Benchmarked, a new energy blog series, examines local businesses who have used EPA’s Portfolio Manager to track energy use.
Company/Property Name: Federal Realty Investment Trust
Name and Title: Chris Brown, Sustainability Manager
How many buildings do you manage?
Federal Realty owns 89 properties nationally, which include over 2,600 tenants in approximately 20.2 million square feet of retail, office space, and 1,500 residential units.
What kinds of building uses are in your buildings?
Federal Realty is primarily known as an owner and developer of retail based properties. Our portfolio is a mix of open air shopping centers and a growing portfolio of transit oriented, mixed-use redevelopment projects that have an integrated mix of office, retail, parking, hotel and residential.
When did your company begin benchmarking?
The management and engineering teams at our office assets were the early adopters of ENERGY STAR and they have been benchmarking our buildings for the past several years. Benchmarking our retail properties is becoming more common; despite retail buildings having different challenges compared to benchmarking other property types. At a retail property, the Tenant is typically responsible for the utility use in their space and Landlord for the common area. Obtaining the utility data for the entire property becomes a logistical hurdle. Thankfully, utility companies are responding to the new regulations and can provide whole building data which allows us to benchmark without having the overwhelming task of gathering the utility information from each individual tenant.
Why did you begin benchmarking?
The office management teams were the first to adopt benchmarking in our building portfolio as a part of their best practices to validate and track the energy performance of the building and the effectiveness of building improvements.
Who has done (in the past) and does (if different now) your benchmarking in Portfolio Manager?
Historically the property managers and engineers were responsible for the data management in Portfolio Manager. Our approach is evolving and we have begun outsourcing the process to create uniformity and consistency of our reporting.
How has benchmarking your energy use changed the way you manage your portfolio? What do you do now that you didn’t do before?
The adoption of benchmarking has not changed the way we approach managing our properties. We are focused on applying fundamental best practices to reduce energy usage and we see benchmarking as a tool to help analyze the effectiveness of our efforts.
Have you done anything that drastically improved a building score? If yes, what?
Operating buildings can be quite complex, so utilizing energy and mechanical professionals for energy audits and retro-commissioning projects is a very effective way to help support the operations teams and to ensure that the buildings are operating efficiently. One of the best projects to highlight score change is at our Corporate Headquarters where we recently installed a new Energy Management System (EMS) and Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) equipment and retrofitted the office lighting. We are seeing the ENERGY STAR score of this building steadily increase as a result, which is great validation of the results of the property improvements.
What building’s energy performance are you most proud of, and why?
There are many good energy efficient buildings in our portfolio to be proud of. Here in Montgomery County, I am consistently impressed by the performance of the collection of buildings at Bethesda Row, our mixed use property in downtown Bethesda. A significant amount of planning and effort was put in to this property by the management team and the result is a well-executed and thoughtful operating and control strategy that addresses energy efficiency across a campus of multiple buildings with residential, office, retail and structured parking uses.
What advice would you give for anyone benchmarking for the first time?
Don’t be discouraged by low scores… Benchmarking is a tool that can help provide insight in to how your properties are operating and in turn reveal meaningful opportunities to reduce energy and save money.