Energy Benchmarking: Case Studies
Energy benchmarking of buildings is on the rise. Owners and managers of many kinds of buildings—small and large, new and old, from apartment complexes and offices to schools, warehouses, and shopping centers—are measuring their property's energy consumption and taking steps to reduce it.
Benchmarking a building produces rich data, but it doesn't require an advanced degree in engineering. The EPA's Portfolio Manager tool can be used by anyone, free of charge. Many building owners and operators use Portfolio Manager themselves, although some hire consultants to benchmark for them for a low fee.
Below are brief case studies of buildings where benchmarking has led to significant reductions in energy use. That translates to lower costs and helps cities meet sustainability goals. In the residential sector, benchmarking can improve or maintain housing affordability.
The case studies were prepared by Resource Media.
Mercer Court (Capitol Hill)
Bellwether Housing owns and manages 29 apartment buildings that provide affordable housing for more than 3,000 Seattle residents, many of whom are low-income families and seniors. Bellwether aims to keep housing costs as low as possible for its residents, which means keeping energy bills in check.
Through Portfolio Manager benchmarking, Bellwether found that annual utility expenses at Mercer Court were among the highest of all its buildings. From 2007 to 2010, energy costs at Mercer Court had increased by about $300 per unit. The building was a prime candidate for an energy efficiency overhaul.
With assistance from the Enterprise Green Retrofit Program, Bellwether had an energy audit to pinpoint exactly where and how Mercer Court was wasting energy. Then they made some easy fixes, like adjusting the irrigation system, and cleaning dryer vents in the central laundry facility.
The result: 40 percent lower energy use in October and November 2011, compared to the same period a year earlier.
Ten Penn Center (Downtown)
Benchmarking isn't new at the 27-story Ten Penn, but it proved especially helpful during a recent round of energy upgrades. The management could identify quick improvements, such as switching to more efficient lights in some spaces and shutting down a few elevators on the hottest (peak-demand) days.
From 2008 to 2009, energy use in the building increased 17 percent. Since the upgrades it has held steady, and in some years even declined. The building's tenants saved more than $300,000 on electricity costs in 2011.
One Franklin Square (Downtown)
After benchmarking One Franklin Square in downtown Washington, real estate company Hines was able to reduce utility charges by 13 percent in the first three years with no capital changes. Looking at the hourly energy needs of the tenants helped them to implement smart operational fixes that required no financial investment at all.
Thanks to benchmarking, Hines was able to bring down energy consumption in the building by 6 million kilowatt hours per year and push its ENERGY STAR score from a 77 up to an 89. "As utility rates continued to rise, the cost per square foot for utilities [for our tenants] steadily declined," said Mark Jensen, Hines' engineering manager.