Energy Benchmark Puts High Performance Buildings Within Easy Reach

Oct. 28, 2003

WHITE SALMON, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 27, 2003--As the green buildings market continues to grow at a greater rate than any other segment of the commercial building market, Energy Benchmark for High Performance Buildings (E-Benchmark™), Version 1.0, makes it easier to use off-the-shelf technologies to ensure energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality in high performance buildings.

Published by the New Buildings Institute Inc, E-Benchmark™ provides more than 30 criteria, from equipment efficiencies to outdoor lighting design, tailored to the specific needs of 15 different weather regions.

"Our goal is that buildings work for people," said Institute Executive Director Jeff Johnson. "If they work for people, they will work for the environment."

A national committee consisting of manufacturers, contractors, building owners, designers, property managers, government representatives, efficiency experts, and the public was involved in E-Benchmark's™ rigorous, year-long development and review process. "If you follow the criteria, you will be building a better building," said Merle McBride, who reviewed the criteria on behalf of the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association.

Institute Project Manager Jim Edelson adds, "This thorough, objective process has resulted in criteria that are technically feasible with off-the-shelf technology."

The E-Benchmark™ effort has been widely supported by utilities and public benefit organizations across the nation. "The E-Benchmark criteria themselves provide an excellent resource for program administrators," states Michael McAteer, manager of commercial and industrial efficiency services for National Grid, a utility that serves four northeastern states. McAteer plans to use E-Benchmark™ to assist architects and developers of mid-sized buildings, which make up the largest inventory of new construction and use the largest portion of energy resources. Such buildings also tend to have the smallest design budgets, so it may be a challenge for their developers to incorporate high performance features. But McAteer says E-Benchmark™ offers a "very cost effective" way to do so.

Even better news for developers, owners and tenants: Analysis shows that investments in high performance buildings pay for themselves, usually within a couple of years, and sometimes sooner, according to Alan Whitson, a facilities manager and national lecturer. "Often it's not a question of spending more money," says Whitson. "It's spending money in the right place."

On a 355,000-square-foot building in a northern community like Minneapolis, for example, installing high performance windows, though more costly, can reduce the need for heating and air conditioning by 150 tons. "That's 150 tons of cooling you don't have to buy, nor do you have to run the system at less than optimal conditions," Whitson said.

Many new buildings don't perform up to expectations, even though they meet relevant energy codes. "Energy costs can vary as much as 35 to 40 percent for supposedly similar buildings within blocks of each other," Whitson noted. "A large percentage of these inefficiencies are designed into the buildings, based solely upon up-front costs rather than life cycle costs. In other cases, operational inefficiencies raise costs."

"The value of the E-Benchmark™ criteria comes from so many experts hashing out every little detail," Whitson said. "On a real-life project, you couldn't afford to pay for all that expertise. If you were to calculate the cost of the time it took to develop these standards, you would be looking at a bill for $20,000."

Using representative buildings including an office, a school, a supermarket, and a "big-box" retail store, E-Benchmark™ criteria will yield energy savings of 10 to 25 percent beyond the levels specified by ASHRAE minimum energy standards. And with additional first costs of only $0.80 to $1.50 per square foot, building operation can pay back the cost of high performance features within a year and a half to four years.

Nationally, annual construction of new commercial space is expected to exceed one billion square feet by 2010; increased building performance will bring financial, energy and environmental returns to developers, owners, users, and the nation.

"The upshot is that a high performance building should be the first choice for commercial developers," states Edelson. "Planners, architects, engineers, contractors, developers, and owners will want to have this volume at their fingertips when they are trying to build a better building."

E-Benchmark™ can be viewed or hard copies (available November 1, 2003) ordered at Hard copies will also be available at Powell's Technical Books in Portland, OR. For more information about E-Benchmark™ and the Advanced Buildings project, go to

In addition to E-Benchmark™, next year the Advanced Buildings project will publish the Design Manual - a how-to resource for architects, engineers and contractors who apply efficient technologies and practices - and an Owners Guide to High Performance Buildings - a description of the process and benefits of designing, constructing and verifying a building that meets E-Benchmark's™ voluntary specifications.

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