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The Intelligent Use of Energy: How does your building fare?
Richard R. Vaillencourt, PE, Canterbury Engineering Associates LLC

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of articles on intelligent energy use in buildings by consulting engineer Richard Vaillencourt. Previous articles also are available. We hope you’ll find them helpful as you work to optimize your building’s energy use.

You’ve probably seen the ENERGY STAR label – it’s on everything from printers to washing machines to furnaces. It’s become the symbol of energy-efficient products across the country. Consumers are paying attention and making it a part of their selection criteria.

But have you ever wondered how your building stacks up in terms of energy use? How energy-efficient is your building? You can find out by using ENERGY STAR for Commercial Buildings, a national rating system developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The program helps buildings benchmark and track energy use, provides energy management guidelines, offers advice on design for energy efficient buildings and features calculators to track returns on energy-efficiency investments.

ENERGY STAR has developed a database of the energy performance of a wide range of different building types –- everything from commercial office buildings to hotels to banks to courthouses to hospitals. Energy performance is defined as Btu per square foot per year. If you input your building type, size and 12 months’ worth of energy bills into ENERGY STAR’s free Portfolio Manager tool, the program will compare your performance to the database of other buildings in your climate region and occupancy type.

The energy performance of commercial and industrial facilities is scored on a 1-100 scale. Those facilities that achieve a score of 75 or higher are eligible for the ENERGY STAR, indicating that they are among the top 25 percent of facilities in the country for energy performance.

More than 62,000 buildings have been rated; just 4,000 buildings – a number of them in Hartford – have earned the coveted ENERGY STAR designation. A list of labeled buildings is available at www.energystar.gov/buildings, where you can click on “Commercial Real Estate” on the far left of the screen to obtain more detailed information. You can also log in at the far right to start the application process using Portfolio Manager.

Once you set up an account, you will be asked to enter relevant attributes for your building such as gross floor area, number of occupants and operating hours per week.
Portfolio Manger allows you to keep track of your facility’s energy consumption over time. You create meters for the fuel types your facility uses and enter applicable period billing data and the cost of the fuel used (optional). Portfolio Manager also tracks carbon emissions and water consumption.

Based on the information you entered about your building, such as its size, location, number of occupants, number of PCs, etc., the rating system estimates how much energy the building would use if it were the best performing, the worst performing, and every level in between. To calculate a rating, the system requires 12 months of consecutive energy data. The system then compares the actual energy data you entered to the estimate to determine where your building ranks relative to its peers. (Note: A building that has earned the ENERGY STAR becomes eligible to reapply one year after the last energy data indicated on the previous year's application.)

Facilities achieving a rating of 75 or higher and professionally verified by a licensed professional engineer to meet current indoor environment standards are eligible to apply for the ENERGY STAR. The ENERGY STAR is awarded for a specific year. Once a facility has been approved for the ENERGY STAR, it is displayed on the ENERGY STAR Web site and receives a plaque that can be placed prominently in the facility to honor its achievement.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Existing Buildings and the Green Globes rating systems require an ENERGY STAR application before a building can be evaluated through their programs.

If you have questions about entering energy consumption information in the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, please call Jeff Lindberg at Hartford Steam Company, (860) 548-7348. He’d be glad to help.


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