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How Can Building Owners Save Energy And Cut Costs For Tenants?


When today’s tenants look for their next home or office rental, they place high value on spaces that are sustainable and committed to energy efficiency. One way for building owners to show tenants that sustainability is a top priority is by committing to becoming an Energy Star-certified building.

Boland Energy Performance engineer Meaghan Trentacost said that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program allows building owners to measure and track their energy performance within commercial buildings. The score is based on a numerical scale up to 100, with 50 representing the median performance and 75 representing a high-performing building, which is eligible for the Energy Star certification.

Along with Julie Wolfington, energy and sustainability leader at Boland, Trentacost guides building owners through Energy 101, an on-demand class that is structured around the fundamentals of energy, terms and definitions, laws around energy use, and making changes to buildings.

In a conversation with Bisnow, Trentacost said that owners can make the most out of their energy score by understanding how it is calculated and what tools can be used to maintain the score once they’ve achieved it.

Bisnow: What might building owners not know about the Energy Star rating system?

Trentacost: Some owners might not know that the score itself is based on a few factors — the size of the building, the location, the type of property, the number of occupants and even the energy source, such as gas vs. electric. The Energy Star program uses this information to determine how much energy the building would use, and then compares that to its peers. The program then uses the data to generate a score up to 100.

One interesting example is looking at a building that functions as a data center. If a building has a data center, this could potentially influence the Energy Star score positively or negatively based on the way it is listed in Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager software. If the data center is listed as a separate meter within the Portfolio Manager account, this could potentially help its rating. On the flipside, if the data center is not accounted for correctly, its data center energy usage could result in a misrepresentation of the building’s comprehensive usage.

Bisnow: Once building owners achieve their desired Energy Star rating, how could the rating change?

Trentacost: The biggest takeaway here is that once a building has achieved a certain Energy Star score, it is not a one-and-done process. As we know, buildings need to be maintained. It's like getting a new car. The car is going to run its best within the first year, but you can't expect it to run the same way five years later without performing maintenance on it. 

It’s the same way with a building. The equipment and Building Automation System need to be maintained by a trained professional following a scheduled program or through a periodic maintenance contract with a qualified servicer that will help keep everything running smoothly. Preventative maintenance on a building can help reduce the risk of early equipment failure, unscheduled downtime, and other service-related costs.

Bisnow: What tools can owners use to help ensure they maintain their Energy Star rating?

Trentacost: Real-time monitoring, remote services and analytics tools can help. At Boland, we monitor data points and assess analytics to help find hidden behaviors that can cause an increase in energy consumption. If a building has a service contract with Boland and the engineer needs to change the schedule or setpoint, we can help the client take care of that right away, rather than them putting through an override in the control system that can frequently get overlooked.

Generally, having an operation maintenance plan helps buildings maintain their Energy Star certification. With an operation maintenance plan, it ensures that engineers perform periodic reviews of the HVAC, lighting schedules and set points. Making sure that equipment is turned off at the end of each day should be a top priority. Additionally, building engineers or an energy service company can periodically track energy performance over time and make sure that energy is being saved on a long-term basis. 

Adding energy meters to a BAS or energy monitoring system allows an engineer to look at the electrical demand in real time and can modify the schedules if there is an anomaly. This also benefits the building owner because you can see how efficient your equipment is and when it might need to be replaced based on the performance analytics. Correlating your HVAC and lighting to real-time building performance helps give you one more piece of the puzzle to a holistic building solution.

Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager is a great tool that you can use to set your own goals, create a baseline, and figure out where your building is and where you want to be. For example, if your building is showing a score of 47, you can put an energy savings plan in place to reach a score of 75, in order to become an Energy Star-certified building by a certain date or time. Utilizing Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager allows you to keep track and measure as you go.

Owners should focus on building performance and make sure that their building is functioning efficiently as a holistic unit, from the lighting system in the garage to the water treatment solutions within a building. Otherwise, you may find a drop in your score.

Bisnow: What are the benefits of being Energy Star certified?

Trentacost: For D.C. building owners, an Energy Star-certified building will help them comply with a new D.C. building energy performance standard known as BEPS. Secondly, as you can guess, being Energy Star certified will help your building consume less energy and therefore lower your operating costs. According to the Energy Star website, Energy Star-certified buildings use 35% less energy than other buildings and cost about 50 cents per SF less. The last benefit to consider is that more people want to work in healthy and environmentally conscious buildings these days. So knowing that your building is producing less emissions may make it more attractive to potential tenants.

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Boland. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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