Meeting Energy Star Expectations and Making the Program a Foundation
Part 2 of a 3-part article on benchmarking your Energy Star efforts against organizations that have certified scores of buildings
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 two more of the six lessons drawn from conversations with some of those organizations, touching on the need to recognize the new expectations raised by Energy Star certification and making Energy Star benchmarking the foundation.
2. Recognize the New Expectations
According to the Institute for Market Transformation, 14 cities, two states, one county, and the District of Columbia now have laws requiring commercial property owners to disclose their energy use, and the Energy Star system is the tool for disclosure, protecting both buyers and sellers. Getting a complete report on energy use is now part of due diligence in buying a property. “It’s baked into the deal from day one,” says Kevin Stubbs, director of architecture and engineering for Principal Real Estate Investors, which certified 52 buildings in 2014.
Disclosing Energy Star benchmarks is “now the new normal in many markets,” Pogue says. “Big buildings in big cities have all moved to them.” Smaller properties, with more diffused ownership and less competition for top tenants, have lagged behind, he says, even though they would benefit just as much.
But mandates are just one factor driving the use of Energy Star benchmarking. Investors, tenants, and clients are increasingly recognizing the benefits of Energy Star, according to Jennifer McConkey, sustainability director for Principal. Many corporations and governmental entities now specify that they can only lease in Energy Star certified spaces, or at least in buildings that have a plan in place to achieve the certification. Tenants recognize that an Energy Star building may reduce their operating costs.
As more tenants are demanding Energy Star certification, they are looking beyond the nominal rental rate to their occupancy costs, including energy. “We have a very educated tenant base,” Hartsfield says, “and that’s a large expense they have to pay.” Now, he says, instead of looking only at the bottom line on the energy bill, “they want to know what rates you’re getting from the utility companies, what you’re doing to oversee your HVAC.”
3. Make Energy Star the Rule
CBRE began requiring every building larger than 100,000 square feet to be benchmarked 10 years ago, and now requires it of all properties, totaling 300 million square feet. The voluntary Energy Star program “gave us a beginning place,” says Pogue.
New stores that Staples opens are already design-certified for Energy Star, because the retail chain “makes sure architects and engineers are dialed in on Energy Star qualifications,” said Bob Valair, the company’s director of energy and environmental responsibility. The company, which certified 201 buildings in 2014, has three basic designs for different climates, with differences in roof design, insulation, and heating source.
“Benchmarking is the foundation for everything we do today,” Valair says. Sharing the information with employees, he says, allows wide participation, and actions as simple as turning off lights and copiers at night, and setting the energy management system back to standards if it has been overridden, can result in energy savings of 2 to 3 percent. Through regular multi-channel communication, Staples makes sure its employees understand protocols and the need for continuous improvement. “We don’t ever want to hit the Energy Star score of 75 and say, ‘I’m done,’” Valair says.