What is energy benchmarking?
Energy benchmarking means tracking a building’s energy and water use and using a standard metric to compare the building’s performance against past performance and to its peers nationwide. These comparisons have been shown to drive energy efficiency upgrades and increase occupancy rates and property values. Utility data is interpreted by linking it to building’s characteristics that relate: size, number of occupants, common uses, even localized weather patterns. These details provide a context for the energy and water consumption thus making comparisons over time or with other buildings of the same type much easier.  The City of Houston has chosen ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager, a free software tool developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for benchmarking public buildings in the city. It is also a reporting tool for the Houston Green Office Challenge.

How will my building benefit from benchmarking?
By providing information about a building’s energy use and comparing its performance to similar buildings, energy benchmarking empowers building owners, managers, and other stakeholders to make more informed decisions, identify opportunities to improve energy use in their buildings, and save money. Evidence of these benefits is already available: by analyzing data from over 35,000 buildings that used Portfolio Manager and received an ENERGY STAR score from 2008 to 2011, US EPA found that average energy use declined by 7%. For more benchmarking trends, visit US EPA’s DataTrends Series.

How do I benchmark a building?
To benchmark, you will collect building information and whole-building energy use data for 12 consecutive months, and use it to create an ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager profile for the building. Download this Quick Start Guide for details.

How much does it cost to benchmark a building?
ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is a free online service available to building owners through the US EPA. Soft costs to building owners will include the time needed to collect energy and space use data and to set up a building account. The time to set up a building account is dependent on a number of factors such as: the number of spaces, access to building use information (e.g., operating hours, number of tenants) and access to building plans to assign square footage to usage types (e.g. retail, office or parking). Once all the data is collected, existing staff can benchmark a portfolio of buildings in a couple of hours. After the data has been gathered and entered, it only takes a few minutes per month to maintain your account.

An outside consultant can be contracted to perform the process of collecting the data, setting up the account and entering the data. Costs for this can range from approximately $500-$2000.

If you choose to certify your facility, note that certification is given on an annual basis, so a building must maintain its high performance to be certified year to year. And the information submitted in the certification application must be verified by a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) or Registered Architect (RA) to be eligible for approval. Typically, hiring a Professional Engineer (PE) or Registered Architect (RA) to verify your application for ENERGY STAR certification costs approximately ½ to 1 cent per square foot. View these tips for low-cost verifications.

Note that some consultants may absorb the cost into an improvement project. Discuss options with your providers.

How much will less-efficient buildings have to spend to improve their scores?
A lot less than you might think. No-cost / low-cost measures include: using automated timers and schedules to match hours of building use, residential programmable thermostats, motion sensors for lighting, tune-ups of HVAC systems, upgrading air filters, reducing ventilation on weekends (in accordance with Code requirements), resetting temperature set points on water-based heating and cooling systems, water faucet aerators, and many other energy conservation efforts.

What is an ENERGY STAR building score?
The ENERGY STAR score is a measure of the thermodynamic performance of your building, which is determined by the amount and type of fuel your building consumes. The score is designed to reflect the energy efficiency of the building overall.

What is the ENERGY STAR score?
If your building falls into one or more of the 15 building categories then Portfolio Manager will automatically compare the normalized EUI to the national dataset of that category or mix of categories. Your building then receives a score between 1 and 100. A score of 50 indicates your building is performing at the national average for that building type. A building that has a score of 80 performs in the top 20th percentile of energy performance nationwide, better than 80% of comparable buildings, while a building with a score of 35 is in the bottom 35th percentile. The score provides a standardized way to compare one building against another.

What is ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager?
Portfolio Manager is a free, secure, web-based benchmarking tool developed and maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The program calculates a 1-100 performance score for 15 different building types using a building’s energy use, water use, and characteristics (e.g. size, type(s) of use, number of occupants, etc.) This score allows building owners to evaluate their building’s performance based on scores of similar buildings nationwide. Nationally, Portfolio Manager has become the industry-standard benchmarking tool; over 340,000 buildings have been benchmarked using Portfolio Manager since its inception in 1999, representing over 30 billion square feet, and 40% of the entire commercial building market.

Why should I create an ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager account?
Energy is one of the largest controllable operating costs in facilities. ENERGY STAR offers an easy way to track consumption and measure success when implementing energy efficiency measures. For top performing buildings (buildings earning a score of 75 or higher), it also offers an opportunity to be recognized through the ENERGY STAR building certification program. For Federal agencies and in some areas of the U.S., ENERGY STAR benchmarking is mandatory. Participants in the Houston Green Office Challenge use the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool to
track energy and water use to establish baselines and compile results at the end of the contest period.

