Thursday, January 6, 2011

Energy Performance Data Published for DC Public Buildings

On December 15, 2010, the District of Columbia published energy performance data for its municipal facilities on a publicly-accessible web site (http://green.dc.gov/green/cwp/view,a,1235,q,463711.asp). The Green Building Act of 2006 and the Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008 established the legislative requirements for the District to benchmark energy use in its public buildings 10,000 square feet or larger. The legislation also established private commercial building benchmarking requirements starting in 2010 with buildings over 200,000 square feet.
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In fiscal year 2009 (October 8, 2008 - September 30, 2009), 194 public buildings in the District were benchmarked against EPA's ENERGY STAR benchmarking database. The results indicated that these public buildings performed "below average" compared to "similar" buildings nationwide. For office buildings specifically, the seven government buildings had energy use intensities (EUI) ranging from 212 - 490 kBtu/sq. ft., with three of the buildings performing above the national average (50% ranking) and none of the buildings in the top quartile.
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The fundamental issue I have with drawing conclusions about comparative energy performance of District buildings is that the buildings are compared to "similar" buildings nationwide without any clear definition of what constitutes "similar." For example, the 2003 CBECS database is used by EPA for benchmarking. This database has less than 700 office buildings nationwide greater than 10,000 sq. ft. Moreover, the number of building characteristics collected to judge "similarity" is relatively sparse. Interestingly, the office building in the District with the highest ranking (just below the ENERGY STAR top quartile) received this ranking despite the fact that there were many "non-functioning" systems!
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The real issue our industry faces is the legitimacy of the buildings being benchmarked against. Are they truly good "comps?" This is particularly important as the District expands its building energy use disclosure requirement to the private sector. There is too much at stake in the highly competitive commercial real estate industry to accept anything less than what is needed to provide legitimate comps for building energy performance benchmarking.