Energy Benchmarking – Understanding the Basics

For commercial and institutional buildings, it’s absolutely vital to understand how much energy a building uses, and how better to manage that usage. And while managing energy consumption can be a challenge for various reasons, there is much to be said for planning and implementing an Energy Benchmarking Program. Building owners and property managers can make use of energy benchmarking data to make better, more astute, decisions on overall energy consumption.

The idea behind energy benchmarking is to accurately identify if a building’s energy performance levels are improving or declining. By gauging the building’s energy consumption, management is better able to implement improvement measures. Best of all, once the improvements have been made, it’s easy to monitor and further identify energy performance levels going forward. For those who are already benchmarking, the value proposition of doing so has proven itself.

For those who aren’t benchmarking, Natural Resources Canada is leading the way with a national initiative for building owners and property managers. This is a government directed approach to address two important facets of energy consumption:  the energy performance of a building AND the options for improving that energy performance and efficiency. Clearly, the benefits are both commercial and environmental – it’s a new approach to energy management as a best practice.

For most, energy benchmarking is an internal practice, gauging building performance based on the past performance of the building, or other buildings in the property portfolio. Importantly, regular and ongoing benchmarking provides accurate data that sets the stage for improvements. It means that a poorly performing building can be measurably improved. It means that energy upgrades can be addressed from a return-on-investment (as well as bottom line) perspective.

Based on fact, millions and millions of dollars are being wasted annually by buildings that are not energy efficient. As such, energy benchmarking has proven to be a brilliant energy management tool that can actually enhance a building’s bottom line. To begin with, a poorly performing facility can be demonstrably improved. As well, capital investments (like upgrades and retrofits) can be better substantiated. And finally, savings on energy costs will improve overall profit margins.

Energy benchmarking is key to improving energy performance in buildings both large and small. But at the same time, there are hurdles that often dissuade owners and/or managers to get going. The first step, of course, is to get a better understanding of the benefits of energy benchmarking. This will be instrumental in influencing senior managers to support the initiative in principal and implement some type of program going forward. Once initiated, forward momentum is ensured.

Individual building or portfolio, professional guidance is always preferred with energy efficiency issues. And employing an NRCan Energy Advisor, for example, is a sure-fire approach to initiate a successful Energy Benchmarking Program. Professional Energy Advisors know how to properly collect and assess data; they know how to design and implement an effective improvement program; and they know which upgrades and retrofits will deliver the best return-on-investment.