ENERGY STAR. Uncle Sam is another starting point for obtaining information, as the government's databases tend to be fairly easy to access, says Lubinski. In particular, Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, can be a valuable source of data. That's even more true now that Energy Star automated benchmarking services (ABS) can aid building energy-data gathering.
Through Energy Star's ABS, and Portfolio Manager tools, facility managers can review data on their own buildings' energy performance, while also finding out how it compares to other similar facilities, with adjustments made for differences in the climate in which the buildings are located. "You get an indication if you're pretty good or pretty bad," says Jim Newman, managing partner with Newman Consulting Group.
With ABS, the utility company or energy provider automatically sends data on the facilities' energy use to the application. The Energy Star website lists the providers currently involved with the program.
At this point, it's likely that many utilities are waiting to see whether their commercial clients will express an interest in the Automated Benchmarking Services, says Angela Lewis, project manager with Facility Engineering Associates. "If facility managers see this as valuable, they should ask their utilities to participate."
Facilities managers using Portfolio Manager enter the data themselves. However, they can turn to one of several dozen software applications that automate the transfer of data from the utility company to the Energy Star database. "Some are good; some are not so good," Newman says. While the effectiveness of the programs varies, most run just several hundred dollars annually, making it a relatively low-cost investment, he adds. "They can save a whole lot of time and give a whole lot of information back."
Local BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Associations) organizations are another potential source of information. Some collect information on the amounts of energy used by facilities in their region, Lubinski adds.
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