New Energy Star for Hospitals, Federal Involvement Among New Plans

By Robert Sauchelli and Deborah E. Miller  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Energy Star Offers New Ratings, Easier Benchmarking for BuildingsPt. 2: Data Centers, Senior Care Now Eligible For 1 to 100 Energy Star ScoresPt. 3: This Page

Two other important initiatives are underway this year. One involves an updated Energy Star scale for hospitals. To date, over 3,000 hospitals have received an Energy Star score for their buildings in Portfolio Manager. Since the current energy performance scale for acute care hospitals was developed using data from 1997, the American Society of Healthcare Engineering worked with EPA to collect more recent energy and operational data from its members. EPA is in the process of completing its analysis of the data to develop a revised energy performance score, which is expected to be released by the end of 2011.

In March 2011, EPA and Fannie Mae signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on improving the energy and water efficiency of the nation's multifamily housing stock through exploring the development of an energy performance scale for multifamily buildings. Depending on the outcome of the analysis, EPA anticipates rolling out an energy performance scale for the multifamily sector in late 2012 or early 2013.

As changes continue within the Energy Star program, outside factors are increasingly leading building owners to use the Energy Star rating. A good example: According to new regulations mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), any space leased by the federal government as of December 2010, must be in buildings that have an Energy Star certification.

There are exceptions to that requirement: if no space is available in an Energy Star building that meets the needs of the agency, if the agency will remain in its currently occupied building, if the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, or if lease is for rentable square feet of 10,000 square feet or less. Nevertheless, the requirement is significant. The federal government is the largest tenant for leased commercial space, with over 370 million square feet under contract. What's more, if the building that an agency currently occupies is not Energy Star, the lessor may have to renovate the space with all energy efficiency improvements that are cost effective over the life of the lease.

There's a lot going on at Energy Star. Consider taking a few minutes to log on to the Energy Star commercial buildings website. Become a partner, use the many resources EPA has to offer, benchmark your buildings, and get Energy Star recognition. If you are looking for ways to improve your Energy Star score, evaluate whether using an experienced SPP will help.

Robert Sauchelli is Energy Star Buildings program manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Deborah E. Miller is vice president, ICF International.

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EPA Committed to Keeping Energy Star on Track

More than 21 billion square feet of commercial building floor space, representing close to 30 percent of the market, has been benchmarked in the Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool. The Energy Star score has been a valuable tool to motivate energy-use reductions and to identify top performing buildings.

Recently, however, there have been problems with a little-known federal database that Energy Star uses. Despite those problems, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is confident that the Energy Star rating remains a valuable tool for building owners.

That federal database — referred to as CBECS (Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey) — comes from a national survey administered by the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Energy Information Agency. The survey draws from a statistically valid sample of the universe of commercial and institutional buildings and provides important building and energy data.

Using CBECS, EPA made a startling discovery in the late 1990s: the gap between the country's best- and worst-performing buildings was greater than anyone had previously acknowledged — as large as tenfold. To help building owners understand how their buildings compare, EPA launched the Energy Star 1 to 100 scale in 1999 to provide feedback on where a building's energy use falls along this spectrum. That 1 to 100 scale is largely based on data from CBECS.

Unfortunately, DOE recently announced that results from the most recent survey (2007) would not be published because it had not yielded valid statistical estimates. At the same time, DOE reported that, as a result of lower funding levels, it would temporarily suspend work on the survey scheduled for this year (2011). That means CBECS data continues to be drawn from the 2003 survey.

Even with questions surrounding CBECS, Energy Star still offers relevant benchmarks. Here's why:

1. The 2003 CBECS survey still offers a solid benchmark. The rate at which new construction and retrofits replace building systems is slow. According to recent studies of actual energy use, new buildings can still perform more poorly than the CBECS 2003 average.

2. Each time EPA has analyzed the key drivers of energy use for offices, the major drivers were the same: workers, hours of operation, computers, size, and climate. This consistent result over 12 years suggests that the methodology underlying the Energy Star score, which is based on those drivers, remains sound.

3. Because the Energy Star score applies the same calculation to everyone, it remains a consistent means of placing all buildings on the same scale.

4. In addition to being an industrywide benchmark, the Energy Star score can also be used to track energy use of a building over time. Regardless of the age of the data on which the score is based, the actual number provides a uniform measure of how performance has changed.

5. While CBECS is used for many Energy Star scales, it is not the only data used by Energy Star. The scales for hospitals, senior care facilities, and data centers are all drawn from other surveys. EPA continues to work with industry to find other nationally representative data (or means of collecting data) to make Energy Star scales available for more building types.

6. As more buildings save energy, questions may be raised about whether it is becoming too easy to earn the Energy Star. If that becomes a concern, EPA could reset the minimum Energy Star score higher than 75.

For all these reasons, EPA is confident that Energy Star continues to serve the market effectively. However, if the CBECS 2011 survey is cancelled, EPA will examine data and track trends of buildings using the Portfolio Manager tool and other surveys to assess market conditions and evaluate alternatives. It is possible to generate alternative data sets that are nationally representative, and EPA is willing to explore this option to ensure that Energy Star remains a valuable energy management tool.

— Jean Lupinacci is chief, Energy Star commercial and industrial branch, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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  posted on 9/14/2011   Article Use Policy

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