ASHRAE Standard 211-2018 Energy Audit: More Than a Performance Indicator

03/07/2019 | By Marie Curatolo, CEM

An energy audit is the cornerstone of any building’s energy management program. A thorough energy audit is the cornerstone of any building’s successful energy management program.

The difference is vast, as all facility owners and operators know. Today, the standards community agrees. With the publication of ANSI/ASHRAE/ACCA Standard 211-2018 in April, energy audits can now be counted on to ensure consistency, accuracy and quality.

About the picture

ASHRAE Standard 211 - Energy Audit

Energy auditors use photographs, like the ones pictured here of a domestic hot water pump system, to capture the data required for reporting under ASHRAE Standard 211.

Pictures of the pumps show their location and general condition, second from right, and nameplates with data about the make, model and other specs that help explain how much energy the equipment consumes and how much of the building’s energy use is used for domestic hot water, far right.

Control screens, second from left, show current operating conditions or settings. Gauges and other subcomponents show further detail about the equipment and operating conditions, far left.

 What Is ASHRAE Standard 211? 

ASHRAE Standard 211 protects a building owner/operator’s energy audit investment by providing an outline for auditors and offering best practices that ensure quality audits. It sets forth requirements for the experience and credentials of energy auditors, specifications for compliance and clear definitions of the audit processes and scope.

[On topic: Help For Your Building’s Energy Profile]

ASHRAE 211 will ensure consistency between energy audits performed at different times and/or by different service providers. This will allow performance tracking and continuous monitoring. With this standard, energy audits become tools that can help take a facility’s energy efficiency to the next level.

5 Key Components of ASHRAE 211

1. Definitions

While not yet creating a certification for energy auditors, ASHRAE 211 is laying the groundwork for potential future accreditation. ASHRAE 211 provides the requirements to be considered a “qualified energy auditor,” including how to gain experience, expertise and credentials.

For example, auditors must have completed at least five commercial building energy audits in the past three years or a cumulative total of at least 10. Auditors must also hold a professional engineer license and/or a certification from an approved credentialing program. This will help owners and operators sort through organizations that offer energy auditing to ensure they are receiving high-quality service.

Inconsistent energy auditing practices have exposed end users to low-quality audits that missed opportunities, overestimated savings potential, underestimated costs and made non-feasible recommendations. Together, these audits threatened the success of the long-term energy management programs they supported.

2. Enforceability

ASHRAE’s “Procedures for Commercial Building Energy Audits” document previously served as a guide for levels I, II and III audits. However, this document was not an actual standard that could be adopted by governing bodies and jurisdictions wishing to incorporate it into their building codes.

The 211 standard is written in code-enforceable language, allowing jurisdictions to easily include ASHRAE 211’s language in their mandatory energy codes. This will help spread the adoption of the standard as more and more energy codes use its language.

3. Compliance

Previously, auditors and building owner/operators would pick and choose which tests and features they wanted to include in an energy audit. With each audit measuring different building metrics, no two were alike. Energy audits ranged from simple site walk-throughs to detailed assessments by qualified industry professionals.

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The new ASHRAE 211 standardizes requirements, such as which building systems to include in the scope (for example, envelope, lighting, HVAC, steam, etc.). It also standardizes which calculations should be used to determine baseline energy use, including energy use intensity, energy cost intensity and benchmarking to similar buildings.

4. Quality Control

The 211 standard adds quality control to the energy audit, ensuring that costs, savings and financial calculations are accurate across all audits. This important step was not previously mandated, leaving the end user to trust in the numbers reported or perform their own checks as necessary.

It includes checks of the savings calculated per identified measure against the total energy consumption and breakdown by end use. It also requires that, where applicable, documentation of quality control must be provided to jurisdictions that adopt the standard into their energy code.

5. Minimized Risks

ASHRAE 211 requires increased rigor and technical review for higher-level audits aimed at meeting specific investment criteria. These requirements protect owners/operators from high-cost audits, as well as any large capital investments identified in the audit if they are unnecessary in scope.

[Related: Why You Need to Do a Facility Condition Assessment]

For example, for ASHRAE Level III audits (which require the highest level of effort), risk assessment measures will be included. This includes identifying high and low levels for technical, operational and fiscal parameters and repeating analysis within the range of those levels to accommodate different scenarios.

Case in Point

The Energy+Eco team at Environmental System Design, Inc. (ESD) followed ASHRAE 211 on a 379,000-square-foot office building in downtown San Francisco.

Although the building was already highly efficient, the audit uncovered over $30,000 of annual energy savings through no-cost/low-cost measures with a payback of two years or less. The opportunities discovered included calibrating an outside air humidity sensor and installing monitoring-based commissioning software.

The audit also revealed capital and equipment upgrades that the building can use in its long-term capital planning, including renewable energy resources, building envelope upgrades and plug load management efforts.

More Than Just a Standard

Inconsistent energy auditing practices have exposed end users to low-quality audits that missed opportunities, overestimated savings potential, underestimated costs and made non-feasible recommendations. Together, these audits threatened the success of the long-term energy management programs they supported.

With ASHRAE Standard 211, service providers have the tools to turn a thorough energy audit into a successful, long-term energy management program tailored to clients’ buildings.

About the author:

Marie Curatolo, CEM, is a project manager in ESD’s Energy+Eco group. Curatolo has over five years of energy management experience and currently leads energy auditing and optimization projects converging technical, financial, and operational expertise to deliver energy savings.

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