For many businesses, both small and sizeable, energy reduction is categorized as a “would be nice but nonessential” or is not even on the radar. There are multiple reasons for this apathetic view of energy conservation, even though it remains one of the best returns for your dollar that money can buy. First, the United States sports some of the lowest energy rates in the developed world. Secondly, for many, they just don’t know where to start.
It’s a tall order to improve on what you can’t measure. It is much easier just to resign and pay the bills, and move on to other to do’s in a busy life of a business manager. But benchmarking – a fancy word for measuring a baseline or starting point – is becoming required by many municipalities. And if you know where you stand versus where you could be – or where you are compared to similar businesses or properties – then a clear picture of what you can do to lower your bills can then emerge.
Here is the shortlist for free Benchmarking tools for use in the commercial space:
- ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. Want help setting a baseline? This was the first free tool of its kind in the market. It is free. And it’s handy in that it has access to comparative data from the U.S. Department of Energy. Whether you have multiple properties, or just one, you can enter utility data for both energy and water and see how you compare. For more, go here: https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/facility-owners-and-managers/existing-buildings/use-portfolio-manager/learn-how-portfolio-manager
- If this is too much to learn in one sitting (there is a learning curve, but once you know the system, it will be like riding a bike from that point forward), perhaps your own utility is one of the dozens that provides benchmarking as a service. Portfolio Manager is also helpful in this regard as they keep an updated list of utilities that do just that. Go here to see the list: https://www.energystar.gov/sites/default/files/tools/Web%20Services%20Fact%20Sheet%20-%20August%202018%20-%20508.pdf
- Not to be outdone by ENERGY STAR, the U.S. Department of Energy also has a benchmarking tool called Commercial Building Asset Scoring Tool. This not only guides you into entering the current energy attributes of your building and it’s HVAC systems, it will also recommend cost-effective improvement measures. The link to get you started: https://www.energy.gov/eere/buildings/commercial-building-energy-asset-scoring-tool
- Finally, if you just want a database to eyeball for comparison purposes after you have already done the math on your own energy usage, the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey database has a large warehouse of similar buildings to review. https://www.eia.gov/consumption/commercial/
The above are all free tools that have various learning curves. If you are someone that prefers to pay professionals, I would recommend going to your utility home page for a listing of commercial energy auditors. Practically every utility in the country maintains utility rebates; and also approved vendor lists to help with any energy upgrades.
The bottom line is – would you do nothing if your water pipes were leaking? Of course not. Think of energy inefficiency in the same way: to do nothing is costly, not sustainable, and devalues your property assets. Fixing any issues will alternatively lead to more money in the bank, a durable building, as well as one that is more comfortable and healthier.
Happy Energy Measuring!
Mary English has been working in sustainable construction and building science for over twelve years. She has worked with multiple designers and builders in the Kansas City region testing and consulting on best practices from building envelope to HVAC. She currently serves as the Committee Chair for the USGBC Central Plains Programs Committee.