How do I access and use Portfolio Manager?
Portfolio Manager is free and easily accessible at EPA’s energy benchmarking site. The easiest way to get started is to download the Portfolio Manager Quick Start Guide. If you are new to Portfolio Manager, it is best to take a live or recorded webinar training for Portfolio Manager (available at https://esbuildings.webex.com) before starting actual benchmarking, or, if available, attend a live training session provided by the Houston City Energy Project.

How do I create a Portfolio Manager account?
Go to https://portfoliomanager.energystar.gov/pm/signup. You will then fill out an Account Information form and your account will be created.

My facility can’t get a score in ENERGY STAR. Why should I participate?
Not all facilities can earn the 1-100 score in Portfolio Manager. If you have one of these non-ratable facilities, you use the tool to measure facility energy performance baselines and set improvement goals; report and track individual building and portfolio environmental impact, costs and energy performance over time; benchmark your consumption with other organizations; monitor energy and water costs; estimate your carbon footprint; earn points toward attaining a green building certification; and gain EPA recognition. See the list of property types that are eligible to receive a 1 – 100 ENERGY STAR score.

What if my building has meters that belong to other customers, such as separately metered tenants in a multi-tenant office building?
To receive a valid score you will need to obtain energy use data for all of the meters in your buildings.

What is an EUI?
Once utility information and basic building characteristics are entered into Portfolio Manager software, the tool calculates the building’s Energy Use Intensity (EUI). EUI refers to the energy use of the building per square foot. In Portfolio Manager, it is expressed in kBtu/sq ft (thousand British Thermal Units per square foot; Btu is a standard measure of energy that fuel-specific units, such as kilowatt-hours or therms, can be converted into). Portfolio Manager normalizes the EUI for local weather patterns using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; this allows the comparison of your building’s performance to buildings of other cities, and allows you to easily make year-on-year comparisons of your energy use. EUI can be expressed as site EUI or source EUI (see below).

What is “source energy” and “site energy”?
Source energy is defined as the total amount of raw fuel required to operate the building(s). It incorporates all transmission, delivery, and production losses to create a complete assessment of energy efficiency of the building(s). ENERGY STAR performance scores evaluate buildings that use all types of energy. Site energy is the total amount of energy in kBtus consumed at the actual building address. This metric will only account for amount metered and consumed on-site. Source energy allows appropriate comparison between electricity from the grid, with natural gas or other fuels that are burned onsite. Consult the EPA’s website for more details.

What is the difference between a kilowatt (kW) and a kilowatt hour (kWh)?
A kilowatt (kW) is a measure of energy (or unit of power), while a kilowatt hour (kWh) is a measure of power (or a unit of energy). The kilowatt hour is a commonly used billing unit for energy delivered by electric utilities to consumers.

What is CBECS?
The ENERGY STAR tool compares your building against statistically representative models. The models rely on information gathered in the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) which is conducted every four years by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The last survey was conducted in 2007, however the EIA announced that it would not be releasing the results of the 2007 survey. New CBECS data will be available in late 2015, when the Energy Information Administration releases the results of its 2012 survey.

How long will it take to benchmark a building?
The time to set up a building account is dependent on a number of factors such as: access to utility bills, the number of spaces, access to building use information (e.g., operating hours, number of tenants) and access to building plans to assign square footage to usage types (e.g. retail, office or parking). Setting up a profile in Portfolio Manager takes just a few minutes, similar to setting up an email account, according to the U.S. EPA. Once all of the data is collected, including 12 months of energy data for the building, existing staff can enter the information into the account. After the data has been gathered and entered, it only takes a few minutes per month to maintain your account.

Where can I find Portfolio Manager trainings?
Viewing a live or a recorded webinar training before actual benchmarking is beneficial. The EPA offers live and pre-recorded ENERGY STAR® webinars at https://esbuildings.webex.com. More resources are available at www.energystar.gov/buildings/training; including quick reference guides and short video tutorials. Additional live training sessions will be offered through the Houston City Energy Project and Houston Green Office Challenge.

What is the Houston Green Office Challenge?
The Houston Green Office Challenge is a voluntary competition for commercial property owners, managers and office tenants that celebrates achievements in greening operations through Mayoral and media recognition. The Challenge also helps participants improve their sustainability and work toward third-party green building certifications such as ENERGY STAR and LEED.

What is the Better Building’s Challenge?
The Better Buildings Challenge is a Department of Energy initiative that brings together corporations, universities, municipalities and other national leaders to make significant commitments to energy efficiency and waste reduction in their facilities. The goal of the challenge is to make American commercial and industrial buildings at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020. Through its participation in the Better Buildings Challenge, the City of Houston is working with local partners to implement initiatives that reduce emissions, protect air quality and save taxpayers money. Municipal facility benchmarking is being done in conjunction with the City’s participation in the Better Buildings Challenge.

Search the ENERGY STAR Buildings FAQs for more answers or to ask a question about using the Portfolio Manager tool.