FMJ - May/June 2017

Harnessing the Power of Energy-Efficient Buildings in the US

John McGee 2017-05-12 02:51:39

Why is it so important that we focus on making our buildings as energy-efficient as possible? Well, a major component of energy consumption is electricity usage in commercial buildings. For 2016, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that retail sales of electricity to commercial buildings accounted for almost 37 percent of total sales. This, for example, compares with industrial procurement of 25 percent. Numerous studies have documented the significant return from energy-efficiency improvements in existing buildings. Most benefits can be achieved through operational improvements and capital projects with more than acceptable payback periods. Many of these same studies also show that the benefits aren’t just financial. Improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings can also positively contribute to company sustainability goals and, at the same time, bolster public health benefits at the local level by lowering air pollution generated as a by-product of energy consumption. Local governments of many cities across the U.S. realize the benefits from enhancing building energy efficiency and are working to put in place enabling legislation to encourage and incentivize improvement. The benefits of facility managers, building owners and local government working together will accelerate the achievement of available efficiency improvements. An increasing number of cities and corporations are voluntarily looking at their building portfolios as key pathways to boost bottom-line cost savings, as well as improve the health of their employees, contribute to reaching their sustainability goals and positively impact their company brands. All of these benefits, however, remain out of reach without the active involvement of facility managers. However, IFMA has a new strategic partnership that can help its chapters and individual members maximize their involvement, contribution and accomplishments when it comes to making energy and water efficiency improvements. PARTNERING FOR A MORE ENERGY-EFFICIENT FUTURE In 2016, IFMA entered a partnership with the City Energy Project (CEP), a national initiative that is working with 20 cities across the United States to catalyze energy-efficiency improvements in public and private buildings. A joint initiative of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation, CEP is designed to break down traditional barriers to efficiency investment. In particular, it works to improve access to supporting data, eliminate incentive misalignments and increase the availability of needed capital. “Working hand-in-hand with private sector stakeholders, including facility managers, building owners, utilities and energy service providers, CEP cities are designing and deploying custom strategies that help drive energy improvements in the local real estate market — policies and programs that significantly benefit from facility management involvement,” states Lauren Zullo, director of partnerships and strategic planning for the City Energy Project and who oversees its collaboration with IFMA. Zullo adds, “IFMA and its members are key partners to achieving meaningful energy-efficiency returns in large commercial buildings. The potential here is substantial. By the year 2030, the 20 participating cities could annually save more than US$1.5 billion in energy costs, which in environmental terms is equivalent to 2 million cars worth of carbon pollution.” In a supporting statement, Eric Teicholz, chair of IFMA's Environmental Stewardship, Utilities and Sustainability Community Strategic Advisory Group, explains, “IFMA is dedicated to enhancing the capability of its stakeholders to meet the challenges of sustainable FM as it relates to the built environment. The CEP directly aligns with our sustainability efforts and, as such, is of prime importance to IFMA. It offers the opportunity of collaboration on sustainability projects, introducing IFMA to potential new members (e.g., city governments), the possibility of marketing our sustainability products and certifications, and the sharing of ENERGY STAR benchmarking data.” The partnership is collaborative and focused on specific actions that advance the goals of a common focus on enhancing facility performance when it comes to energy and water efficiency. Through the partnership, IFMA chapters and members can shape their city efficiency programs to not only help ensure that these efforts address facility managers’ concerns and contributions, but also to gain legislative advocacy experience. To support this goal in the coming year, IFMA and CEP will develop case studies to educate facility managers on the advantages of cities adopting efficiency programs and best-practice strategies advocated by both organizations, such as building benchmarking. Benchmarking policies help owners and managers direct improvement initiatives and provide data needed for cities to better address energy waste. Many of the cities participating in CEP are exploring benchmarking or already have policies approved and in place. HOW CAN THE IFMA-CEP PARTNERSHIP WORK TO ACHIEVE THE GREATEST ADVANTAGE? Let’s take a deeper look at energy benchmarking — the process of monitoring a building’s energy use over time to track performance — and then compare it to peer buildings of similar size, location and use. To date, more than 20 cities, two counties and one state have laws in place that require building owners to collect