The Path to Improvement
Simply tracking your energy, water, and emissions performance won’t improve your operations, but it will provide a springboard to tackle efficiency projects.
An average score is only an indication that a building is struggling with efficiency – it’s up to you to uncover precisely where they may lay.
Some users may have a good idea where inefficiencies lie and their 1-100 ENERGY STAR score may be the last piece of persuasion they need to get funding for upgrades. Others may need the assistance of a consultant or energy audit to identify problem areas.
Many companies can meaningfully improve their score merely by going after classic low-hanging fruit – eliminating inefficient lighting, switching to low-flow water fixtures, adding controls, tightening the envelope, and adjusting set points.
“First target systems or practices that waste energy, such as lighting and equipment use after normal operating hours,” recommends Pitcher. “After those adjustments, review equipment operation and maintenance. If you have high-efficiency equipment yet a low score, this may signify that there’s a problem with the equipment’s size, controls, or design.”
From there, you can prioritize any capital investment projects that require replacement, renovation, or the addition of a major system. A single measure like adding a source of renewable energy or replacing an aging roof can make a significant difference.
Your ENERGY STAR score will also help you track the impact of these collective improvements as you review year-by-year comparisons of your performance. Each time your score increases, you can point to efficiency measures you implemented as the cause.
While undesirable, a falling score is nonetheless a valuable indication that a building needs review. Perhaps set points have drifted and need to be readjusted. It could be time to upgrade key equipment or increase the size of your solar array. A negative change could merely be the result of occupant behavior that has become lax.
No matter how you chose to improve your score, any efficiency projects will have a measurable impact on your utility bills.
“Looking at the user data within Portfolio Manager, we’ve found that buildings that are consistently benchmarked over a three-year period reduce their energy use by 2.4% each year, with poor performers saving even more as they address inefficiencies,” Pitcher notes.
Just remember that a high score doesn’t mean you can sit back and coast – even if you earned a 100, there’s always room for improvement.
The key with Portfolio Manager, or any other benchmarking tool, is to establish your performance baseline and look for opportunities to improve it.
Jennie Morton firstname.lastname@example.org is associate editor of BUILDINGS.