Featured image of everything about building energy benchmarking

Alt-text: Featured image of everything about building energy benchmarking

A building energy benchmarking program measures a building’s energy performance. It is a tool that rates a building in comparison with similar buildings.

Achieving a high benchmark rating is a significant driver for energy efficiency investments in the design and operation of a building. It encourages designers and property owners to design buildings that are achieve high standards of efficiency. 

Why Is Energy Benchmarking Important

A building energy benchmarking program is essential to accurately gauge how efficiently your building uses energy as compared other buildings. Energy benchmarking may be undertaken in two ways: Design benchmarking, and operational benchmarking. 

Internal Building Energy Benchmarking

Design benchmarking assesses features of the building related to energy efficiency (and other aspects such as water use, indoor environmental quality), and the predicted energy consumption of the building once built and occupied. If a particular benchmarking rating is desired, the designer can try different combinations of technologies to achieve the desired rating at the least cost. LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is most famous green building certification / design benchmarking tool used globally.

External Building Energy Benchmarking

Operational energy benchmarking compares your actual building’s energy use, normalized for climate zone and several other factors, against similar buildings. Building performance standards (BPS) or a national performance rating are used to identify the high-performing buildings within a certain industry. In the U.S., ENERGY STAR awards buildings that pass their energy-efficiency standards with an ENERGY STAR label certification. External benchmarking also promotes the sharing of best practices, thereby driving the growth of more energy-efficient buildings. 

Whether design or operational, energy benchmarking contributes to the fight against climate change. It not only affects the owners but also impacts state and local governments, environmental agencies, building occupants, and the rest of the community. 

To understand why energy benchmarking is so useful, the benefits are explained in detail below.

Internal Building Energy Benchmarking

What are the Benefits of Building Energy Benchmarking

Building energy benchmarking programs benefit private property owners, state and local governments, building tenants and residents, and the general public. Here are some potential benefits of such a program:

1. Savings

Regular benchmarking helps property owners save on energy consumption and operational expenses. According to ENERGY STAR, regular benchmarking results in an average annual energy savings of 2.4%. These savings continue to increase over time and will raise the commercial value of a building. As an example, ENERGY STAR estimates the cost savings to building owners when they implement regular energy benchmarking as follows:

  • Energy cost savings of $120,000
  • A 500,000 square foot (approximately 50,000 square meters) building saving up to 2.4% energy savings annually could see an increase in its asset value by over $1,000,000 in three years.

2. Improve Metrics and Standard Performance Across a Portfolio of Buildings

State and local governments and owners of multiple buildings can benefit significantly from building energy benchmarking programs. First, they help identify those facilities and buildings that need improvement. They further prompt officials to educate business owners and tenants about the importance of energy efficiency. 

Energy benchmarking programs also allow agencies to assess and improve their policies, actions, and building performance standards. For instance, benchmarking enables agencies and governments to set realistic greenhouse gas emission targets and adjust their sustainability priority goals.

3. Transparency

A building energy benchmarking program also promotes transparency in energy consumption. Due to transparency, it’s easier for the market to recognize and reward energy-efficient certified buildings. According to ENERGY STAR, buildings that have passed their certification standards have increased their building valuation by around 31%. This has resulted in a higher occupancy rate of 10% and rental premiums of up to 16%. Thus, benchmarking has become a driving force for buildings to improve and make positive changes through energy-efficiency measures. 

4. Contribute to Sustainability Efforts

Ultimately, the end goal of a building energy benchmarking program is to encourage sustainability efforts. When building owners recognize the many benefits they can reap from cutting energy usage, they will be motivate to invest in energy-efficiency measures. 

And is well known, any step that cuts energy consumption contributes to helping the environment. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and dependence on coal-fueled power plants. It decreases air and water pollution and helps in the battle against climate change. 

Infographic of the benefits of energy benchmarking

Who Should Prioritize Building Energy Benchmarking?

Building energy benchmarking isn’t mandatory in all cities and states; some countries don’t even implement energy benchmarking. In others, each local government has its specific policies and rules on mandatory benchmarking. If benchmarking isn’t mandated in your area, you don’t have to comply. However, since energy benchmarking offers many benefits, more owners and managers are now implementing it voluntarily. ENERGY STAR shows that nearly 25% of all US commercial buildings have used their energy benchmarking tool kit.

Ordinances vary in states and cities, but here are the categories of building types that may be included in a energy benchmarking program:

  • Private & government commercial properties
  • Commercial buildings
  • Manufacturing plants in specific sectors
  • Religious institutions 
  • Large multifamily buildings & units
  • In smaller cities, buildings of 10,000 square feet (approx. 1,000 m2) or more
  • In large cities, buildings with 50,000 square feet (approx. 5,000 m2) or more

Meanwhile, the following stakeholders benefit from building energy benchmarking programs:

  • Private and public building owners and managers  
  • Utility companies
  • Interest groups, including real estate property groups, environmental groups, etc.
  • Government environmental agencies

Final Words

The building sector is a major driver of economic activity and growth; and investments to improve the energy efficiency of buildings have substantial economic and environmental benefits. Buildings are one of the leading frontiers when it comes to energy efficiency playing an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change. Building energy benchmarking is just one of the many ways in which the construction sector can foster sustainability.

Building energy benchmarking programs can help property owners save on energy and operational costs when implemented regularly. Benchmarking tools also help local and state governments identify buildings that need energy-efficient improvements. 

Lastly, building energy benchmark programs benefit the community by lowering pollution, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and helping to create a more sustainable environment. In the end, an energy benchmarking program isn’t merely a tool to cut your energy bill but a driving force for building owners and users to step up and contribute to saving our planet. 

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