Benchmarking is First Step Toward Energy Efficiency
Before Zanghi came to Highland Hospital, he had experience with benchmarking using Portfolio Manager, but the outcome was not as positive as with Highland. Regardless of whether a manager believes a building will earn a high or low rating, Zanghi says the first step in improving energy performance is benchmarking.
“I came from a facility where we benchmarked using Energy Star, and we were at a pretty low rating,” Zanghi says. “When we took that to the board and showed them how low our comparable rating was, they approved the capital to get all new chillers and new air handlers.”
Portfolio Manager is an online tool managers can use to assess energy and water use. They can track the performance in individual facilities or across their building portfolio.
According to the Energy Star Web site, the program helps managers:
• track multiple energy meters
• customize meter names and information
• benchmark facilities relative to past energy performance
• view performance in terms of weather-normalized source energy, which represents the total amount of raw fuel required to operate a building
• monitor energy costs
• share building data inside or outside the organization
• enter operating characteristics.
“It’s about data collection,” Zanghi says of the process, “pulling together the square-footage numbers for your facility and making sure that you pulled all your data from your meters. One of the things we dealt with was making sure the square footage matched up to the meters that we were recording. Large, complex facilities can have multiple meters for different parts of the building.”
Portfolio Manager uses a 100-point scale to rate energy performance relative to similar buildings in the United States. The program uses information from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey, which gathers data from thousands of buildings nationwide, to compare and rate facilities with similar operating characteristics. A rating of 50, for example, means the building performs better energy-wise than 50 percent of similar facilities nationwide.
“Since we’ve set the benchmark, we can monitor ongoing energy expenses against that baseline year,” Zanghi says. “We can say, ‘OK, are we doing better or worse than we were in that baseline year?’”
If benchmarking energy use is the first step to improving efficiency, the next plan of action should be addressing low-hanging fruit, Zanghi says. Facilities with low ratings should undertake no- or low-cost retrofits that can significantly improve energy performance.
“The return condensate, the steam traps, the maintenance on the chillers and towers, and the lighting retrofits,” Zanghi says, citing examples of such projects.