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Energy Star and managing a building portfolio

Marc Lefkowitz  |  07/13/11 @ 4:00pm  |  Posted in Clean energy

The Northeast Ohio Green Building Council introduced Energy Star Portfolio Manager, a free online tool for commercial property owners and managers to track and benchmark their facility's energy use at today's Green Building Challenge Session.

"You gain the most value from it as a benchmark tool," said Matt Setzekorn, Principal, Integrated Engineering Consultants. "For example, you can compare how your building operates to similar buildings nationwide, and identify (what part of your operation) has higher than average energy use. It helps target your energy efficiency investment."

Energy Star Portfolio Manager has some fail safes, such as, it ensures that the portfolio of buildings are all operating to code, said Setzekorn, an engineer. It has been effective in reducing energy consumption for his clients, the BP Building and IMG Center in Cleveland.

"It's important to have a (reduction) goal. Where do you want to be? How much better than the national average?"

With the Target Finder aspect, Portfolio Manager makes it possible to do modeling of energy efficiency work as you front load a building or redevelopment project, he added.

Why use Energy Star? For one, buildings are recording 10-20% lower operating costs, said Susann Geithner, Director of Sustainability at HSB Architects & Engineers. This translates to higher value properties (31% for office buildings, according to a study conducted by the University of San Diego in 2010) and 3% higher occupancy rates in certain markets.

Yet, the 7-county Northeast Ohio region has been slow to adopt, with 130 Energy Star buildings registered (as a region, we would be in the company of the Top 25 Energy Star cities). That could change with more institutional and government involvement. Currently, no municipalities in Greater Cleveland have a policy to require their portfolio (current or new buildings) to meet the Energy Star standard.

Cincinnati could serve as a model, said Green Building Council director Michele Kilroy. The city is managing all 80 of its buildings to meet Energy Star.

Geithner, asked about the policies of her native country, Germany, which has historically adopted strong building performance standards, said stormwater is an emerging area for energy reduction. "The city of Munich is now encouraging zero run-off." The U.S.-particularly with the serious drought in the Southwest this year – is finally waking up to "the water-energy nexus," said Laura Steinbrink of Humanity's Loom. With Utility Rebate Programs and Federal Tax Benefits, the shift to Energy Star is a money saving one, usually driven from the top of organizations or from tenant demand. The highest demand for green buildings are among law firms, financial institutions and insurance companies, according to costar.com/JOSRE

See their presentation, "Energy Star, make it work for you."

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