Many people are familiar with the ENERGY STAR® ( program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We see the label on appliances and light bulbs and windows when we shop, showing us how much money the ENERGY STAR rated product should save in avoided energy costs over its useful life. We watch and hear television and radio ads from home improvement and hardware stores touting those products.  But how many of us know that one of the most important and most successful of all ENERGY STAR programs is geared toward the benchmarking and performance tracking of existing commercial and industrial facilities?

According to the Department of Energy buildings in the United States account for 36 percent of total energy use and 65 percent of electricity consumption! The ENERGY STAR program for buildings & plants addresses this market, providing recommendations and best practices for both newly designed buildings and existing buildings. Energy efficiency is a huge potential resource for this market.  As stated on the ENERGY STAR website, “energy efficiency is the fastest, cheapest, and largest untapped solution for saving energy, saving money, and preventing greenhouse gas emissions “.

One the great tools the ENERGY STAR program has delivered to the market for owners and operators of buildings is Portfolio Manager. This service provides a means to capture both building attributes and energy consumption data in one common and relatively simple database.  Once this data is entered, the building receives a score comparing it all other similar buildings of its type in the U.S. in terms of energy intensity. Buildings receive a score from 1( the bottom percentile) to 100 (the top percentile), and buildings which receive a score of 75 or more are eligible to go through a fairly straightforward process to receive the ENERGY STAR label, which is typically proudly displayed prominently in the building’s lobby. Watch for it over the next few weeks as you walk into buildings.  Recent studies show that ENERGY STAR rated buildings aren’t only more energy efficient, they are actually considered more valuable.

At Burton Energy Group we are proud to call as clients some of the largest owners and operators of hotels, retail sites, restaurants, and industrial facilities in North America. Our services for many of them include the design and execution of their ENERGY STAR program, ranging from making sure that data gets entered properly into Portfolio Manager (there is an art to it) to labeling their buildings. We often quantify how much money they would save if they improved operating practices and invested in new equipment in poorly performing buildings sufficiently to earn the minimum qualifying score of 75.

Let’s close this point with something to learn more about. There is an emerging trend in ENERGY STAR for existing buildings we are happy to see.  It is the use of Portfolio Manager as a common data entry tool for both utility rebate programs aimed at improving existing building energy efficiency, and for local energy benchmarking ordinances aimed at measuring energy performance of large buildings in select cities, most notably New York City and San Francisco.  That is a topic we’ll address in more detail in a future blog post.