Building energy benchmarking, or the process of evaluating your energy consumption against industry benchmarks, can save municipalities thousands by identifying which buildings should be optimized. City officials and facility managers can use benchmarking tools to compare what their building would use if it was built to the current energy code, to their peers from around the country, to ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, and to their previous energy use (weather normalized). Energy benchmarking helps municipalities identify and resolve the most critical inefficiencies first to maximize savings. Over time, officials can benchmark against historical data and determine new or emerging efficiency gaps within their buildings.
But to use an energy benchmarking tool effectively, officials and facility managers need to identify the most critical key performance indicators from the benchmarking report to optimize performance and generate substantial cost savings. Let’s break down these key performance indicators and what they mean for municipalities.
Cost PainPoints & Savings
Perhaps the most significant KPI for municipalities and public organizations is economic viability. With a benchmarking tool, officials can easily determine whether a building is underspending or overspending compared to historical data and the engineering benchmark, code-level building.
To assess the economic health of your building, contextualize the following metrics:
Energy costs. Evaluate your energy costs by energy type, and look for monthly trends or significant cost changes.
Potential Savings. Robust benchmarking tools should calculate potential savings for you. Use this metric to easily identify budgetary leaks. B3 Benchmarking allows users to Benchmark by fuel stream and end-use, so you can identify detailed savings opportunities within a building.
Now more than ever, citizens expect their cities to invest in sustainability efforts to improve their communities and livelihoods. Additionally, sustainable, energy-efficient buildings reduce costs in the long term in the form of consumption savings and longevity.
To evaluate the environmental impact of your buildings, consider:
Carbon Emissions. A key metric in determining a building’s environmental impact is carbon emissions. Use the carbon emissions metric within your benchmarking tool to compare your carbon footprint to similar buildings.
EUI. EUI, or energy use intensity, is a measurement of a building’s energy use proportionate to the building’s size, function, etc. EUI is the basis of the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. For municipalities, this metric can help officials compare energy efficiency between apples and oranges (a fire station vs. a city hall).
At the end of the day, the determining factor for energy spending is consumption. Generally speaking, buildings that consume more will cost more. But without the right benchmarking tool, your team may not be able to accurately account for consumption.
Use the following metrics to gauge your energy consumption levels:
Baseline. Most benchmarking tools will have a “baseline” metric so you can easily track increases or decreases in energy consumption.
Benchmark Rating. Willdan’s B3 solution includes a B3 Benchmark Rating, which aggregates performance against B3’s benchmarks. The system benchmarks 98% of public portfolios, allowing for more accurate comparisons.
ENERGY STAR Score.ENERGY STAR Score is a metric from the EIA that measures your building’s energy performance 1-100 against buildings nationwide. A score of 50 is considered benchmark performance. Energy Star Scores give officials a bird’s eye view of their efficiency–and potential–compared to thousands of similar buildings.
Municipalities cannot afford inefficiency. Energy benchmarking solutions empower officials to quickly identify optimization opportunities to significantly reduce cost savings and improve performance.
B3 Benchmarking is a cloud-based software application that collects, stores, manages, and analyzes usage data for sites and buildings. B3’s algorithms go beyond statistical benchmarks and scoring to provide more insight into a wider range of buildings. B3 integrates with and expands upon ENERGY STAR(R) Portfolio Manager(R), pairing usage data and basic building information with real-time energy simulations, providing analysis of carbon, energy costs, and energy use intensity (EUI) by month, fuel stream, and major end-use. To learn more about how B3 can accelerate cost savings and transform building efficiency, request a demo with our team.
How confident are you that you’re maximizing your results from energy benchmarking? Organizations of all sizes can benefit from energy benchmarking, which can save you thousands in reduced costs and improved energy efficiency.
By enhancing reporting, tracking, and visibility into building energy performance, benchmarking helps organizations easily identify potential cost savings opportunities. But many organizations miss low-hanging fruit by focusing on the wrong metrics. In this article, we break down why it’s important to optimize energy benchmarking, common mistakes, and how to ensure you’re maximizing your results.
Comprehensive Energy Benchmarking
It’s critical that you take a comprehensive approach to energy benchmarking and ensure you aren’t missing out on potential savings. By initiating an in-depth review and analysis, you can be confident the organization has:
Identified critical maintenance needs
Complied with government mandates and regulations
But comprehensive benchmarking can be complicated. Some common roadblocks to an optimized energy benchmarking process include:
Prioritization. Without the right tools, it can be difficult to identify what changes should be prioritized, leading to nothing–or the wrong action–being done.
Data Organization & Clarity. Especially for organizations with multiple buildings, organizing your data in a way that paints a clear picture of your savings opportunities can feel impossible. B3 recommends developing a list of KPIs to help weed through the data.
Overwhelming Initiatives. Some of the greatest potential cost savings opportunities may overwhelm teams or be impossible to initiate in the short term.
