Tracking energy use in buildings can be a boon throughout a jurisdiction’s economy.
It is relatively easy to make the connection that tracking and disclosing a building’s energy usage will promote energy savings, but in fact, there are many other benefits that go far beyond simply kilowatt hours. While benchmarking brings building owners’ attention to energy efficiency, resulting in behavioral and operational changes that spur immediate and low-cost reductions in energy consumption, these policies also provide the opportunity for increased government efficiency, job creation, and economic and environmental health.
IMT’s new Benefits of Building Performance Benchmarking report, produced in support of our partnership with the Pacific Coast Collaborative, highlights the positive effects that can be achieved through benchmarking and transparency policies. The report comes at a time when a growing number of jurisdictions in the U.S. are enacting these policies to address a critical information gap. When buildings are uniformly benchmarked—meaning their energy use is measured on a consistent basis—and that information is shared publicly, the real estate market is empowered to consider and recognize the value of energy efficiency.
Evidence continues to suggest that energy benchmarking alone catalyzes the reduction of energy use and thus consumer savings. A 2012 U.S. EPA analysis of 35,000 benchmarked buildings found average annual energy savings of 2.4 percent. The analysis also found that buildings which had benchmarked for three straight years saved an average of 7 percent over the course of that time.
On the local level –
In New York City, researchers found that from 2010 through 2013, benchmarked buildings realized 5.7 percent energy savings, equating to total dollar savings of $267 million.
San Francisco commercial buildings that consistently complied with the city’s benchmarking ordinance between 2010 and 2014 reduced their energy use by 7.9 percent and their source greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent.
A 2015 study by Resources for the Future found that office buildings in Austin, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle that were covered by benchmarking laws spent about 3 percent less on utility bills than control buildings.
As benchmarking and transparency policies have become more common, building owners, tenants, governments, and the public have gained an improved understanding of building energy use. This awareness has already resulted in significant energy reductions and increased demand for energy-efficient properties. As time goes on, U.S. jurisdictions with benchmarking and transparency policies in place will stand to benefit from the even greater economic and environmental benefits that will accompany a fully functioning market for energy efficiency.