ST. LOUIS — The City of St. Louis released its first annual energy benchmarking report for municipally owned and operated buildings as well as private buildings above 50,000 square feet. Improving building performance across the city could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 11% and save at least $61.5 million in annual energy costs. The process of benchmarking aims to help building owners and operators identify underperforming properties, and the new benchmarking report provides a high-level snapshot of performance across a variety of building types throughout the city. To help owners then take action, the city is also releasing a new energy efficiency checklist. Developed in conjunction with the U.S. Green Building Council-Missouri Gateway Chapter, the checklist provides a set of recommended steps for saving energy in buildings and investing in building maintenance staff.
“We are excited to work with the building division to continue supporting building owners in the city of St. Louis,” said Emily Andrews, executive director of the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter. “We hope the energy efficient checklist, combined with education and training opportunities, utility incentives and PACE financing will drive investments in the efficiency of our buildings and reduce their environmental impacts.”
Key Takeaways of Benchmarking Building Energy Use
According to the city’s 2015 greenhouse gas inventory, energy used in commercial, industrial, and residential buildings in St. Louis is responsible for 77% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing energy consumption in buildings has positive social, environmental, and economic benefits, such as improved air quality and public health, reduced utility costs, and improved neighborhood vitality and quality of life.
Benchmarking is the process of tracking building energy use over time and is a critical first step in understanding how buildings are using energy in order to make informed decisions on improvements. Benchmarking allows building owners to monitor a building’s performance over time and compare it against the performance of peer buildings to identify low performers that might most benefit from improvements.
Under the Building Energy Awareness Ordinance passed by the City of St. Louis in January 2017, building owners with municipal, institutional, commercial, and multifamily residential properties over 50,000 square feet are required to track and report their energy and water performance annually. The new report synthesizes energy use data gathered from 484 buildings for the 2017 reporting calendar year, the first year of ordinance compliance.
Initial findings in the new report include:
● A 1–100 Energy Star score represented the property’s overall energy performance relative to similar buildings. A score of 50 indicates energy performance at the national median, while scores below 50 indicate considerable opportunities for improvement. The median Energy Star score across all building types for which such a score is available ranged from 10 (hospitals) to 93 (wholesale clubs).
● Multifamily buildings were the largest reporting group, by far, in terms of number of properties, representing nearly a quarter of all analyzed properties. The next largest group was offices, follow by warehouses, hotels, distribution centers, and colleges/universities.
● The top four energy consuming building types were offices, hotels, multifamily housing, and hospitals.
● In general, municipally owned buildings are performing better than privately owned buildings. Municipally owned buildings reported a median Energy Star score of 87 compared to a median Energy Star score of 64 for privately owned buildings.
Back in 2017, three municipally-owned buildings — City Hall, 1520 Market Building, and Carnahan Courthouse — earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star certification for superior energy performance. These are the first municipally owned buildings to earn the prestigious national designation. The Energy Star scores the municipal buildings earned for the 2017 year are 88 for City Hall, 96 for 1520 Market, and 87 for Carnahan Courthouse.
“We’re honored to earn the Energy Star certification for superior energy performance for three of our municipal buildings and appreciate the efforts of everyone who has been involved in their efficient operation,” said Frank Oswald, building commissioner. “Reducing energy use is good for the environment, saves the city on utility costs, and helps create a healthier community.”
Benchmarking allows building owners to make smart business decisions about which buildings might most benefit from improvements. For example, based on its experience benchmarking, the city of St. Louis is currently undergoing several major retro-commissioning projects across the city’s four highest energy-consuming buildings. The buildings undergoing these projects are City Justice Center, SLMPD Headquarters (new), Juvenile Courts Center, and Carnahan Courthouse. When complete, the upgrades to these buildings, which include improvements to lighting systems and chillers, among other investments, are projected to save more than $509,000 annually. These savings are projected to recoup the cost of investment in just 2.7 years. Rick Ernst, with the facilities division, is spearheading these energy efficiency projects.
To help building owners across the city take action on their benchmarking information, the city of St. Louis and the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter’s new energy efficiency checklist provides a curated list of next steps.
In addition, the city is also working to improve coordination with local utilities to provide building owners with automated, aggregate utility data into Energy Star Portfolio Manager and thus simplify the benchmarking compliance process. The city is also working to train and certify more municipal and private-sector building operation and maintenance staff through a certification program called GPRO: O+M and is working to increase building owner participation in available utility incentives and local energy efficiency resources.
For more information, visit www.stlbenchmarking.com.