According to the US Department of Energy, buildings account for 40 percent of all energy use in the United States. This sector consumes more energy than either industry or transportation, having surpassed industry as the number one consuming sector over 20 years ago.
Building owners and real estate portfolio managers, in their efforts to optimize building energy performance and sustainability, search for easier ways to reduce their facilities’ energy consumption. Important steps in accomplishing these goals include measurement of their energy consumption baseline, documentation of energy performance data, comparison to other buildings that are similar in profile, and analysis of how energy-saving initiatives and investments are driving positive impact.
Real estate portfolios with 500 to 1,000 sites spread across a wide geographic area are challenged to both gather, process, and analyze energy data. Organizations that grow through mergers and acquisitions, for example, find it difficult to keep their finger on the pulse of the overall portfolio. They are under pressure to rapidly achieve cross-functional business benefits, making sure that they lower the energy costs within their facilities. Such organizations often look to knowledgeable third parties for assistance and use benchmarking to establish and reach their energy consumption and CO2 reduction goals.
Benchmarking sets the baseline for energy performance improvements
Two marketplace forces drive the demand for benchmarking services: a desire to improve operational efficiencies and a need to reduce energy costs. However, achieving success is not easy. It takes some context (in the form of internal and external data) to build both a financial case and an operational business case for solving building portfolio energy consumption issues.
As an experienced building automation systems integrator and Schneider Electric master-level EcoXpert, our company Stark Tech Group has helped to simplify the way building owners benchmark and improve their energy performance.
For example, we recently benchmarked a major real estate company with a presence across multiple geographic areas. They initially felt they had a good handle on their energy consumption situation, but their energy costs were still high. We benchmarked their entire real estate portfolio and provided them with eye-opening information on some buildings that had just received mechanical system upgrades. After performing our benchmarking analysis, we discovered that these very same buildings were among their lowest performing buildings. That information sparked some investigations. It turned out that the control systems within these buildings were operating in an inefficient manner. The company made the decision to launch a training program targeted to building engineers in order to educate them on areas of concern. They also provided their engineers with new control system tools that ultimately helped them to increase efficiencies while driving more value out of their building portfolio.
Analysis of both internal and external data is key
When engaged in a benchmarking exercise, we use a platform that first performs analytics on facility utility bill data. The tool parses out nuances between sites, accounting for different geographies, multiple building uses, and varied occupancies. Map and weather data are also used to perform weather normalization by applying temperature ranges across different regions. The data is then integrated with data points from other comparable buildings, both within and outside of the enterprise. That outside data is obtained through our partnerships with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and with our client base portfolio managers. We are able to factor in real-time metrics across multiple industries, building types and geographies, and use that data to identify energy-saving improvement opportunity areas within their real estate portfolio.
The data we gather allows us to justify the proper measures to take in optimizing the building automation controls, operations and building management systems. While this works for individual buildings, this methodology is even more powerful when analyzing entire portfolios of buildings. We can use the data to identify target sites that very likely represent low hanging fruit.
In addition, if the client requires sustainability reporting, we have a tool that converts the data we have compiled into greenhouse gas emissions metrics and into energy use breakouts. For example, we can indicate how much of the client’s energy came from renewable energy sources. These metrics are often published in sustainability reports to shareholders, customers, and regulatory agencies. We also help the client to set realistic energy consumption and sustainability goals by comparing their building portfolio operations to what is happening within other companies in the marketplace.