Building audit to reset crucial energy use benchmarks

March 8, 2012

The recent push for energy efficiency across the U.S. has led to the use of buildings that have less of an impact on the environment and lower operating costs for companies who own these properties.

Inside Climate News reported that early this year, the Energy Information Administration, the analysis arm of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), resumed an elaborate energy audit of thousands of commercial buildings. This survey will be published in 2014, helping to guide experts in the sector, government officials and building owners for future projects.

While the DOE is looking to establish a new benchmark for building efficiency, it designated an effort in Philadelphia as an innovation HUB for the development and design of technology for the sector.

The Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC) is an effort that is committed to lowering the energy costs and consumption for commercial buildings in the U.S. The initiative is led by a consortium of institutions from the government, public and private sectors, energy development industry and academia.

According to the news source, budget cuts have delayed the publication of this survey, which was initially supposed to have been available by 2013. Until then, organizations will have to look to the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program and the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program for guidance.

However, it has been noted in the industry that this update comes as soon as possible. Lauren Riggs, a manager in the LEED program, said the release is "really important" and that buildings that were last seen as "efficient" may now only be average or less than that. New standards will help to create an industry-wide benchmark that all types of organizations can adhere to, Inside Climate News reported.

As a building owner or manager "you want to understand where you should be, not necessarily where everyone else is. That's where we’re looking to push the market," Michael Kaplan, vice president of marketing for Retroficiency, told the news source .

Other programs help to target and identify inefficiencies for buildings, as the Building Energy Quotient (bEQ) program allows owners to see where they could make investments to lower costs and consumption, according to a company release.

The release noted that building owners will be shown a range of products that can be installed to lower operating costs and limit consumption levels.

"bEQ lets a commercial building owner zero in on opportunities to lower building operating cost and make informed decisions to increase value," Tom Phoenix, P.E., a consulting engineer in Greensboro, N.C., who chairs the bEQ committee, said. "The ultimate goal of the program is to encourage more energy efficient buildings and give owners more control over rising energy costs."