The buildings sector, which includes single and multifamily residences and commercial buildings, uses more energy than any other sector (such as industry and transportation) and accounts for more than 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. Here in Chicago, energy use in buildings is nearly 70 percent of total energy consumption.
Benchmarking the energy use of this sector via regular measurement and disclosure has clear benefits for many stakeholders. Building owners understand how much gas and electricity their properties use and can take steps to reduce wasted energy, helping them lower energy costs and stay competitive. Benchmarking data helps fill an information gap for commercial real estate firms and investors, providing everyone access to the same information. For tenants, benchmarking and disclosure provide valuable data to better understand energy use and make informed decisions.
Benchmarking benefits entire cities, too. Building performance data helps cities strategically meet energy efficiency and climate change reduction goals, by targeting energy efficiency rebates and incentives for buildings that have the most potential for savings. Which is one reason why, to date, several U.S. cities—including Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C, and most recently Boston—have adopted energy benchmarking and disclosure ordinances that require large buildings to benchmark energy use. In Boston, for example, large commercial buildings over 35,000 square feet and residential buildings with more than 35 units are required to report and disclose energy and water usage and greenhouse gas emissions. These cities are leveraging energy efficiency benchmarking, public accessibility to transparent data, and energy efficiency ratings to raise expectations and drive energy efficiency improvements throughout all building sectors.
CNT Energy is no stranger to building performance benchmarking. Since 2007, we’ve performed energy use analysis on more than 43 million square feet of commercial, municipal, and multifamily building stock. We find that benchmarking an individual building’s energy use against itself from year to year provides owners an important gauge to interpret energy use changes over time and to rely less on comparisons to others. Year to year comparisons are also important because building energy use is not static. For example, a sudden increase in building energy use could be the result of a problem with its mechanical systems or an increase in staff or hours of occupancy. Similarly, a decrease in energy use could be attributed to energy efficiency improvements, maintenance changes, or reductions in staff occupancy.
Energy benchmarking, rating, and disclosure are important tools to drive market forces toward investment in improving energy efficiency of buildings. We are proponents of energy benchmarking and are encouraged by the progress we have seen thus far in several cities. In the Chicago region, some building owners have already started benchmarking their building portfolio. We support and encourage other owners to do the same.
Image from Flickr user License borkur.net.