How to Get Started With Energy Star's Portfolio Manager
For most people, the toughest part of using Portfolio Manager is getting started. Setting up a profile requires gathering a fair amount of energy usage data and building characteristics information. Just getting their hands on actual energy bills can be a hurdle for facility managers, especially if the bills are paid by a different department.
But beyond the bills, all sorts of little bumps in the road can come up. Take the example of the New York City Department of Education, the largest public school system in the country with almost 1,700 schools. It was tapped to be the first city government body to benchmark its facilities, a step that came years in advance of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, which requires that all commercial buildings greater than 50,000 square feet benchmark and publicly report their energy use.
The City University of New York Building Performance Lab provided assistance in compiling the data. With that many facilities to track, Michael Bobker, director of the CUNY Building Performance Lab, learned a few lessons on smoothing the road for getting set up in Portfolio Manager.
One tip — work from the same database. The level of data integration already in place in an organization will dictate how much of a pain it is to gather all of the necessary information, he says. This increases in significance with the size of the portfolio.
In the case of the schools, there were different spreadsheets and different databases with sometimes different designations that had to be matched up. Complicating matters, some school addresses were designated by the main entrance while the address for the utility account was based on a service entry on a side street. For some accounts, the Building Performance Lab had to look at side streets on Google Maps to match accounts to schools.
Time Commitment Varies
This all speaks to the time commitment required to get set up. CUNY provided one to two interns dedicated to the process and to serve as a focal point for the data gathering. "As is the case with typical energy data collection, there are always gaps in the data, data that's missing or has to be checked," Bobker says. "It's not rocket science, but it still requires someone to spend time on it."
Blessedly, not everyone has such a massive portfolio to contend with and setting up an account isn't normally as arduous. Getting a profile set up takes just a few minutes, just like setting up an email account, according to the U.S. EPA. Completing the data entry for the account, including loading 12 months of energy data for the building, can take up to four hours if you have all the information at hand, says the EPA. Adding in gathering the information can take the total to up to about eight hours, says Gilmer.