Conserving energy has expanded beyond the realm of social and corporate responsibility. For many employers, sustainable practices are a necessity to attract and retain the best labor. At those firms, workers may expect their employers and workplaces to earn and display Energy Star, LEED, and other certifications to demonstrate good stewardship of natural resources.
Some properties might be at risk of losing at least one of those credentials, however.
Later this year, some buildings certified under the Energy Star program likely will lose that certification after the release of updated building performance baselines. Fortunately, landlords can act now to begin improving the metrics tracked in Energy Star’s online Portfolio Manager tool and put their properties on a path to qualify for the program’s mark of approval even after the change.
Why the reset?
For most commercial properties, an Energy Star score ranging from 1 to 100 indicates how well the property compares with a sampling of thousands of buildings represented in the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey. The Energy Information Administration, which collects and analyzes energy statistics for the U.S. government, conducts the survey every four to six years. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses survey data to build statistically representative models for various building types.
When an Energy Star participant submits energy-usage performance data collected through Portfolio Manager, the EPA converts that information into a numerical Energy Star score showing how well the building performs in relation to models of its peers. Buildings that achieve a 75 or higher generally qualify for Energy Star certification as energy-efficient.
For several years, the EPA has relied on survey data collected in 2003 to calculate Energy Star scores. At the time of that survey, Energy Star was still gaining momentum on its way to becoming an industry standard for measuring and reducing energy consumption. Recently, however, the agency has been updating Portfolio Manager with survey data collected in 2012.
In the decade between the surveys, the use of Portfolio Manager mushroomed, as did the number of commercial buildings adopting various energy-conservation programs. That suggests the new data set will include a larger proportion of energy-efficient buildings. As a result, a building that achieved the Energy Star label in the past may not compare as well to buildings in the new data set, and could see its score fall due to a lower relative standing even if the property’s performance remains unchanged.
The EPA plans to publish updated scores based on the newer survey in August 2018. While there is no way to predict the change in score for a specific property, building owners should be prepared for a drop of at least five points in their Energy Star score. Buildings certified with scores of 75 to 80, therefore, are most at risk of losing certification.
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