Benchmarked: A case study from First Potomac Realty Trust

September 23, 2015
  |   Leave your comments

Benchmarked, an energy blog series, examines local businesses who have used EPA’s Portfolio Manager to track energy use.

First Potomac Realty Trust logo

Company/Property Name: First Potomac Realty Trust

Name and Title: Josh Richards, Sustainability Program Lead

How many buildings do you manage?

First Potomac Realty Trust owns and operates over 8 million square feet in the Washington, D.C. area, including 17 buildings in Montgomery County alone.

What kinds of building uses are in your buildings?

Our buildings are primarily commercial office space, including high-rise and suburban business parks.

When did your company begin benchmarking?

First Potomac Realty Trust began benchmarking in 2011 and fully track all utilities for more than 50% of our portfolio.


Redland Corporate Center

Photo of the Redland Corporate Center in Rockville, MD, which achieved LEED Gold certification, and individual buildings in the center have earned the ENERGY STAR labels in 2014 and 2015.


Why did you begin benchmarking?

First Potomac began benchmarking to understand how we use energy at our buildings in an effort to maximize efficiency and deliver better service to our tenants. Utility benchmarking represents a central fixture in our sustainability strategy; through benchmarking, we can understand patterns of consumption and change them to reduce our impact on the environment and the communities in which we work. We strive to deliver transparency and demonstrate our ongoing commitment to a healthy, happy planet.

Who has done (in the past) and does (if different now) your benchmarking in Portfolio Manager?

First Potomac manages benchmarking efforts directly through our sustainability staff, with the support of EnergyPrint for utility bill management services.


440 First Street in Washington DC

Photo of 440 First Street NW in Washington, D.C., which achieved LEED v2009 Platinum certification then was redeveloped and occupied again in 2013. This was the first building in DC to install a direct outside air system (DOAS).


How has benchmarking your energy use changed the way you manage your portfolio? What do you do now that you didn’t do before?

Benchmarking enables us to establish our baseline energy performance at each of our buildings and designate targets for improvement over time. Using benchmarking as a starting point for understanding where our biggest inefficiencies lie, First Potomac has been able to identify opportunities for operations changes and capital improvements at many of our properties to enhance energy efficiency while maintaining or increasing tenant satisfaction. It serves as a tool not only for highlighting opportunities for building-level improvements, but also for demonstrating project need and the subsequent success of projects we implement.

Have you done anything that drastically improved a building score? If yes, what?

As an owner and operator in the commercial office market, First Potomac is nicely positioned to carry out an effective energy efficiency program from planning through execution.

At our Redland properties in Rockville, MD, we have been very aggressive in pursuing opportunities for energy savings. Our projects to date include:
* Upgrades to existing energy management systems (EMS) to include additional functionality, such as optimal start/stop
* Installation of variable frequency drives (VFDs) to domestic booster pumps
* LED retrofit of 4-story, exterior parking garage including daytime sensors
* LED retrofit of stairwell lighting, including dimming ballast with motion sensors
* LED retrofit of all exterior pole lights, wall packs, and ground lighting (ongoing)

We have had such success with the three buildings at this site that each has achieved an Energy Star score of at least 70, with two of the buildings Energy Star Certified in 2015. In conjunction with our portfolio-wide sustainability goals, First Potomac has used this success as a foundation for our pursuit of LEED for Existing Buildings at Redland.


Three Flint Hill Building

Photo of Three Flint Hill (3201 Germantown Rd in Oakton, VA), which was ENERGY STAR labeled in 2015 and earned LEED v2009 Gold certification.


What building’s energy performance are you most proud of, and why?

First Potomac has worked very diligently to achieve a high level of energy and water efficiency across all of our properties. At 840 First Street NE in Washington, D.C., for example, we saw an opportunity to tackle one of the largest energy consumers in our entire portfolio, as well as a building with the highest peak demand of our multi-story office spaces. Though we felt constrained initially by the all-electric nature of the building, we were able to identify both small- and medium-scale projects that a) minimized impact on current tenants, b) leveraged in-house capital improvement expertise, and c) demonstrated a payback of 5 years or less. To date, we have completed 11 total projects, providing an estimated 400,000 kWh and $44,000 in savings, annually.

What advice would you give for anyone benchmarking for the first time?

Benchmarking is an excellent way to understand how your buildings are performing, but it’s only the first step in tackling energy and water efficiency. Leverage your benchmarking success by sharing your results and challenging yourself and your tenants to achieve incremental improvements. Let benchmarking inform your next steps, whether they be conducting in-depth energy audits of your properties or calling in some professionals to add expertise and help with the heavy lifting.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *