Most corporations are well equipped to track cash expenses like business lunches, office supplies and travel, and they can identify ways to save on those costs. But when it comes to an issue like heat energy loss from the building, unless they have a trustworthy energy benchmarking system, those savings may be literally escaping out the doors and windows.
Energy benchmarking is essential for understanding your building’s energy consumption, benchmarking it with peers and to making efficiency improvements. Afterall, you cannot manage what you don't measure, and if you don't measure your current utilities spend and normalize the data based on occupancy and weather variables, you may not be able to clearly understand what energy efficiency opportunities exist at your facility.
Similarly, by comparing your data to other buildings, or a portfolio of similar buildings, benchmarking can also provide an opportunity to identify anomalies and better understand the effectiveness of your onsite building operations team.
So how do you get started with energy benchmarking to improve your building management? Here are some key ways to get your own program off the ground.
The Hallmarks of a Good Energy Benchmarking Platform
A good benchmarking platform enables a repeatable and structured method to capture energy consumption, benchmark performance against peers, conduct analysis, develop strategies to implement improvements and track on-going initiatives
Industry-leading solutions will also display all of this information in user-friendly dashboards or interfaces, which allows engineers from different buildings in the portfolio, or even within a building, to monitor trends, compare performance against regional and industry standards and identify opportunities to increase efficiency. Not only will this support the development of short- and long-term energy savings programs, but it can support the process of documenting the return on investment of each initiative.
Benchmarking Energy Usage
Energy benchmarking is the process of measuring a building’s energy use, then identifying buildings of similar size, age, occupancy and construction, among other variables, to compare your own building’s performance and inform potential improvements overtime. Benchmarking can also be required by regional or jurisdictional standards, ultimately to create a set of targets to strive to achieve with your own energy usage.
Track Important Data Points
To begin, facility managers need to establish a baseline that captures current state energy use, at both the entire building scale as well as on a floor by floor basis. Depending on how space is utilized, the baseline can even be captured for a certain zone on a single floor.
As data is collected, engineers will categorize it accordingly, such as lighting, plug loads, occupancy loads and energy usage from outside sources such as fountains and water features. The usage data can then be charted over a base period of 12-18 months, which will become the baseline in which to measure and, ultimately, fine-tune energy efficiency initiatives.
Once the energy benchmarking program is established, this process of capturing a baseline and tracking data will be on-going.
Analyze and Execute Strategy
Next, facility engineers can run data and cost analysis, begin to identify trends and flag potential areas of improvement. As this process is iterative, this is also the stage where the performance of any energy-saving initiatives already initiated will be monitored and refined.
The analysis should try to project out future energy use or note variables that can cause significant deviations that could alter the data. These questions could include:
- How does that usage and rate change over time due to factors such as seasonal changes and building activity?
- Are there certain events or special uses for this space?
- What percentage of electricity, gas and solar are used to power the building?
At this point, one immediate step engineers could take, for example, is to compare electrical usage on a month-over-month basis through a utility provider. Installing sub meters throughout a building (or building portfolio) to help segregate your occupancy load versus your mechanical load and better pinpoint problem areas inside a structure. A comparative benchmarking study of a building portfolio can also quickly identify inefficiencies and expedite repairs, saving companies tens of thousands of dollars annually.
Look for Expert Guidance
Facility management services with national networks offer additional benchmarking advantages. They can track and compare buildings of similar makeup and age. Engineers operating similar structures can compare data between locations and document discrepancies, potentially accelerating the time needed to discover and address energy inefficiencies. Some national companies have even instituted awards to encourage staff to find ways to save energy across multiple maintenance sites, creating a dynamic well of information for individual businesses to draw upon.
Energy Benchmarking in Motion
Energy benchmarking is not a static endeavor. Tracking methods and technologies are evolving, and changes in environmental requirements and regulations may require adjustments, too. It's vital for a facility management firm to compare and contrast beyond its operational scope to ensure its current and competitive data tracking.
Able Services is well-equipped to handle these tasks. Our national reach and personal approach provide each of our clients an instant database to draw from, saving time, money and hassle. We can tell you where you stand, and show you how to improve—and we’ll be at your side every step of the way.