In a previous blog post, Jennifer Chiodo discussed why energy benchmarking is beneficial for everyone, whether it’s for a residential building or a commercial building. Benchmarking allows you as the building owner to not only understand how your building is doing from an energy standpoint over time, but it also compares the building to other similar buildings in its class. Using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager online benchmarking tool, you can monitor a building’s energy usage over time by setting goals and comparing the overall energy use intensity to a baseline year.
I have had the opportunity for the past two years to benchmark the energy usage, both electric and fossil fuels, for a healthcare network, including their larger campuses as well as smaller practices. The initial step for this work was setting up the Portfolio Manager account for each property. This includes filling in accurate building information (square footage, number of full time employees, number of MRI machines, etc.) and setting up each utility meter. Since that initial step was completed, I have been regularly maintaining the accounts by updating utility data and tracking the energy use intensity and the associated Energy Star score (if applicable for the building type).
Next Steps and Opportunities
In addition to the regular utility updates, a big part of this work is monitoring how the accounts are changing each time an update is completed. This is important for both buildings where the facility is actively installing measures that are designed to reduce energy usage, as well as buildings where nothing is being done from an energy standpoint. It either allows the facility manager to see how these measures are affecting the overall building energy usage, or see if a building is increasing or decreasing in performance if no measures are being applied. For buildings where the performance is declining over a longer period of time, we suggest an energy audit service. This will consist of a walk-through to identify opportunities to reduce the building energy usage and overall operating costs. The resulting report will provide an overview of current operations and a high level cost-benefit analysis of recommended measures, similar to an ASHRAE Level 1 Audit.
It’s important to note that Portfolio Manager utilizes a database of buildings that is updated over time. As energy reduction measures are becoming more common, the overall average energy use of buildings is dropping. This means that a building’s energy use intensity may stay the same, but the Energy Star score could drop based on how other buildings in the database are performing.
Beyond Energy Benchmarking for a Healthcare Network
Overseeing the Portfolio Manager accounts for this healthcare network has also provided me with the opportunity to work with the facility on the Practice Greenhealth awards. These awards “recognize healthcare institutions that have made a commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly practices.” I have been assisting with the energy, water and climate categories, in which the applications are designed to utilize a large amount of information that can come directly from Portfolio Manager. I have enjoyed seeing how all of the data can come together and allow this healthcare network to be recognized for its attention to detail on energy use.
Are you curious about how your building measures up to others like it? Get in touch with us for information about auditing and benchmarking your facility.