Building Operating Management

Portfolio Manager: How to Avoid Mistakes with Energy Star Online Benchmarking Tool

Of course, how long it will take depends on a lot of variables, such as how much information is being added. At the Austin (Texas) Convention Center, which recently achieved LEED for Existing Buildings Gold certification, it took about six weeks to get set up in Portfolio Manager, says David Thomas, ACC operations manager. Thomas had his team enter all the energy data available to it, which was well over 10 years of data in some cases.

"Nobody is going to dedicate 40 hours a week because you still have your regular job to do," Thomas says. "If you could, you could do it in a few days." Even with this massive amount of data entry, Thomas says designating one person as the primary owner of the process is ideal. "You develop a system and everyone's system for getting things done is a little different," he says. "It's best, as long as possible, if one person owns it because they know how they set it up."

One Portfolio Manager rookie mistake to avoid is trying to get too much detail right off the bat. "People try to chop their building up into too many pieces, trying to capture a high level of granularity of data," says Gilmer. For example, a 12-story building might be broken out by each floor. "It's usually better to start off more simply with gross aggregate areas that you know are operating in definitely different manners," Gilmer says, such as office space versus data center space. "If you're trying to just benchmark and understand where you fall in the scale of 1 to 100, starting with a gross building model is really the way to go. As you get more comfortable with the systems, you can break it down with submeters if you want to track a particular area."

Another rookie mistake: Selecting a bad username. Thomas says he would have selected a different username had he understood that the account would be tied to that username. This becomes pertinent once reporting and peer information sharing comes into play. "You want to select something that identifies your facility as opposed to something you're used to using in your personal life," he says.

Data Integrity

Portfolio Manager is a powerful tool, but at its heart it's still a database crunching numbers, which means the values it provides are only as good as the values that are put in.

"You have to go back and monitor it," says Thomas. "You need to have more than one set of eyes on it because one number can throw everything out of whack."

There are other ways to inadvertently corrupt the data beyond simple keystroke errors. To avoid one common problem, make sure to use the correct energy units, says Gilmer. Whatever units your energy bill is in, enter those into Portfolio Manager. If your natural gas is in therms, enter therms. "Don't try to convert to a different unit set," Gilmer says. "It will cause you problems."

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  posted on 4/16/2012   Article Use Policy

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