In addition, benchmarking can help with leasing since some tenants need to report their own carbon footprint.  If your company does ESG (Environmental Social Governance) reporting this is usually one of the most reported pieces of information.

What information do I need to get started? You will need information on your facility including operating hours and functions known as use types, along with occupancy data and the square footage.  If you control all the energy meters you will have easy access to utility data for electric, gas, fuel oil, and steam.  You can also report on water and waste.  However, it is very common that your tenants control their own energy usage. In some cases, the utility aggregate data for multiple tenants. But if you have five (5) or fewer, you will need to get their consent.  In that case, it is wise to build the consent into future leases.

Now that I have done this work what are my next steps?  You or your consultant need to check your data for errors, changes, and inaccuracies.  Then, develop a plan to regularly update your utility data (some utilities do automatically).  Finally, in jurisdictions where reporting and or BEPs is required you must share your facility data with the local benchmarking authority.

At MD Energy Advisors, a leading commercial, utility, and financing energy solutions company, we pride ourselves in providing personalized energy solutions for our clients and partnering with them to ensure efficiency along the way.

Feel free to visit our site, MDEnergyAdvisors, to learn how we can support your initiatives. We’ve also recognized a few helpful websites below: