Strategies To Reduce Operating Costs Using Energy Benchmarks
Of course, it's critical to understand where the most energy is being used. Is it in lighting, plug loads, heating, cooling? How is the building controlled? Depending on building size and meter type, hourly energy use data can be obtained from the utility company. If the hourly data shows that the building is consuming almost as much energy at night as it is during the day (and it's not a 24-hour facility), the next step should be figuring out how to turn HVAC systems, lights, etc., off at night. With an energy audit or retrocommissioning, some end uses should be measured, such as lighting loads. Such end-use data collection can be helpful in understanding where the most lucrative opportunities are. Generally reducing energy costs by 10 percent is relatively easy without having to spend capital dollars.
Energy benchmarking may seem like an onerous chore, especially if regulated by local government. However, if used wisely, it could help provide excellent opportunities for saving energy, reducing building operating costs, and improving occupant satisfaction.
Helen J. Kessler, FAIA, LEED Fellow is president of HJKessler Associates, a green building consulting firm in Chicago. She has been the LEED team administrator and sustainability advisor on more than 60 LEED projects. Kessler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once a building's data is entered into Portfolio Manager and submitted, the facility manager could stop there. But that would be defeating the purpose of energy benchmarking, which, ultimately, is to reduce energy consumption and reduce operating costs. The energy benchmarking metrics provided by Portfolio Manager can be a useful first step. For instance, the facility manager can find out how the EUI of the building compares to that of other similar buildings, or to the EUI of the same building a year ago. Another opportunity is to determine whether the building is eligible for an Energy Star label and what it would take to get there. An Energy Star score of 75 is required for the Energy Star label.
Some jurisdictions require energy audits and retrocommissioning, in addition to energy benchmarking. These strategies will help facility managers reduce building energy consumption. Even if the jurisdiction in which the building is located does not require energy audits or retrocommissioning, these strategies are the next steps to understanding how energy is used.