“It’s always a pleasure to be in a smallgroup environment,” said Michael Zatz chief of the market sectors group for EPA. “I’ve enjoyed the presentations, but more importantly, the networking and discussions. I’ve learned a lot from the people at this event. This will definitely help the ENERGY STAR program.”
Zatz was in attendance at the Energy Summit to deliver a presentation on ENERGY STAR and its future impact on the apartment industry, as well as the strong momentum on Capitol Hill toward benchmarking the energy use of apartment dwellers in the years ahead.
EPA is about to launch a new 1-to-100 score as part of its ENERGY STAR commercial program specifically for multifamily properties.
“What we’re really looking to do,” says Zatz, “is get people excited and interested so they are prepared for the launch of the score which will come in the early fall of 2014. I’m delighted to give those in multifamily a preview. We are relying on them to become engaged, get the word out, and be ready to use that score when it becomes available.”
ENERGY STAR has certified billions of square feet of space across thousands of commercial buildings as being among the most energy efficient in the country.
The ENERGY STAR program helps property owners and managers reduce energy consumption through a holistic approach, says Zatz. The program’s success comes from following a staged approach known as the Guidelines for Energy Management, which includes benchmarking to identify properties with the greatest potential for improve ment, and advocates operations and maintenance improvements, behavioral change, as well as technology upgrades and retrofits.
The cornerstone of the ENERGY STAR program is benchmarking, and buildings that consistently benchmark energy use have saved an average of 2.4 percent per year, said Zatz. If all commercial buildings in the U.S. followed a similar trend, over 18 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents could be saved each year.
Many multifamily owners and operators have not benchmarked the energy performance of their buildings. And while the ENERGY STAR program recommends benchmarking the whole property, owners and operators wishing to do so frequently lack the energy data for the whole property since residents often pay some or all of their own utility bills. Thus, they have little or no access to building energy-performance information that can help shape real estate decisions. This lack of information hampers the ability of legislators, utilities and lenders to influence the development of policies, incentives, and financial vehicles to advance energy efficiency.
This critical shortage of information about building energy performance has prevented property markets from valuing energy efficiency and severely undermined both public and private efforts to increase the energy efficiency of multifamily housing.
Launched in 2000, ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is a free online software tool that helps multifamily owners and managers track the energy and water performance of their properties, as well as track changes in energy and water use, costs, and greenhouse gas emissions. As of December, 2013, more than 19,000 multifamily properties have been benchmarked in Portfolio Manager says Zatz.
The ENERGY STAR 1-100 score, accessed within Portfolio Manager, provides an easy assessment of the energy performance of a property relative to that of its peers from across the U.S. It takes into account differences in physical and operating characteristics, as well as weather, to provide this national comparison. EPA is finalizing the 1-100 score for multifamily, and anticipates releasing this new metric in Fall, 2014. The release of the score will also allow existing multifamily properties scoring 75 or higher (placing them in the top 25 percent of multifamily properties in the country) to earn ENERGY STAR certification.
The ENERGY STAR score evaluates a property based on it’s actual, billed energy use for the entire property. It is calculated by comparing a property’s predicted energy use (estimated based on the physical and operating characteristics of the property) to its actual energy use. It doesn’t sum the energy used by individual pieces of equipment, evaluate buildings relative to others in the Portfolio Manager, or adjust based on technology choice or market conditions (such as energy price). Furthermore, it is meant to explain how a property performs, not why it performs that way. For information on why a property performs in a certain way, EPA suggests an energy audit as the most appropriate activity.
EPA hopes to encourage multifamily businesses to develop a strategic approach to energy management, while conveying information about energy performance in one simple metric that can be understood by all in the organization, as well as residents. Such data will also be valuable in future infrastructure planning and assessments.
Still, the person benchmarking a building in Portfolio Manager needs to get that data somehow, and then they enter it into the tool. In some cases, they get it from multiple utility bills. In other cases, where available, the utility will provide them an aggregate number for the entire building that includes all of the common area and resident units. In others, the property is master-metered and so the operator already has this data.
However, in many cases in multifamily, none of these situations exist and the owner/operator can’t get the whole property data. This is the single biggest barrier to benchmarking in multifamily, and is one that many people are working hard to try to overcome. It is going to take effort and time.
At present, several organizations electronically exchange data with the EPA through Portfolio Manager. The first of the multifamily utility billing providers to adopt and provide an automated direct interface with its data with the agency, NWP has been part of the program for about three years. Through this exchange, both companies deliver energy performance scores and metrics to its customers, and streamlined access to ENERGY STAR benchmarking. This simplifies continuous energy management across a portfolio or properties.
“It’s been a great meeting. NWP has been an active partner in promoting the work EPA is doing in multifamily,” concluded Zatz. “We look forward to working with NWP and with NWP’s customers as we launch the ENERGY STAR score and work to get our first ENERGY STAR-certified multifamily buildings through the ENERGY STAR commercial buildings program.”