Climate change is an issue that is shaping how buildings are retrofitted and operated. Reducing its impact is the impetus behind many state and local environmental policies, and among those is the push to mandate energy use in buildings. These “benchmarking” ordinances require building owners to track their energy consumption. Cities such as St. Paul, Chicago, Denver, and Austin have all passed benchmarking requirements to reduce commercial energy usage.
Benchmarking Ordinance Results
Benchmarking gives building owners an idea of where they are in their usage and empowers them to make changes based on the data. Energy usage in commercial buildings has been reduced in the following cities since the mandates:
- Minneapolis reported a drop in energy usage of 5.5% between 2015 and 2018
- Denver reported a decline in usage for both 2016 and 2017 of 4.5% in buildings
- San Francisco’s energy ordinance requires a 2.5% energy reduction each year with an anticipated 50% reduction by 2030
Other cities have reported similar annual data with projects of potential energy reductions and lower carbon emissions.
Energy Star Portfolio Manager
The tool used to track and report benchmark compliance and collect building data is the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager. This online tool can track energy consumption, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions. The platform boasts that 40% of U.S. commercial buildings utilize it to track building performance. When used to manage energy consumption, organizations can save, on average, 10% in energy costs. The portfolio manager also designs metrics to fit the building as well, from K12 schools, supermarkets, warehouses, and office buildings. Metrics are regularly updated to provide better analytics on building usage as it relates to energy consumption.
Benchmarking Methods for Commercial Buildings
Facility owners and managers realize the importance of reducing energy usage to minimize environmental impact. But on a granular level, the benefits of energy reduction are even more evident as they relate to building energy costs. Less power usage means a lower power bill. Proper benchmarking is critical, though, to provide adequate metrics to formulate new energy-saving strategies. The steps to appropriate benchmarking of energy usage are:
- Tracking energy use - Utility bills can provide monthly usage and general peak range information. Putting measurement tools in place to measure real-time energy usage at building systems can provide data that a building operator needs to adjust and improve equipment and lighting.
- Periods of peak and light demand - Keeping track of peak periods of energy demand gives a snapshot of when energy usage is highest and what can be adjusted to reduce it during these periods.
- Energy use compared to building use - How a building is used and occupied is also imperative to lowering energy costs. Periods of low occupancy can give the building operator latitude when implementing energy-saving strategies such as occupancy controls on lighting, and setup and setback of temperatures to reduce HVAC system cycle time.
- Spikes in energy use - Spikes in energy usage can also show an unexpected period of high usage that needs to be investigated. High spikes can indicate system issues, such as chiller cycling or valve actuators that are not operating correctly. Building intelligence such as these clues managers into where operational fixes are required, which, when fixed, lowers energy consumption and increases equipment life cycles.
Benefits of Benchmarking
As benchmarking becomes a standard for U.S. cities, more and more facility owners and managers are beginning to see the benefits of tracking it. With the tools in place to track building efficiency, there is no room to evaluate them. Building owners can then identify savings opportunities, prioritize efficiency improvement investments, and then verify the savings from those improvements through continued measurements.
How we can help!
PhoenixET offers real-time control modules that help facility managers reduce energy consumption and support their sustainability goals. Our EDX Demand Manager™ software allows demand management across multiple systems, reducing high demand charges, supporting Demand Response programs, and shaving peak loads. To learn more about EDX, check out below.