Lending a hand with energy data: Helping Montgomery County non-profits benchmark through a pro bono program

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure” is the old saying in business circles—the same goes for non-profit management, too. Regardless of the organization you’re a part of, measuring energy use is the first step in making improvements to your building and making your operations more sustainable.

The Montgomery County Benchmarking Law was designed with this foundation in mind and is helping building owners in the county  do just that.

Passed in 2014, the Benchmarking Law requires owners of certain non-residential buildings to collect and gain a better understanding of their buildings’ energy use and then report it to the County via the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool for public disclosure.

Large, non-profit entities are not exempt from the requirement, which means their energy use has to be measured and reported as well – even if they may not have the resources or staff to do it.

To help, the Department of Environmental Protection developed a pro bono benchmarking and data verification pilot program to connect non-profit building owners with volunteer Benchmarking Ambassadors who can lend a helping hand.

These volunteers provided one-on-one assistance to the non-profits so they could understand the annual benchmarking requirements, set up their Portfolio Manager account, complete the data verification requirement, and submit their data to DEP before the June 1st deadline.

The information gathered for the benchmark report can be most useful in helping area churches and other non-profits reduce energy consumption, said Mark Wright of the Christ Episcopal Church in Rockville. The church’s benchmarking verification was completed by EnerCon Solutions.

“The benchmarking data should allow us to more effectively perform the trade-offs needed to make informed decisions about lighting and other projects,” Mark added.



The process of benchmarking can appear daunting because of the bevy of input options that may not be applicable to a particular building, but it is actually fairly simple, said Joe Sparks, operations manager with Cenergetix—who helped benchmark and complete data verification for St. Peter’s Parish and School in Olney, a multi-building church that has been around for almost 120 years.

“It is easier to navigate the benchmarking requirements…with the training Montgomery County has provided to use the ENERGY STAR benchmarking tool,” Joe said.



  The data verification pilot program is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.


Non-profit building owners interested in learning more about the pro bono benchmarking assistance program can email energy@montgomerycountymd.gov to request a questionnaire to get started. Building owners who receive pro bono assistance will be transparently listed in the benchmarking program’s annual report and on DEP’s website.

Here are some success stories from the pro-bono benchmarking process. Take a look!

Built in 1968, the Silver Spring United Methodist Church (www.silverspringumc.org) is a 68,000 sq. ft. facility in downtown Silver Spring housing the church, the Spring Knolls preschool, and the Woodside Childcare Center after-school program for elementary-age kids. Built in 1968, the building also provides space for 12-step groups, neighborhood civic associations, one of the oldest Boy Scout troops in Montgomery County, numerous girl scouts troops, the Silver Spring Camera Club, and more.

“Without the pro bono program, I would have taken at least twice as much time – and twice as much stress – to complete the required benchmarking,” said Aaron Siirila, director of operations.

Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: Montgomery College’s Utilities Team.  
B’nai Israel Congregation in Rockville (www.bnaiisraelcong.org) is a dynamic and inclusive Conservative synagogue committed to the spiritual growth of its members and grounded in the study of tradition and social action. For more than 90 years, the congregation has provided quality programs for children and adults via facility programming and social groups, Sisterhood, Men’s Club, committees and more.

“The agency [we] had the pleasure to work with was extremely communicative, professional, and open to discussion and patient when training me to know the system,” said Pepe Strauss, director of facilities. “If [we] need help in the future, I would not hesitate to contact the team that helped [us] – they were awesome.”

Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: JDM Associates (www.jdmgmt.com)
Jerome Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences (www.redcrossblood.org/learn-about-blood/blood-research) is a Red Cross research land development laboratory in Rockville that investigates transfusion-transmissible infections. The facility has been instrumental in contributing to the body of research that has helped improve the safety of the nation’s blood supply.

  Project Management Enterprises, Inc. (PMEI) met with laboratory facility supervisors multiple times to discuss the benchmarking process and to obtain data and the majority of the first meeting was devoted to properly setting up the Portfolio Manager account, sharing the facility with PMEI in Portfolio Manager, and walking the facility operators through the data inputs and the energy use intensity and score outputs of Portfolio Manager.

  “…They were eager to learn and found the entire process easier as they became more familiar with it.” said Daniel Ackmann, energy program manager for PMEI. “Having a 3rd-party data verifier, in PMEI, complete and submit the information to the county seem to make them more at ease in complying to the county requirements.”

  Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: Project Management Enterprises, Inc. (wp.pmei.com)
St. Peter’s Parish and School (www.stpetersolney.org) is a multi-building church with an original building constructed in the late 1890s. The parish has built around its original site, including the addition of a school in 1956 for children from pre-school through 8thgrade.Youth and adult ministry programs, CYO sports, women’s, men’s and prayer groups are also offered.

“It is easier to navigate the benchmarking requirements with a broader knowledge of how different building types consume energy, and with the training Montgomery County has provided to use the ENERGY STAR portal,” said Joe Sparks, Operations Manager with Cenergetix.

Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: Cenergetix (www.cenergetix.com)
Located in Silver Spring, the Lutheran Church of St. Andrew (mystandrew.org) is a worship facility with programs for children, teens, and families that include health and wellness, global missions, spiritual growth and education, music and fellowship.

“All is going well! We have been ever-vigilant for the past 10 years in not wasting God’s energy from day one in our new property,” said Greg Twombley, chief operating officer and director of music.

Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: JDM Associates (www.jdmgmt.com)
Covenant Life Church (mystandrew.org) is a three-level, 144,000 sq. ft. church and school in Gaithersburg with ministries and programs for children, students, couples, and seniors. The building is open from 7:00AM until 10:00PM, seven days a week.

Having already scheduled the HVAC zones daily, based on changing use, the church has also done a major conversion to LED lighting, both inside the building and on the parking lots and sidewalks with most of the exterior lights on a programmed schedule.

“Some of the information requests were confusing and was glad the people were there to help figure it out,” said Howard Anderson, facility manager.

Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: Project Management Enterprises, Inc. (wp.pmei.com)
 Christ Episcopal Church (www.christchurchrockville.org) holds services and conducts Christian youth and education, outreach activities and pastoral care for about 250 parish families. The congregation manages its Rockville property and church business from a parish house converted from a single-family home next door.

2016 was its first year participating in the benchmarking program. And credits the pro-bono support received as being instrumental in getting them up to speed with assessment and entry of data.

“We are considering a number of energy saving projects, including replacement of existing lights with LED fixtures,” said Geoffrey Fuller, vestry member. “The benchmarking data should allow us to more effectively perform the trade-offs needed to make informed decisions about lighting and other projects.”

Benchmarking Ambassador who provided pro bono services: EnerCon Solutions (www.enercon.com)
  For information about the next building energy benchmarking deadline, visit montgomerycountymd.gov/green/energy/benchmarking.   Story by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges