When considering energy efficiency upgrades, facility managers are often faced with the question of how specific properties compare with others. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star Program now offers a useful program for such benchmarking needs. Designated the Energy Star Benchmarking Tool, this program assesses a facility’s comparative performance against a standardized goal for energy performance.

This Internet-based performance measurement tool catalogs all energy uses in a building, calculates energy intensity, and benchmarks the building’s energy performance against all similar-use buildings in the United States. Each building is assigned a benchmark score from 0 to 100, and this ranking can be used to compare one building against another, a portfolio of buildings, or all other similar-use buildings in the United States.

All buildings that score 75 or better may qualify for the Energy Star Label for Buildings. Upon qualification, a licensed building professional must verify the energy and indoor environmental performance. After receipt of the verified Statement of Energy Performance and an application letter, the EPA will register the building and award a plaque in recognition.

Using The Benchmarking Tool

By basing this comparison on controllable factors (equipment type, operation, and occupant behavior), rather than those factors that out of a facility manager’s control (weather, building use, etc.), this benchmark offers powerful insight into the relative efficiency of the building in question. Benchmarking a building requires 12 consecutive months of energy consumption data for each energy source, plus basic information about the building layout, occupancy, and operation. The following is some information that is required:

  • Location;
  • Area (sq ft) of office space, computer room space, and parking space;
  • Number of occupants;
  • Weekly hrs open for operation;
  • Number of personal computers;
  • Electricity, natural gas, steam, oil, chilled water, and propane; and
  • Monthly billing (start/end) dates.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to use the benchmarking tool, the property must be an office building that meets the following characteristics:

  • The gross building area must be greater than or equal to 5,000 sq ft.
  • The building has been occupied for 11 or more of the last 12 months.
  • The building has 50% or more of its gross square footage designated for primary (office) space.
  • The building has 10% or less of its gross square footage as secondary space designated as computer data center space.
  • The building contains only the following secondary space types: computer data center; parking garage; and open parking lot. Buildings that have other space types where the energy use in those spaces is not submetered are not eligible.
  • The primary space of the building is occupied 30 or more hours per week.
  • The average annual vacancy rate of the primary space is less than 20%.
  • Occupant density is between 0.3 and 10.0 per 1,000 sq ft, inclusive.
  • All entered energy consumption data has been within 410 days from the start date of the oldest meter entry data to the end date of the most recent meter entry data.
  • The building has a minimum of four entries of energy consumption data in each meter. Upon completion of the process, a Statement of Energy Performance is generated that captures the results. The statement presents the building’s annual energy use by energy source, its benchmarking score and the ENERGY STAR Target (a rating of 75), and its status against four indoor environment criteria.

    Efficiency Plus Recognition

    Improving energy performance can reduce business expenses significantly; establishing a baseline for a building’s energy performance is a critical first step. For facility managers, it not only helps determine how efficient the building is and sets targets for increased efficiency, but it also provides valuable energy performance documentation that could positively influence business transactions.

    In addition, the facility’s occupants and customers will all recognize this highly visible accomplishment as a reflection of the organization’s commitment to the health of its business, the building’s occupants, and the environment.

    Currently, the Energy Star label is only available for office buildings. However, EPA reports that the label will be made available for schools, retail stores, and other building types over the coming months. (For more information, call The Energy Planning Network at 978-264-0654 or log on to www.epa.gov/buildings/label/html.)