Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Return of CBECS Funding Urgently Needed

There is a real need in the commercial real estate industry for the return of the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) funding. If you recall, on April 28, 2011, DOE announced that due to budget cuts work on the 2011 CBECS was suspended. They also announced that they would not be releasing the 2007 CBECS results. This means that the industry had and continues to have no choice but to rely on the last published survey in 2003, an information baseline that is almost ten years old. There is no question that much has happened with building energy use since the 2003 survey. To use data this old in benchmarking can only call into question any conclusions drawn. The industry not only needs CBECS, but needs it to be expanded to include many more buildings.

Benchmarking in EPA's Energy Star Portfolio Manager, for example, relies in large part on CBECS data. By any statistically supportable measure, the number of buildings relied upon by EPA in their benchmarking is wholefully inadequate. For example, Energy Star Portfolio Manager relies on only 498 office buildings (bank/financial/courthouse) located throughout the country to establish the office baseline for benchmarking; only 182 retail buildings (other than malls); only 83 grocery/ supermarkets (of which 49 were from the 1999 CBECS); only 142 hotels; and 277 warehouse/storage buildings. It is not difficult to see why building owners with these property types who understand this significant limitation can call into question benchmarking results they receive, particularly if their buildings are located in areas where there are building energy performance disclosure regulations. Too much is at stake in this highly competitive marketplace to rely on anything but absolutely unassailable data. We as an industry need CBECS to continue and need it to be expanded to include many more properties in each commercial real estate property type category. Action is needed to restore CBECS funding, and needed now!


peter cashman said...

This is in fact stunning data. How can such a limited set of buildings be statistically accurate as a basis for benchmarking??

You are right DOE and EPA need to get this going and get it right.

Tony said...

The fact is that data on many more buildings need to be collected in order to have confidence in any benchmarking relying on the CBECS data. Rather than CBECS surveying just a few thousand buildings, they would need to survey tens of thousands of buildings.
Unfortunately, this would be expensive. Anyway, it is a mute issue since there is no funding for CBECS at this time. Moreover, it probably will be difficult to get funding in these terrible economic times and with the massive effort needed to reduce the country's debt!