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According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, commercial and residential buildings are responsible for nearly 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, with commercial buildings alone accounting for more than $100 billion of energy costs each year. Given the scale of these impacts, the construction industry has a significant opportunity to generate both financial and environmental value by optimizing the energy efficiency of buildings.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program offers free tools, training resources and recognition programs to support the construction and operation of energy-efficient commercial and industrial buildings, as well as the use of energy-efficient products.

Currently, more than 70,000 account holders—including school districts, retail chains and hospital systems—use the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®, an interactive energy benchmarking and tracking tool, to assess the energy performance of commercial building designs and more than 350,000 existing buildings nationwide. This represents more than 40 percent of the nation’s commercial building space.

Commercial and institutional building owners and operators use Portfolio Manager to track energy and water use over time and progress toward performance targets. For 18 common types of buildings, they’re using the tool to calculate a 1-100 ENERGY STAR score reflecting the energy performance of a particular building relative to that of the national population of similar buildings. A building that scores 75 or higher is eligible to apply for ENERGY STAR certification, reserved for the top 25 percent most efficient buildings in the marketplace that also have been verified to meet industry standards for occupant safety and comfort. To date, more than 22,000 buildings have earned ENERGY STAR certification.

In July 2013, the EPA upgraded Portfolio Manager to include a more user-friendly interface, streamlined functionality and enhanced reporting. New features include faster and easier data entry, advanced data-sharing and reporting functions, expanded goal-setting and goal-tracking capabilities, and quick creation of graphs, custom data reports and a variety of template reports.

Portfolio Manager includes built-in calculators and reporting features to assist with measurement and verification of energy performance improvements, as well as planning and goal setting. Users can set baselines and targets for an individual property or an entire portfolio, quickly calculate efficiency gains, compare performance to specific targets and to the national median energy intensity for individual building types, and keep track of improvement projects. Building projects applying for LEED certification must submit whole-building energy and water performance data to the U.S. Green Building Council, and Portfolio Manager is the most widely used platform for doing so.

During the 2013 upgrade, the EPA expanded Portfolio Manager to include new features that enable design and construction teams to demonstrate projected energy performance, annual energy costs and the project’s ENERGY STAR score during the design phase. A project designed to score 75 or above is expected to perform in the top 25 percent of similar buildings nationwide, and certain eligible property types can apply for Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR recognition.

To learn more about Portfolio Manager and create a free account, visit portfoliomanager.energystar.gov

More Ways to Provide Added Value to Clients
  • Support compliance with benchmarking and disclosure legislation. Local legislation in a growing number of cities and states requires all buildings above a certain gross floor area threshold to use Portfolio Manager to track and report energy performance. Service providers can bolster their credibility in these markets—and stay ahead of the curve in others—by understanding Portfolio Manager and assisting clients with compliance.
  • Incorporate ENERGY STAR certified products into buildings. ENERGY STAR products include commercial appliances, windows and doors, lighting fixtures, water heaters and HVAC equipment. These high-performing products are independently certified to save energy without sacrificing features or functionality. By incorporating them into projects at the construction phase, contractors can create added value for clients in the form of better energy performance starting on the very first day of operations. Learn more at www.energystar.gov/products.
  • Become an ENERGY STAR Service and Product Provider (SPP) Partner. SPP Partners include businesses and other organizations that help commercial and industrial building owners to benchmark, improve performance and earn recognition. SPP Partners have credibility, visibility and free tools and resources to help them increase energy performance and bring value to their customers. Learn more at www.energystar.gov/SPP.

Robert Sauchelli is ENERGY STAR program manager at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Nils Klinkenberg and Ashley McArthur are senior analysts at The Cadmus Group, Inc. For more information, email sauchelli.robert@epa.gov or nils.klinkenberg@cadmusgroup.com.

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