The Energy Star rating system has helped many facility managers evaluate opportunities to reduce energy costs and to advertise their achievements. Some organizations have certified multiple buildings — and not just two or three, or even five or 10, but 100 or more. In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the “top certifiers” — organizations that got the Energy Star label for 150 or more buildings in 2014 — collectively reduced their energy costs by $562 million and prevented more than 2.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The experience of organizations that have certified dozens or hundreds of buildings can help facility managers start or improve their own Energy Star efforts. Here are six lessons drawn from conversations with some of those organizations.
Using the Energy Star data for benchmarking can allow a company to spot anomalies and look for ways to improve, says Chris Hartsfield, director of operations for Brandywine Realty Trust, which certified 89 buildings in 2014.
A building with a notably low Energy Star score probably has multiple low- or no-cost options available, such as adjusting setpoints or setting back heating or air conditioning during non-working hours, says David Pogue, global director of corporate responsibility for CBRE, which certified 406 buildings in 2014. But it’s not just very low scores that present opportunities. “There are literally hundreds of cases where buildings have been able to raise their scores from the 50s to the 80s with limited capital,” Pogue says.
The combination of low- and no-cost changes plus improvements in lighting and controls, will typically get a building to the 75th percentile necessary for certification, Pogue says.
For buildings that make the effort to improve, savings are significant. “There’s almost a 1-to-1 improvement in cost,” Pogue says, referring to the Energy Star score and the percent decrease in energy use. “If you go from 50 to 75, you’re probably approaching 20 to 25 percent less in energy spent.”
It’s important to realize that the goal of the Energy Star program isn’t to save energy regardless of the impact on occupants. To gain certification, a building has to show that it meets Energy Star criteria for indoor environmental quality. Energy Star certification hasn’t required the Fulton County Schools in Georgia, which has 91 Energy Star certified schools, to be so rigid that occupants are uncomfortable, says Joseph Clements, executive director for facility services. “We’re in competition to attract good staff,” he says. “They don’t want to be in a work environment that’s uncomfortable.”
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