Energy Management and Lighting, Maintenance and Operations

Get Started Today on Benchmarking Your Building’s Performance

Are you benchmarking your building’s performance yet? For facilities managers, collecting building performance data and benchmarking it makes good business sense because this process can reveal inefficiencies and wasted resources at your facility. By benchmarking energy and water consumption and waste generation data, you will be able to not only understand your building’s performance and determine areas of improvement but also compare the performance with that of similar buildings across the country.

benchmark rating concept

tomertu / Shutterstock.com

Identifying Inefficiencies … And Taking Action

Measurement is a critical first step in resource management, and effective resource management is more cost-effective for a business simply because less is wasted. According to ENERGY STAR®, a program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy, “the average building wastes about a third of the energy it uses.” This is money out the door of your business—but you can do something about it.

You can identify inefficiencies by benchmarking your building’s performance data. Then, when you implement strategies to improve building energy performance, it’s easy for you to track the effectiveness of these strategies over time.

Not only is benchmarking good for business, but a few states and many local governments already require benchmarking, reporting, and public disclosure of building performance data. For a list of locations with benchmarking programs and policies, click here.

But how do you get started? It’s easy—there are specific software tools you can use to begin benchmarking your building performance data today.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager

Portfolio Manager is a free online tool to track the energy and water consumption and waste generation from a single building or your portfolio of multiple buildings. It is a data management tool that has more than 150 metrics to help you understand and analyze your building’s performance.

The EPA launched Portfolio Manager in 1999 to track the energy usage of buildings. Since then, the tool’s scope has grown—water consumption tracking was added in 2006, and waste tracking was added in 2016.

During 2018, almost 270,000 buildings (totaling 26 billion square feet of floor space) used Portfolio Manager, and to date, data from over 500,000 buildings have been entered into the tool.

Getting Started Is Easy and Free

To start, you must register for an account and enter some basic information about your building. This will vary depending on building type (e.g., office building, mixed-use property, K–12 school, stadium, or hospital), but it will generally include gross floor area, irrigated area, occupancy percentage, operating hours, and number of workers for each type of use.

Next, you will need to have some data on energy and water usage, as well as how much waste is generated at your facility. Uploading your energy, water, and waste data can be done manually, via spreadsheet upload, or using a third-party provider, such as your electric utility, to transmit data directly to Portfolio Manager using Web services.

Energy. You will need information on all types of energy consumed at the facility—this may include your energy bill, information about bulk fuel purchases (i.e., fuel oil, propane), a record of green power purchases, and information about any energy generated on-site from wind or solar sources. If possible, entering the past 12 months of data is highly recommended.

Water. Portfolio Manager tracks water consumption based on four source types: municipal potable water, reclaimed water, well water, and other (such as rainfall collection). Both indoor and outdoor water use can be tracked. You will need water bills or estimates of the amount of water consumed from the nonmunicipal sources.

Waste. You can also track over 29 different categories of waste that are ultimately managed through landfilling, incineration (including waste to energy), or other means. You may estimate the weight or volume of waste or provide the container size of the waste bin. You must also indicate if this waste generation is regular or intermittent; the frequency of pickup, if it is hauled away; and the average percent a container is full at the time of pickup. Waste diversion through composting, recycling, and donation/reuse can also be tracked. To learn more about waste diversion and achieving zero waste at your facility, check out this previous FMDA article.

Understanding Your Data

Portfolio Manager can generate charts, graphs, templates, and reports to make it easy for you to analyze your resource consumption.

Portfolio Manager also calculates metrics that allow you to conduct a deeper dive into your building’s performance. Some of the metrics available include water use intensity (kGal/sf), greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (MtCO2e), and annual energy cost (click here for an exhaustive list of metrics available in Portfolio Manager). You can also set performance targets in Portfolio Manager for any of these metrics, track changes over time, and see if defined goals have been met.

Earn Recognition

Based on your building’s energy performance relative to similar buildings, you will receive an ENERGY STAR score from 1–100. (Note that this is available for many building types but not all. Also, although Portfolio Manager also tracks water and waste, only a certification for energy performance is available.) If your building scores 75 or higher, that means it is more efficient than at least 75% of its peers; if you achieve this, you may apply for ENERGY STAR certification for your building. The certification process is straightforward but does require a site visit from a licensed professional (either a professional engineer or a registered architect). By the end of 2018, a total of about 35,000 buildings (not including homes) had been awarded ENERGY STAR certification. This distinction demonstrates a commitment to sustainability and can set your business apart from competitors in the marketplace.

In addition, earning the ENERGY STAR certification can make it easier for your existing building to attain prerequisites and earn credits in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Operations and Maintenance (O+M) rating system.

Arc

The Arc performance platform is software that is affiliated with Green Business Certification, Inc., and the U.S. Green Building Council, the facilitators of the LEED program. This program is yet another tool to upload and track building performance data. However, in addition to the three types of data entered into Portfolio Manager—energy, water, and waste—Arc considers a more holistic view by including two additional categories: transportation and human experience.

The transportation score in Arc is based on the GHG emissions created by building occupants commuting to and from the building, and the data are collected through a survey of building occupants. The human experience is based on (1) an occupant satisfaction survey, (2) interior carbon dioxide levels, and (3) interior volatile organic compound levels. The latter two must be determined using LEED-approved laboratory testing or measured by a handheld tool such as a photoionization device.

After entering your data into Arc, every building receives a score from 0–100. While the ENERGY STAR score includes only energy performance, the Arc score includes input from all five categories—a large amount of diverse information on a building’s sustainability is represented by a single number. This score is a representation of building performance that considers both sustainability and the experience of building occupants.

Cost

If your building is already LEED-certified, Arc is free for you to use. Additionally, you may be eligible to achieve LEED recertification using performance data in Arc. For all other buildings, there is a charge for the software (see here for a list of prices), but as a facilities manager, you may find it to be a powerful tool to use in understanding your building’s holistic performance.