THE BUILDING ADVICE BLOG

How to "benchmark" buildings during a Government shut down

Posted by Jim Crowder on Jan 22, 2019 9:08:49 AM

Wow, we are now 32 days into the government shutdown, meaning we have been without Energy Star Portfolio Manager (ESPM) for a month. Ugh. That creates challenges for managing portfolio clients that use building scores to track building performance. With no end in sight I wanted to ensure our industry is aware of a viable alternative.

If you are looking for ways to initially assess relative energy consumption in prospective buildings, there’s a “hack” you can employ that uses the underlying data set used by ESPM, the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). While this approach won’t generate an Energy Star Score, it does render an Energy Use Intensity/Index (EUI) value that represents the amount of energy (kBtu) consumed per square foot compared to national median consumption for that building type (schools, churches, office buildings, etc.). This will enable you to establish an initial consumption baseline for relative comparison and tracking purposes prior to service and/or upgrades.

CBECS is administered and maintained by the Energy Information Agency. It periodically updates its data sets through a survey process. The most recent survey, completed in 2012, includes a statistical sample size of 6,720 commercial buildings and is the most current data set used to power ESPM.

Unlike Energy Star, if you have the skills or an application that taps into CBECS, you may be able to get away with only entering the total annual fuel and electricity spend, not individual utility bills and the building inputs which is simpler and more efficient. Be aware that what you do gain in simplicity and time savings comes at the expense of some resolution (monthly vs annual data) and you don’t get as robust a data normalization capability found in ESPM.

For an example of what the output could look like that may be shared with clients see below.

Scorecard Image

Once you complete the minimal inputs, as you can see, you can generate a concise, color graphic report that clearly positions your client’s building’s energy performance against its national peers. If your sales team is using it in the early stages of your sales process you can use this tool to easily “dollarize” potential energy savings to move to the next step in your process. Like Energy Star it’s a great qualification tool that is simple, quick and efficient.

For those Mechanical Sales Teams not using benchmarking as part of your sales process, it’s the start of a new year and this, generally, is a good time to try new approaches. Benchmarking is a tried and true method of engaging prospects and clients in a discussion about ways to reduce their buildings’ operating expenses, especially their energy costs. No one is better positioned to help clients reduce these costs than a competent Mechanical Contractor and a good sales team needs simple ways to educate a building’s financial decision makers. An EUI Energy Scorecard may be a simple way to do that.

Topics: energy efficiency, HVAC, Energy Benchmarking, Energy Star

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