How to Simplify Building Energy Benchmarking & Transparency Laws

April 18, 2016 By Jennifer Hermes

urjanet coverThe upcoming deadlines for local building energy benchmarking and transparency laws makes this a busy time of year for building owners.

The laws aim to reduce energy consumption (and environmental and financial costs as a result) in the building sector. These are local laws, so they differ from one city to the next, but they are typically built around three core tenets:

  1. Benchmarking: Capturing a baseline of energy data for your building and comparing that baseline with data from other buildings
  2. Reporting: Sharing the captured energy data with lawmakers
  3. Transparency: Making the captured energy data available to the public

Regardless of the city in which your buildings stand, complying with your local building energy benchmarking and transparency laws will require you to gather specific types of data from your affected buildings and enter that data into the Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool.

Here’s a brief overview of the process:

  • Collecting data: You’ll need 12 consecutive calendar months of energy consumption data and basic characteristic data about each of your buildings (e.g. square footage, occupancy, use type, number of computers, weekly operating hours). Depending on your local laws, you might also need additional data like water consumption or waste disposal by volume.
  • Submitting data: Once you have the requisite data, you need to submit it into Portfolio Manager. You can submit the data manually by entering data for each building individually or by entering data in bulk using spreadsheet templates. Alternatively, you can contract a third-party provider to transfer data into Portfolio Manager for you.

Although the benchmarking requirements might sound fairly straightforward, in practice, the process can get quite complex given the amount of data you need to gather and the number of people from whom you likely need to gather it. Common challenges building owners face along the way include gaining access to all the necessary data, understanding utility bill data, properly aggregating data from meters and accurately entering all of that data into Portfolio Manager. While working with a third-party provider who submits the data for you can help alleviate some of these challenges (e.g. accurately entering data), it’s important to know that your team will be responsible for working with that third-party provider to provide access to all the data.

If this process can be so time consuming and challenging, why go through it at all? The easy answer to this question is because it’s the law, but there’s actually a lot more to it than that.

These laws provide several benefits for building owners and the public alike, and if you do only the bare minimum required for compliance, you’ll miss out on countless opportunities to reap these benefits.

For example, once you’ve benchmarked the appropriate data for your building, you can then use that data to do things like identify and prioritize opportunities to cut wasted energy, easily measure energy and financial savings to determine the impact of your efforts and even increase the value of your assets to improve real estate transactions. The opportunities are really limitless. Plus, the benefits of taking advantage of these opportunities are not ones on which you’ll want to miss out — the Institute for Market Transformation reports that buildings in New York City saved over $267 million in three years thanks to the benchmarking process and that rental premiums are typically 10% higher for energy efficient buildings.

Urjanet has released an ebook, Building Energy Benchmarking and Transparency Laws: Simplifying Compliance and Creating Value for Your Organization, which offers advice on how to simplify the data gathering and submission process using Urjanet as well as three detailed use cases for taking Portfolio Manager data beyond compliance.

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