Would you throw away a $100 bill? Not likely. But many of us do just that every month when we pay our energy bill, because our homes aren’t as energy-efficient as they could be. For commercial building owners, the loss can be 10 to 100 times that amount, or even more.
Why would anyone waste money like that? Most people don’t know how well or poorly our buildings use—and waste—energy. Unlike other forms of waste, like a leaky faucet or trash piling up on the curb, you can’t see energy waste.
Energy is one of the biggest expenses of running a household or business. Every dollar we waste on energy is a dollar we should be investing in making our businesses stronger, our households more secure and boosting our local economy. In these uncertain economic times, being aware of energy waste and taking steps to stop it is an important part of our path to recovery.
That is why City and private leaders are excited to be rolling out a new program aimed at significantly reducing energy waste in buildings and making our economy stronger.
Seattle adopted legislation last year (Ordinance 123226) that requires non-residential and multifamily properties greater than 10,000 square feet to measure their energy performance and share energy ratings with the City and current and prospective tenants, buyers and lenders. Single family homes and smaller multi-family projects are not subject to these requirements. Starting this fall, the first set of commercial buildings – those larger than 50,000 square feet – will begin this process. Many building owners have already received a letter from the City of Seattle notifying them about the new requirement.
Both the evaluation and targeted disclosure of building energy information will help property owners and businesses lower energy costs and boost the local economy.
First, the evaluation – Owners can’t manage energy use and costs if they don’t know where to begin. Evaluating and rating, or “benchmarking” a building’s energy use, gives owners a baseline from which to track and improve building energy performance.
Second, the disclosure – Today, business owners and tenants don’t have a way to compare the energy use of buildings they hope to buy or rent, and as a result make major financial investments without knowing their commitment to paying future energy costs. Building energy ratings eliminate the energy blind spot in real estate transactions.
Benchmarking requires collaboration between utilities and building owners. All local utilities have now developed processes to automatically provide building owners with easy access to information they could not readily get before – an aggregate, or summarized value for all energy consumed in a building, including both common areas and all tenant spaces. Building owners will augment this energy information with a description of their building, including data such as gross area, types of uses, hours of operation, etc. Together, the energy consumption and building use characteristics will be combined to produce a benchmarking score, evaluating how the performance of this building compares to that for other similar buildings.
Energy benchmarking is becoming common practice for many large properties in Seattle, including the Bank of America Fifth Avenue Plaza. Property management firm Hines has been benchmarking this building since 2000, and has earned a LEED Gold certification and an Energy Star label nine years running. According to Anthony Brusco, Hines Engineering Manager, “Energy-saving improvements are now saving our company $240,000 a year on utility bills. Over $600,000 in upfront costs were paid for by rebates from Seattle City Light, and many of these improvements paid themselves back in less than three years.”
Energy-saving improvements to buildings will not only save owners money and help distinguish them in the marketplace, but will also create good local jobs in construction, engineering, and manufacturing and in the energy-efficiency service industry.
It’s time to take the blinders off to energy waste. We cannot afford to throw away any more $100 bills. Improving building energy efficiency is one of the best ways to keep that money in our pockets and make our businesses and local economy stronger.
For additional information:
Web Site: www.seattle.gov/dpd/EnergyBenchmarking
Telephone Help Line: (206) 727-8484
After you have benchmarked your building your utilities can provide resources to help you identify and implement energy efficiency measures to reduce your energy bills. Additional information about utility conservation programs can be found at:
Seattle City Light: www.seattle.gov/light/conserve/business/
Puget Sound Energy: http://pse.com/savingsandenergycenter/ForBusinesses/Pages/default.aspx
Seattle Steam: www.seattlesteam.com