Ever wish you could sneak a peek at your neighbor’s utility bills?
Only by benchmarking can you gain a sense of how your building’s energy use stacks up against others in your area or across the country. Being able to compare your property against national averages offers an invaluable context that can spurn efficiency improvements.
“Benchmarking helps to illuminate the path to improvement by providing insight into your building’s current performance,” says Lauren Pitcher, director of communications for the ENERGY STAR program. “It provides organizations with the information they need to empower strategic business decisions, drive operational efficiency, prioritize projects, focus investments, and create value.”
Public performance disclosure could also be required in your city in the near future. Properties in Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C., and Austin, TX must divulge their energy and water use, an undertaking that requires the use of a benchmarking program.
There are a variety of performance tracking tools on the market. This installment of The Energy Toolbox highlights ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. This free EPA tool is used by more than 300,000 properties, representing over 40% of commercial building space in the U.S.
Portfolio Manager Overview
Did you know that the ENERGY STAR logo can appear on more than just computers and dishwashers? Your building can earn this designation as well.
“With crossover brand recognition in the residential market, an ENERGY STAR certified facility is an easy way to communicate your performance status to the public,” says Pitcher.
Portfolio Manager is an online tracking tool that measures energy, water, and greenhouse gas emissions for a single building or across a portfolio. National data compiled by the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), which is conducted every four years by the Energy Information Administration, serves as the foundation (the 2012 survey is currently underway). Using externally generated data ensures that all building comparisons are derived from statistical averages across the U.S., not merely from users of Portfolio Manager.
The tool also provides over 150 metrics to monitor building operations, utility costs, and emissions. You can:
- Establish a performance baseline for any facility
- Identify unsatisfactory performance
- Normalize for weather and operational parameters
- Track utility costs
- Document improvement by percentage
- Share your building data internally or externally
Unlike an energy audit or building inspection, this program is easy enough to use that some organizations assign a receptionist or a volunteer member of their green team to this task.