Building Energy Use Benchmarking: A Guide to Compare Your Energy Usage to Peers
Building energy use benchmarking is an excellent way to measure the success of energy efficiency upgrades and improvements in K-12 schools to other facilities. According to the U.S. Department of Energy office of energy efficiency and renewable energy, benchmarking is defined as the process of comparing measure performance within a facility, relative to other similar buildings or modeled structures. Facilities Managers that seek to take advantage of building energy use benchmarking need to understand what's wrong with current benchmarking standards, the benefits of building energy benchmarking, and how to improve it.
What’s Wrong with Current Building Energy Use Benchmarking?
This is a difficult angle to consider when thinking about building energy use benchmarking. Benchmarking allows Facilities Managers to understand the current costs against industry averages, but such averages are generally based on ideal conditions. This creates a deviation between actual and realized energy savings after implementing energy improvements. Furthermore, Facilities Managers may not meet minimum data input requirements, explains the U.S. Department of Energy, including defining the building characteristics and understanding energy consumption.
Building Energy Use Benchmarking Offers Significant Benefits.
Building energy use benchmarking with proper standards considers the historical data for a given facility. In the case of K-12 schools, successful building energy use benchmarking must focus on student impacts, teacher impact, budget impacts, and more. Considering all factors and data is essential to successfully achieve the leading benefits of building energy benchmarking. Top benefits of building energy benchmarking, asserts CIET, include:
- Access to valuable information, including reliable data on energy use and betterment of facilities.
- Increased awareness of energy efficiency among building occupants, encouraging energy-efficient behaviors.
- Establish reference points, enhancing, measuring and reporting good performance.
- Prioritization of improvement areas, decreasing time to ROI and contributing to the immediate improvement.
- Ongoing development of an action plan, reaffirming commitment to energy-efficiency goals and freeing capital for such uses.
- Contributed savings that are energy costs, including maintenance costs, and increasing budget adherence.
How to Improve Building Energy Use Benchmarking.
Building energy use benchmarking is about knowing how to leverage the fewest resources to reap the highest gain. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Energy's ENERGY STAR program has been created to help facility managers achieve this goal. Of course, it is always good to have a few tips to improve benchmarking processes, which may include the following:
- Take advantage of government-sponsored publications, like the ENERGY STAR program. There are thousands of resources available to help Facilities Managers benchmark energy use in their buildings, and the ENERGY STAR program is only one possible avenue. Facilities Managers should consider outsourcing K-12 facilities management standards for benchmarking to experience third parties, like Cenergistic, as well.
- Retrofit facilities with IoT-enabled devices. The easiest way to measure building performances is to know the energy consumption per asset and per location. Debate continues over whether asset level energy managing is cost-efficient in short-term outlooks but understanding the benchmarking data for your facility can help with this decision-making process. If benchmarking data indicates asset level monitoring is right for your facilities, consider retrofitting your facility with IOT enabled devices, capable of transmitting per asset and location-specific data on energy use without the opportunity for human error.
- Implement consistent benchmarking processes. Consistency is essential to the effective benchmarking process, but it is only half of the solution. Benchmarking helps Facilities Managers know what they are doing right, so poor benchmarking results should encourage continuous improvement and lead naturally to the next step of improving energy use behaviors.
- Improve energy use behaviors. The best-laid plans for reducing energy use will fail if Facilities Managers do not understand or connect with students and other building occupants, like teachers, administrators, custodians, and more. In other words, other building occupants play a vital role in determining how energy is used, so sharing benchmarking results in encouraging a culture of energy efficiency is key to success.