Energy and water benchmarking for buildings
What is building benchmarking?
Benchmarking as a management practice dates back to the late nineteenth / early twentieth century when Frederick Taylor began to measure productivity by marking daily output on the work benches used in manufacturing processes.
Management of labor efficiency outputs has been standard practice ever since, but only recently has managing energy efficiency become a more standard practice. Organizations that focus on energy efficiency see improvements to their financial bottom line.
Building energy benchmarking requires you to have utility bills at a minimum, but can also rely on more granular data from incremental meters, sensors and soft data collected on site.
Building energy benchmarking is now recognized as an energy saving measure in itself. Studies have shown an average of 7% energy savings can be achieved by benchmarking over time.
How does benchmarking save your organization money?
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. So by starting to benchmark and create key performance indicators, building energy and water use can start to be managed in a more deliberate way.
In our experience, there is a lot of waste in commercial buildings operations – by design, by operator over-ride and by occupant use habits. Many of these factors can be seen by looking into the data the right way, and simple actions can be taken to find low cost savings that involve:
- Reconsidering the design intent and operating the building to meet the current needs
- Correcting over-rides and addressing issues in a more intelligent way
- Addressing occupant behavior and comfort issues
These steps typically can rely on existing equipment and only involve behavioral or operating procedure changes – therefore they are low cost, but can have quote a high impact. For example – we have a client who was running a ventilation system more than was needed and a simple re-scheduling exercise resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in savings per year. Before we benchmarked the data and ran our calculations, they did not even suspect there was a problem.
How is benchmarking done?
Done correctly, consumption and demand data should be normalized to one or more independent variables, such as weather, occupancy, production, sales, hours etc. These factors change over time and can often
be considered to be a cause of energy and water use.
The best method to find out how much these variables impact consumption and demand is to use a historical linear regression equation to find the best fit, and then use this ‘best fit’ to measure future progress.
Some organizations undertake some form of benchmarking – typically collecting (non-normalized) electricity, fuel and water consumption and costs in a spreadsheet. Sometimes this data is connected to data about the sites or buildings being measured but not always. When it’s not normalized or calculated properly, the data can paint an inaccurate picture of what is happening on site.
Comparing benchmark data
Until the data is normalized, it generally should not be used for comparison purposes.
Comparisons and questions to consider are:
- How is a particular building performing over time, relative to changes in the facility operations?
- Can building performance be compared to other facilities you manage, or to peer buildings owned by others?
- Which normalized energy use intensity benchmarks give you actionable data?
Regulated building benchmarking trends in North America
In early 2017, there are 26 jurisdictions in North America with active or pending regulations that require commercial and multi-family buildings to record energy use and report the results to the local government. Some of these laws go back as far as 2011.
In most jurisdictions, the government is releasing this data publicly to allow the market to see how efficient or inefficient buildings may be. In some jurisdictions other follow up action is required such as energy audits or recommissioning.
This trend follows the more general trend of energy use disclosure you’ve seen with electronics, appliances and automobiles.
New regulations are announced regularly, and we anticipate the trend to continue.
The majority of the regulations will require building owners to measure energy use through tracking utility bills, and use an online tool, like Energy Star Portfolio Manager to report on the data, then submit this information to the local government. Some jurisdictions require a licensed professional to verify the data.
You might not want to disclose this data to the Government, and you just might not have to. Certain building types and uses are excluded. But if your building meets the requirements, it is best to report on time – some jurisdictions carry steep fines for non-compliance – up to $100 per day!
We’ve summarized the regulations for some jurisdictions and are adding more to this list all the time.
If you’re wondering if your building is going to be impacted, contact us today!
How Alert Energy benchmarks better
Our benchmarking process is built on a platform that can be used by your organization and generates results internally and to give tools to compare your buildings against our internal benchmark datasets and some benchmark studies such as the CBECS and the SCIEU and Energy Star Portfolio Manager. We know how buildings should perform, and if they are not performing to the level they should be, we can help you to form a corrective action plan. If your buildings do perform well, we can show you the data so you can get the credit you deserve!
We have developed software to benchmark buildings more accurately and efficiently than datasets relying on spreadsheets.
We manage energy and water data from the portfolio level down to the plug level(tm) giving you unprecedented visibility and understanding of the cost drivers (and ways to reduce costs) for energy and water use in buildings.
Our articles about benchmarking
- Denver Enacts $2,000 Fine to Owners Who Fail to Comply with Benchmarking Mandate
- St. Louis Passes Benchmarking Ordinance
- Los Angeles energy and water efficiency ordinance reporting starts this year
- Ontario adopts large building energy and water benchmarking law
- Energy Benchmarking Continues to Expand
- Global Industrial Energy Efficiency Sector to be Worth $10.18B by 2020
- 2016 Chicago energy benchmarking report
- Billion Dollar Opportunities in Multifamily Energy Efficiency Measures
- Atlanta energy and water benchmarking program expands
- Kansas City energy and water benchmarking law takes effect this year