MEP CA AB 1103

The Importance of Energy Benchmarking

MEP Energy Star CertificationrA building is a substantial investment by any standard. And as with most significant assets there is a certain amount of upkeep and awareness that a responsible owner maintains to avoid a drop in value or minimize risk. Your car wouldn't last a long time if you weren't keeping track of and changing its oil and it's likely your spending habits would become a bit more haphazard if you stopped keeping track of your bank account. So why then is it that we take energy for granted? Energy use is no less concrete than the money we spend to our utility provider for it. It is a readily budgeted resource that can be tracked, but for many building owners energy awareness begins and ends with the flick of a switch. With so much emphasis placed on budgeting, accounting, and resource tracking maybe it's time we apply these economic principles to our utilities and consistently benchmark our buildings. You cannot optimize what you don't measure, so if you aren't measuring you aren't optimizing.

The operative word here is measurement. Benchmarking is the best way to measure your building's annual resource use be it gas, water, or electricity. Accurately keeping track of usage and cost on a consistent basis enables data comparison and allows owners to evaluate performance, sudden downward trends, opportunities for improvement, and even the chance to compare across their portfolios and allocate resources accordingly. Benchmarking allows us to be more prescriptive with our properties so we can catch problems ahead of time instead of operating in a reactionary manner, which is often more expensive than the alternative.

Across the globe energy use is on the rise. Over the past 50 years energy consumption has grown substantially and projections don't show that stopping anytime soon. The US Energy Information Administration projects a 56% rise in energy use between 2010 and 2040 (International Energy Outlook 2013, IEO 2013.). Likewise, energy benchmarking is on the rise across the globe. In the United States alone two states, one county, and fourteen cities have enacted requiring benchmarking and transparency for large buildings. California's AB 802, for example, goes into effect in 2018 and affects buildings over 50,000 square feet. AB 802 requires utilities to provide utility data upon request and for property owners to report their data to the state. The bill ensures our larger buildings are benchmarking and, consequentially, are aware of their energy footprints.

As for the difference benchmarking can have on your building, the statistics speak for themselves. Building energy efficiency is crucial with energy use accounting for 25% of operational expenses in multi-family buildings and 10% in office buildings. The worst buildings use 3 to 7 times the energy compared to others of the same use. This discrepancy can usually be explained by occupant habits or outdated or broken equipment. Oftentimes a building that is performing regular benchmarking can catch failing infrastructure before it becomes catastrophic by noting significant downward trends in energy efficiency. Sub-metering can allow building owners to benchmark on a meter-to-meter basis which increases the precision of their analysis and allows them to isolate certain areas and uses in the building. Energy Management software also affords building owners and operators a more in depth look at the intricacies of their property's energy profile, trends, and ramifications.

Participants don't seem to regret the time spent monitoring their building's energy. According to figures from the Institute of Market Transformation "more than half of property managers agreed that benchmarking leads to the implementation of more comprehensive energy efficiency measures.(Keicher, C.) An analysis by the US Environmental Protection Agency shows buildings that performed regular benchmarking saved an average of 7% of energy over 3 years. The benefits of energy efficiency go beyond energy reduction, awareness, and savings though. Energy efficient properties seem to be more desirable and profitable than their less efficient counter parts. According to the Institute for Market Transformation energy-efficient properties have higher occupancy levels and higher sales prices than less-efficient properties.

There are ways for building owners and operators to get an even more in depth analysis of their building's energy profiles. Using utility data management software programs building staff can easily delve into their energy usage. Users can view detailed breakdowns of energy consumption and cost trends. These programs help free up building owners and operators from painstakingly creating time consuming Excel spreadsheets and using outdated software to get less information. MEP is currently offering to enroll buildings in its brand new Energy Performance Manager. This cloud-based application enables owners and managers to understand, manage and implement efforts to reduce energy use and expense. The program includes a personalized energy dashboard that allows users to analyze their single building or portfolio and has alerts to notify users when energy consumption trends upward or downward, allowing for prompt response to inefficiencies and awareness of exceptional performance. MEP will collect, input and validate our clients' utility data, help them interpret trends and anomalies and suggest strategies for improvement. With this new addition to our services MEP is going beyond benchmarking and assisting clients in real-time.

Benchmarking is easier now than it ever has been. Increasing legislative and demonstrative fiscal incentives make it hard to see the downside to performing an energy benchmark. Contact MEP today for benchmarking assistance be it mandatory or voluntary, and for more information on our Utility Data Management Software program, ENERGY STAR, LEED and mechanical-electrical-plumbing energy efficiency engineering design at or call us at 310-782-1410. .