How is Your Building Performing?

April 28, 2021

Rooftop HVAC unit

Example of typical roof-top mounted air handling unit with hot and chilled water piping.

Property condition assessments (PCAs) are a familiar tool for documenting the physical characteristics of a property while also providing estimates for future repair, replacement, and maintenance costs.

But what about energy costs? Monthly energy costs, primarily for electricity and natural gas, but also propane, oil, steam, and chilled water, can be a significant expense, and can vary widely from building to building. So, how do you know if your building (or the one you are looking to purchase) is using more energy than it needs to?

Steam Trend graph

Example chart correlating outdoor air temperature with heating demand.

Until recently, most property owners had relied on an ASHRAE Level 1 or Level 2 energy audit to answer that question. Unfortunately, ASHRAE energy audits are not designed to complement an ASTM E2018 Property Condition Assessment and allow for much latitude as to what is evaluated and what information is reported. Recently, ASTM developed two standards for assessing building energy performance: ASTM E3224-19 Building Energy Performance and Improvement Evaluation (BEPIE) or an ASTM E2797-15 Building Energy Performance Assessment (BEPA). Both standards are designed to complement the information and results ascertained from an ASTM E2018 Property Condition Assessment.  Determining which method to use depends on your goals.

The ASTM E3224-19 BEPIE is intended “to provide a methodology for the user to identify building energy under-performance compared to peer buildings.” The BEPIE process is broken down into two parts: a Screening Assessment (SA) and a More Comprehensive Assessment (MCA).  he SA is similar to an ASHRAE Level 1 Energy Audit and involves calculating the energy use intensity (EUI, kBtu/sf) from past three years of energy bills and comparing that value to the median value of a building of the same type and general location. If the building is underperforming, meaning it is using more energy than the median building, the report will identify improvements which could bring the building’s energy use into alignment with its peers. The MCA, as its name implies, involves more detailed investigation and analysis of the building, similar to an ASHRAE Level 2 Energy Audit.

The ASTM E2797-15 BEPA is intended “to provide a methodology to the user for … reporting of building energy performance information.” The BEPA involves calculating the energy use intensity from the past three years of energy bills and statistically determining the expected range of energy performance. The key difference between the BEPIE and the BEPA is that the BEPA only documents energy performance; it doesn’t compare to any metric nor does it identify opportunities for energy reduction.

CHW use graph

Example chart correlating cooling degree days with electrical energy usage.

So, which one to use? The BEPIE is probably the best choice for most PCAs. This method gives the client an understanding of the building’s energy performance compared to other buildings of similar type and climate and provides an idea of what it would cost to bring the building in line with peers if it’s under-performing – information which can significantly affect the valuation of the property.

The BEPA is most applicable for general disclosure of information about the building’s performance, whether that be for a property transaction or public disclosure requirements. It goes into more analysis about expected range of performance though does not identify opportunities to improve the energy performance.

The BEPIE (or BEPA) is a valuable tool to integrate into a traditional PCA, and most of the required information is already collected as part of the PCA process. Terracon’s experienced team of Facilities professionals is ready to assist you for all your building energy performance needs.

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