Benchmarking is the process of tracking a building’s energy and water usage, using a standard metric to evaluate its relative efficiency over time as well as to compare the building’s efficiency to its peers nationwide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) free benchmarking software, ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager, has become standard as cities look to drive energy efficiency and utility transparency.
The Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008 established that all private buildings over 50,000 gross square feet within the District of Columbia, including multifamily residences, must measure and disclose their energy and water consumption to the Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE). The annual reporting deadline is April 1st of each year. DOEE publishes summary results for each building on its website. DOEE shares all benchmarking data collected with the DCSEU to help the DCSEU in its mission of driving energy efficiency improvements throughout the city.
What Is The Value Of Benchmarking?
The results of benchmarking allow you to make targeted improvements to increase efficiency and to monitor how much was saved after installation. These operational improvements alone can lead to as much as 30% savings in energy costs.
When you benchmark your building using EPA’s Portfolio Manager program, you may be eligible to receive a 1-100 efficiency rating. If your building is one of the 15 commercial building types eligible for a rating, you will be able to compare your building to similar buildings nationwide. If you score above a 75 or higher, then your building is considered to be in the top 25% of all buildings nationwide in terms of energy efficiency, and you can receive an ENERGY STAR label. Research has shown that properties with an ENERGY STAR label have greater market value.
While not all building types are eligible to receive a rating, almost any building, including multifamily residential buildings, can be benchmarked using EPA’s Portfolio Manager.
Of facility managers who have benchmarked using ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager, over two-thirds have used it to justify or guide energy efficiency upgrades.
Educational Opportunities in Energy Benchmarking
With the upcoming Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS), having accurate and verified benchmarking data is crucial. This data will be used to set the performance standard that the property in question will be required to meet starting in 2021. In the coming years, data verification will need to be conducted by a licensed third-party professional. DOEE and the DCSEU hosted two 1-hour webinars that provide an overview of energy benchmarking, discuss upcoming DC benchmarking requirements, provide information on how you can benefit from benchmarking, as well as provide insight and expectations for how licensed professionals should provide verification services. The webinars are as follows:
Introduction to Energy Benchmarking
Verifying Energy Benchmarking Data
Contact The Benchmarking Help Center
The Benchmarking Help Center, operated by the DOEE with support from the DCSEU, provides technical support with using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and guidance on compliance with District regulations. Official documents about the benchmarking regulation can be found on DOEE’s website and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on energy benchmarking can be found on DOEE's Benchmarking FAQ webpage.
How Do I Get Access To My Building's Utility Bills?
If you don’t know your whole-building energy use, but handle all utility bills, your utility company will provide you access upon request. If you have separately metered tenants, you will need to get utility data from the non-residential tenants in order to account for all energy use. If you are benchmarking in order to comply with District laws, then your non-residential tenants are required to provide you with the energy, water, and space use data needed by Portfolio Manager. If you have five or more tenants, can get aggregated whole building data directly from the utility companies. You can also have your electricity data directly uploaded to Portfiolio Manager. For more information, view DOEE's benchmarking data collection worksheet.
Please note that the DC law asks for you to report water use as well energy use.
How Do I Start Benchmarking My Building?
- Collect required space use and utility data, ideally at the whole-building level.
- Choose either the EPA ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager tool or a third-party tool that can report through Portfolio Manager.
- Evaluate your performance and report to the DOEE using the official reporting template.
- Make improvements as needed (Not sure where to start? Talk to an expert at the DCSEU)
- Monitor performance after improvements and continue improving score
Need help with benchmarking your building? Visit the District's Building Innovation Hub website for more information, including where you can find a qualified vendor to help you with benchmarking your building.
How Benchmarking Can Help You Save Energy
Under an agreement with DOEE, the DCSEU gets a full copy of all benchmarking data reported to the District. The DCSEU uses this data to proactively identify customers and engage with them on how to improve energy consumption in their building and portfolio. After you have benchmarked your building, talk to a member of our Account Management Team to find out how we can help find energy-saving opportunities.