Energy and Water Benchmarking Professionals Get New National Standard

December 4, 2014 By Lauren Zullo

Lauren Zullo

The Center for Building Knowledge at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), in collaboration with the Consortium for Building Energy Innovation (CBEI), has launched the Certificate of Proficiency in Benchmarking, a national, online, interactive training and certificate program for building energy and water benchmarking professionals.  The program is designed to educate users through a no-cost online training component on how to accurately collect building energy and water benchmarking data and use the EPA ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool to benchmark building performance, and for a fee, certify participants who successfully complete the training and exam.

The trend toward energy data transparency is growing due to a mounting number of cities, states, and other jurisdictions requiring benchmarking of public and private sector properties.  As energy information is making its way into the public realm as the next wave of “big data,” accuracy of that information is especially important. The Certificate of Proficiency in Benchmarking is designed to be a national standard for benchmarking professionals to ensure quality of self-reported benchmarking data.

In its first year of private sector benchmarking reporting, New York City had to scrub nearly 25% of all property submissions for inaccuracies due to unintentional errors, difficulty of obtaining correct information, and a general lack of familiarity with the Portfolio Manager tool. Establishing a national standard helps to raise data quality not only by providing training to the people who benchmark properties, but also by creating accountability for the results. If a jurisdiction elects to, the Certificate of Proficiency in Benchmarking – along with a suite of other professional certifications or licenses – could be referenced in an ordinance and required for compliance with energy benchmarking and transparency laws.  So, the enhanced training and accountability afforded by the Certificate program has the potential to raise the bar for data quality assurance, especially in jurisdictions with required benchmarking and transparency.

On average, buildings waste 30% of the energy they consume due to inefficiencies, so there is tremendous opportunity to use energy smarter and save money for owners and tenants alike.  Often the first step in identifying inefficiencies is to benchmark a building to understand how its performance compares to other similar buildings using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool, which provides analysis of performance and, for many building types, a 1-100 score to inform building owners and managers about their building’s performance relative to others in the marketplace. Evidence of the energy savings produced by benchmarking is already available. From 2008-2011, the EPA analyzed data from over 35,000 buildings that received an ENERGY STAR score through Portfolio Manager and found that during that time, energy use declined by an average of 7%.

Given the role of benchmarking in catalyzing improvements in building energy performance, benchmarking and transparency has the potential to transform the building operations sector.  The Certificate of Proficiency in Benchmarking can play an important role in making energy data transparent, accessible, and reliable.

Lauren Zullo, LEED AP O+M, is Director of National Initiatives, City Energy Project, New York City, with the NRDC. She came to NRDC in 2012 to join the Center for Market Innovation, where she worked to develop market-based solutions to optimize energy performance in private sector real estate. Now, as Director of National Initiatives for the City Energy Project, she works to establish successful, replicable, market-based policies and programs — and the infrastructure to support them — that dramatically improve the energy performance and reduce the carbon footprint of the nation’s building stock.

This article originally appeared on NRDC’s Switchboard, and was republished with permission from NRDC.

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