What the Future Holds For Energy Star's Portfolio Manager
Another common error is inputting the wrong square footage. "Know the gross square footage of the facility, not just the net square footage," Bobker says. It also has to be occupiable floor area. For example, an atrium would have to be removed from the floor area, even though it's volume that's conditioned, says Gilmer. Portfolio Manager includes documentation of how to account for such specialized spaces.
Other spaces that require specialized consideration include data centers and vacant space. "If more than 10 percent of the facility is vacant, you can break out that space to appropriately tell the story of how energy is being used in the building," Gilmer says. Interest in accounting for vacant space has really risen in the last year and a half, she says.
On the other hand, what qualifies as a data center seems to be perpetually misunderstood. "A telecomm closet is not a data center," Gilmer says. Data centers usually include racks of equipment, underfloor or overhead air distribution and CRAC units, and are typically more than 500 square feet. When she has had to account for a smaller data center, it has been flagged for further explanation.
Preparing for the Future
In California, the utilities are required to provide automatic data upload into Portfolio Manager. While this is not freely available elsewhere, Thomas has set up his profile to anticipate when it will be available in Austin. He had everything broken back out to the individual meter, naming each by the number assigned to it by the utility.
There is third-party software available that will bridge utility accounts and Portfolio Manager, Gilmer says, usually offered as part of an energy management software suite. However, the typical user elects to upload data manually on a monthly or quarterly basis, she says. Now that his account is set up, Thomas says it takes about a half an hour of data gathering and entry a month to maintain.
At the baseline level, Portfolio Manager provides a means for facilities to benchmark their energy and water usage. But it can also be used to calculate a facility's greenhouse gas emissions and keep track of renewable energy sources, including renewable energy credits.
Recent improvements to the tool have expanded its reporting capabilities and a major upgrade to be rolled out in 2013 is slated to improve the database architecture, system processing, Web services, and user interface, including further improved reporting functionality.
"I just don't know why anybody wouldn't be doing it," Thomas says. "I like to know what my building is doing. It just puts everything in one package, one place, instead of having to dig through a bunch of utility bills."