Benchmarking Energy Usage Lowers Operating Costs

January 22, 2019

Increasingly, municipalities and states are requiring disclosure of energy and water use during commercial building real estate transactions. This trend is creating demand for energy and water usage analysis and documentation, including benchmarking similar buildings and development of recommendations for improvements of potentially under-performing buildings.

Energy analysis performed during the due diligence phase of commercial building transactions is growing in importance and demand. In some geographic areas, it is putting focus on ENERGY STAR certification.

Measuring commercial building utility consumption

For a majority of commercial buildings, energy and water utilities are the largest operating expenses.  Reducing energy and water use can lead to substantial savings for building owners and property managers. By taking a comprehensive approach, Terracon is helping building owners and managers identify areas for improvement and recommend solutions.

To develop benchmarks of an existing building’s energy and water usage, Terracon uses tools such an ASHRAE Level I energy analysis, ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, and Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). Compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy, the CBECS survey is based on a total of more than 9 million square-feet of commercial office buildings. CBECS data for benchmarking is available for bank branches, medical/professional offices, retail stores, hotels, distribution warehouses, financial office buildings, residential halls and dormitories, schools, commercial office buildings, supermarkets, courthouses, wholesale centers, and worship facilities. ENERGY STAR scores are typically based on CEBCS data plus other survey data for data centers, hospitals, senior care centers, water and waste water plants, and multifamily housing.

The results of our energy usage analysis allow a commercial building to be benchmarked in comparison to the usage of a peer group of similar buildings considering location, occupancy, building enclosure, mechanical, electrical, and lighting systems.   The comparison identifies corrective actions or adjustments that will yield the greatest return for the building owner.

Lowering Operating Costs

The results of making improvements in energy consumption can yield significant benefits. For example, the Terracon team performed analyses of a 45,000 square foot, three-story commercial office building built in 1985 in Covina, Calif. The building was a Type B office occupancy with 150-square foot per person and 12-hour per day operating schedule. Features included steel framed structure and roof deck, single pane glass, exterior stucco, R-13 wall insulation, built-up roof with R-20 insulation, and HVAC comprised of packaged roof-mounted DX cooling units and boiler supplying conditioned air through a VAV air distribution system.  Notably, a typical constructed building of sufficient age that would warrant a review and likely see benefit from operational or technology improvements/adjustments.

Our recommended energy conservation measures (ECMs) for this building included:

  • Interior lighting controlled by motion sensors, new packaged roof mounted cooling units, new heating boiler, replacement of lighting with LEDs, replacement of water heaters and plumbing fixtures with high efficiency, low usage types, and upgrading the energy management controls.
  • The annual energy usage and cost of the subject building is high as compared to other buildings in a peer group. The estimated effect of installing ECMs on the annual energy cost for the subject building was a reduction of about $0.68 per square foot, $30,600 or 13-percent.

Whether you’re an owner or a property manager, improving the efficiency and economic performance of your commercial real estate assets is a priority, and in some locales a requirement. Terracon’ s team of specialized facilities professionals provides owners the expertise to comply with constantly changing efficiency standards and energy and water usage disclosure requirements while optimizing the performance of their building assets.


Did you know?

We literally helped write the rules of energy efficiency. With decades of experience in property condition assessments (PCA), Terracon participated in the development of ASTM Standard E2797-15: Standard Practice for Building Energy Performance Assessment for a Building Involved in a Real Estate Transaction.

A comprehensive energy and water usage assessment and benchmarking of this commercial building yielded several ECMs for the owners that would result in major energy cost savings if implemented.

Terracon is experienced in performing ASRAE Level I, II, and III energy studies.

Jeffrey Miller, P.E, is a senior engineer and principal in Terracon’s Houston office. Jeffrey has more than 40 years of experience specializing in mechanical, electrical, and plumbing diagnostics, engineering, and commissioning.

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