Common Energy Benchmarking Mistakes
Perhaps the most common mistake when energy benchmarking is only focusing on the largest buildings. As demonstrated in our resource developed by B3 experts, there is not a high correlation between building size and savings potential. In fact, small buildings often have huge gaps in efficiency because they are not as dutifully managed. Likewise, small buildings may have more “low-hanging fruit” that your team can implement quickly to improve building efficiency.
Related to building size, total energy use is not an effective measure for determining potential savings opportunities. More often than not, high-energy use buildings are already optimized and in line with building codes. As displayed below, energy usage is only an indicator of savings potential 36% of the time. If your team is only focusing on this metric, they will miss energy savings opportunities 64% of the time.
Going a step further, many teams will analyze energy use intensity (EUI) to determine the greatest potential savings. Energy Use Intensity is a measurement of energy efficiency within a building. Despite this, an EUI score above a certain threshold can be a misleading indicator of potential savings. For example, our experts found that above 50 kBtu/sf, EUI is not an accurate measure of energy savings potential. Notably, EUI can help filter out buildings below 50, which typically have limited savings potential.
Solely focusing on ENERGY STAR Score is another red herring for energy management teams. ENERGY STAR Score is an EPA-backed measurement of building energy efficiency that illustrates how your buildings compare to “neighbors” and buildings with similar characteristics. While ENERGY STAR Scores are valuable, we found that even buildings within the top 25% of scores among peers can have high savings potential.
Implementing Comprehensive Energy Benchmarking
The best way to ensure you are maximizing the results of your benchmarking is to use benchmarking software. Robust benchmarking software empowers your team to holistically review data, easily identify and prioritize key performance initiatives, and benchmark performance against peers.
ENERGY STAR Score is an EPA-backed measurement of building energy efficiency that illustrates how your buildings compare to “neighbors” and buildings with similar characteristics. On a scale of 1-100, your score helps anyone in your organization determine your building’s general energy performance. While your score quickly summarizes building efficiency, it does not explain why your building is overperforming or underperforming benchmarks.
Because ENERGY STAR scoring gives a bird’s eye view of efficiency and consumption, it can be challenging to uncover the best tactics for improving your score. Despite this, there are many benefits of improving your score.
Benefits of improving your ENERGY STAR score include:
Significant Cost Savings. By improving consumption and efficiency throughout your building(s) and thereby increasing your Score, you can significantly reduce costs associated.
Long-Term Sustainability. Improving your building’s efficiency can also improve the resilience of your building in performing through unexpected weather conditions, disasters, and general wear and tear over time.
Obtaining a Clear “Snapshot” of Success for Stakeholders. Increasing your Score over time can demonstrate the success of your sustainability, consumption, or efficiency efforts to stakeholders and senior management.
Eligibility for ENERGY STAR Certifications. The Environmental Protection Agency offers opportunities to earn certifications and partnerships based on your building performance. These achievements can then be used for marketing collateral or brand reputation building.
We’ve put together a list of the top tactics to improve your ENERGY STAR score over time and reap the full benefits.
Set Clear Goals
Most successful projects start with a plan. A good tactic for improving your ENERGY STAR score is to set clear goals. In the new year, set organization-wide commitments to sustainability, energy performance targets, and new strategic initiatives that can improve efficiency.
For example, make it a goal to install energy-efficient lighting throughout an entire building by the end of 2023. Or, commit to an energy audit to improve efficiency. Most obviously, set a goal for what you want your score to be. The certification threshold is 75, so consider setting a goal of at least 75.
Goal setting can help you make more consistent improvements that will improve your ENERGY STAR score over time.
Use Contextualized Data
Reviewing your utility bills does not give you a full picture of consumption excess or conservation due to a common roadblock:
Your utility bill is not calendarized. Consumption and cost information typically covers a range of days that is not in line with a monthly calendar. Instead, your utility bills may cover a range of dates spanning across multiple months, i.e. January 15 – March 15, 2022. This can stifle your ability to compare consumption with internal monthly trend reports across your building. For example, a foot traffic report in February compared to March.
To better identify opportunities for improving efficiency, and therefore your ENERGY STAR score, you should review your utility bill with as much context as possible. By “calendarizing” your utility data, you can reevaluate your energy use data within the context of building foot traffic, behavioral trends, or external factors such as extreme weather conditions and temperature waves.
Review In-Depth KPIs
Along with goal-setting, you should also review other key performance indicators to improve your score. As mentioned, the EPA scoring system does not give a clear picture for where your organization’s efficiency gaps actually are, which means you cannot solely rely on the ENERGY STAR scoring model to improve your energy use.
At B3, we recommend benchmarking against the following KPIs to improve your energy efficiency and score overall:
Total energy costs
Total carbon emissions
Energy use intensity
Your building’s historical consumption baseline
Benchmark performance compared to similar buildings
These key performance indicators can help you quickly identify and resolve any efficiency gaps within your organization. You will need a robust energy benchmarking tool to accurately and quickly analyze these KPIs.