and share their energy performance data (and in some cases, water use data) using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software. In many other jurisdictions, voluntary programs exist to encourage these actions. This practice requires facility manager engagement, but also provides these professionals with a critical baseline for tracking improved performance, return on investment of efficiency efforts, and when tenant occupied, support the market competitiveness of their facilities. Recognizing this, the IFMA-CEP partnership is working on leveraging the insights coming from benchmarking data in CEP cities, and facilitating feedback to help both facility managers and policymakers improve building performance. Each year, IFMA publishes a benchmarking report for facility managers to better understand and contextualize property performance. To support this benchmarking effort in 2017, IFMA and CEP have collaborated to integrate their ENERGY STAR databases, which include data for close to 20,000 buildings. Expanding the reference set of properties will greatly help IFMA members to compare their energy use with a broader set of peers. Cross-referencing citywide data with building data already collected by IFMA through its ENERGY STAR Challenge Program1 will help cities better understand how the energy performance of unique property types, such as museums or airports, compares to a broader set of peers. This approach increases the range of benchmarking data available to facility managers and complements available ENERGY STAR data. In Philadelphia, for example, nearly half of the properties that comply with the local benchmarking requirement are unable to receive ENERGY STAR scores. By cross-referencing energy use metrics with the IFMA dataset, those facility managers can now better assess whether a facility is performing competitively. This is an excellent opportunity to leverage the IFMA-CEP partnership to bring additional benefits to facility managers. To build on the Philadelphia example, IFMA chapters and members can work with building owners as well as facility, real estate and sustainability managers to provide additional data to augment the IFMA-CEP building database. BEYOND BENCHMARKING Increasing access to energy performance information is changing the way in which facilities are operated nationwide, helping buildings to lower operating costs and cities to meet their energy reduction targets. Facility managers are on the frontline of energy-saving and help put the market and policy conditions in place to enable these efforts. For example, when the City of Orlando formally announced it was considering developing a citywide strategy to improve energy and water efficiency in public and private buildings, members of the IFMA Central Florida Chapter volunteered to participate in stakeholder feedback groups and attend roundtable discussions. By bringing the FM voice to the table, IFMA members shaped Orlando’s local legislation to work for managers while helping the city achieve its sustainability goals. Now, Orlando has a comprehensive program that encourages energy and water benchmarking, helps properties undertake energy audits, and connects them with access to financing for improvements through the local Property Assessed Clean Energy program. Orlando’s Building Energy and Water Efficiency Strategy is estimated to save up to US$208 million in energy costs over the next 15 years. THE EVOLUTION OF ENERGY EFFICIENCY: THE TENANT AS AN ENERGY ADVOCATE The next challenge for the IFMA-CEP partnership will be the increased engagement of building tenants and occupiers in energy-saving programs. Current planning in the City of Chicago says a great deal about the future opportunities for the IFMA-CEP partnership and promises a deepening collaboration with facility managers in 2017. It is well understood that more than 50 percent of energy use is controlled by tenants, so building owners, managers and tenants must all work together to achieve the greatest level of energy savings. This can require new education efforts and active coordination. Accordingly, the City of Chicago is planning to increase education through a tenant engagement program. To do so, the city and its partners are engaging with local tenants and facility groups like IFMA to understand existing paths for education, such as lunchtime sessions that brainstorm new ways to collaborate on areas including green leasing and sustainable tenant build-outs. YOU CAN’T MANAGE WHAT YOU DON’T MEASURE The City Energy Project partnership is a platform for IFMA chapters and individual members to engage locally on energy- and water-efficiency initiatives. From participating in challenge programs and sharing green leasing practices, to advising on local policies, undergoing energy audits and utilizing local financing options to invest in energy conservation measures, there are many ways to get involved to shape the local vision. Facility professionals are critical to the efficient management of energy, water, waste and carbon dioxide emissions at the building level. Cities are looking to us to speak up about the barriers to making improvements, and expecting us to work together with policymakers, utilities and partners to craft the solutions and strategies that will help unlock continual savings. Of course, you can get involved within your existing facility management role and job responsibilities. But as committed IFMA members and professional facility managers, we can go further. Here are some ideas to get you started: ● