I’ve benchmarked my building… Now what?
As the summer rolls on, you may find yourself wondering what to do with the commercial building benchmarking data you reported to DEP earlier this month. If you’re not familiar with the term “benchmarking”, it is the process of tracking a commercial building’s annual energy usage and using a standard metric to compare performance against similar buildings.
In Montgomery County, the Benchmarking Law requires that all commercial buildings, 50,000 square feet or greater, to submit their annual energy performance to DEP using the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. Using this benchmarking tool, a commercial building receives a calculated energy use intensity number (how much energy is used per square foot). A building can also receive an ENERGY STAR score between 1 and 100—a rating that helps building owners compare their building against similar buildings across the country. These comparisons give owners a sense of how their properties stack up against other similar buildings.
After sending in a benchmarking report, some building owners may be unsure of what to do about their energy performance score—maybe it wasn’t as good as expected and there is room for improvement. Other building owners may be pleased with their results, but don’t know how to best promote it.
If you’re one of those building owners or managers, keep reading to find out more about resources available to you and how to rock the rating next year.
Ways to Boost Your Score:
Getting a handle on commercial energy use can be tricky. ENERGY STAR reports that 30% of commercial energy is wasted, but with so many tenants and businesses using the building at a time, it can be difficult to pinpoint what is eating up so much energy.
1. Get an Audit
If your benchmarking performance isn’t as good as you’d hoped but you don’t know what to improve, DEP suggests getting an energy audit for your building. This comprehensive test analyzes your monthly energy consumption and assesses the systems and utilities of the building to find problematic areas. Auditors provide reports on building performance, as well as provide recommendations for which areas need the most improvement.
Your energy utility company may offer assessments for both large and small commercial buildings at a discounted rate (some are even free!), or you can hire a certified contractor to do the job. Learn more about energy assessment options on DEP’s website.
2. Know Your Incentives
Energy utilities serving Montgomery County (Pepco, BGE, Potomac Edison, and Washington Gas) offer a wide variety of incentives for commercial customers who want to make energy-saving changes to their buildings. These incentives and discounts are offered as a result of the EmPOWER Maryland Act and are a great way to save energy and money. For examples, buildings can upgrade to LED lighting or retrocommission existing building systems.
Talk with your energy provider to learn about the full extent of the programs they offer and which changes might yield the biggest energy savings (and, as a result, pay for themselves over time).
You can also check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency to learn about other state, federal, and private incentives available.
3. Invest in an Upgrade
Perhaps you have ambitious energy projects in mind for your building, but are hesitant to move forward due to high upfront capital costs. Montgomery County’s Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (C-PACE) is a remedy for that.
Offering up to 100% financing for projects aimed at renewable energy, energy efficiency, and water efficiency, the County’s C-PACE program wants to take away some of the barriers to going green. The loan is paid back as a surcharge on your property tax bill, and the program allows for an extended payback period. Investing in energy-saving building upgrades means energy bill savings, which can offset the long-term costs of the improvements.
Check out the C-PACE website to see which types of projects are eligible for financing.
Ways to Celebrate a High Score:
You may have made major improvements to your building, earned a great score, and are now looking for a way to celebrate.
1. Show Off Your Building
If you earned an ENERGY STAR score of 75 or higher, your property can become a certified ENERGY STAR building, complete with an exterior logo. Learn more about the certification process at ENERGY STAR’s website, and click here to find out about the perks of becoming certified.
2. Go a Step Further
Achieving the ENERGY STAR certification is one of the stepping stones to achieving LEED certification for your building through the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED buildings are more sustainable, healthier for tenants, and can save building owners money in operating expenses over time.
3. Put Yourself on the National Stage
Having a high-performing building also means you can achieve national recognition. The Better Buildings Challenge is a nationwide movement by businesses and organizations to reduce commercial building energy usage by 20% in the next 10 years. Participating companies work together and share ideas and models for energy savings, and companies with outstanding progress can gain recognition from the DOE.
The Better Buildings Challenge aligns small and large companies — along with banks, schools, municipalities, and manufacturers — as they work for a common goal. Participating is a great way to send a message to consumers about your organization’s priorities.
4. Get Some Local Publicity
If national recognition isn’t in the cards right now, you can still get some local fanfare through Montgomery County’s own Department of Environmental Protection. If you have an energy story you want to share—a massive jump in your ENERGY STAR score, an innovative energy saving project you’ve just completed, finally reaching your energy savings goal—we want to hear about it!
DEP Wants to Help You Save Energy!
Overall, we hope the benchmarking process was a positive experience that helped you better understand your energy use. We also hope that our solutions for what to do after benchmarking have given you the tools you need to move onward and upward. Going green shouldn’t be daunting for businesses—it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, saves money, and increases economic vibrancy.
Take some time to explore your energy-saving options today and get ready to send your benchmarking score off the charts next year! If you have any questions about ways to save energy in your commercial buildings, please let us know!
By Liz Scanlon, intern in the DEP Office of Sustainability.