Invest in Energy Management Software
The most effective way to improve your ENERGY STAR score is to invest in comprehensive energy benchmarking software. Energy benchmarking software helps organizations across industries seamlessly integrate with Portfolio Manager to gain a more granular view of performance and efficiency gaps.
B3 Benchmarking helps businesses across industries–from property owners to municipalities and educational institutions–compare their buildings to historical data and similar buildings nationwide. Seamlessly integrating with your Portfolio Manager, B3 provides substantially more data-driven insights than Portfolio Manager can provide. B3 integrates with and expands upon ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, pairing monthly utility data and basic building information with real-time energy simulations.
B3 paints a clear picture of where any organization can save the most energy, ensuring your improvement team’s time and resources are dedicated to the greatest potential savings. To learn more about how B3 can help you meet your goals, improve your ENERGY STAR score, and transform your building efficiency, request a demo with our team.
B3 Benchmarking was used by the Minnesota State College and Universities system to help reduce overall energy consumption by 20% among its 54 campuses located throughout the state (28.5M SF total) by the year 2020.
B3 Benchmarking helped Minnesota State College and Universities achieve this reduction by:
Prioritizing and executing energy audits and recommissioning work across 33 campuses
Prioritizing building project repair and replacement based on guaranteed energy savings, thereby freeing up money for other potential projects
Willdan worked with the New York City DCAS to create an action plan to achieve Local Law 97 (LL97) Emissions Reduction targets and break its dependence on fossil fuels. In early 2022, Willdan completed the development of New York City’s LL97 Implementation Action Plan to assist New York City government in meeting their Emissions Reduction Goals. Passed in 2019, LL97 is among the most ambitious climate legislation in the U.S. and mandates unprecedented, near-term greenhouse gas emissions reductions for New York City’s portfolio of government and private buildings.
B3 Benchmarking, along with the NEO® software platform, rapidly and efficiently modeled and benchmarked 4,000 City buildings for evaluation to help meet the LL97 goal to reduce emissions 40% by 2025 and 50% by 2030, compared to a 2006 baseline.
The benchmarking results support the City’s multidisciplinary approach to decarbonization planning and plan development to provide insight on technical feasibility and technologies to optimize nearly $4B in future energy improvements for City buildings.
Similar to energy, actual water usage is compared to calculated expected water usage to determine an index ratio and provide the new B3 Water Benchmark. A building’s occupant count and additional indoor water use details are used to calculate the expected indoor water usage. Expected outdoor water usage for the new B3 Water Benchmark is calculated by taking the square footage of irrigated area along with outdoor water use details. These new water related attributes are in the building editor Details section on a new Water tab.
If water usage has already been entered, just a couple more bits of information is all that may be needed to display the new water benchmark. A water benchmark error will be displayed leading users to turn on the respective water types and enter occupant count and/or irrigated area depending on which water meters have been defined. Since water benchmarks are dependent on a couple of key building attributes that were not previously required, there may not be enough qualified peers in a given pool of similar building types to provide B3 Water Peer Ratings right away. As more buildings enter occupant counts and irrigated areas, the peer pool will more accurately report peer ratings.
The B3 Dashboard has many enhancements, largely to support the new water benchmarks and peers. The widgets are now grouped to help separate energy and water reporting. The map and metrics widgets can be removed, and users can select multiple versions of the metrics widgets for increased reporting flexibility.
B3 has long supported submeters, where meters are physically in place and usage is measured. Now, a virtual submeter can be added and usage can be allocated from the master meter. Submeter usage can be estimated to be a percentage of the master meter. This may be helpful in campus situations where a meter is shared across buildings and creating an allocated meter with estimated usage allows the separation of sites. Or with renewable energy that is generated at one site, but the organization wants to allocate some of the renewable usage to another site to meet carbon goals.
Two new renewable meter types have been added to accommodate when Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are purchased separate from the energy. This is useful for those organizations that have carbon goals or requirements but are not able to install onsite solar or subscribe to a renewable energy program that include RECs.
As part of our enhanced water integration and improved dashboards, the electric meter type icon has been updated to power lines. The energy bolt is now used on the general scale to represent energy as a whole.
From the Tools menu in the upper right, there is now a User Settings option to easily manage user information within B3. In addition to being able to manage contact information, alerts, and login credentials, users can now define preferences for carbon units (pounds or metric tons), default weather normalization of energy baselines, and displaying of decommissioned sites. Both weather normalization and displaying of decommissioned sites can still be changed within the app, these preferences just set the default actions when logging in. Turning off decommissioned sites now also updates the left navigation tree for a more streamline view.
Other Key Updates
Errors and warnings are now clickable to better assist with resolving issues
New K12 building type for schools that do include all grade levels
Expansion of custom export fields to decipher between energy and water
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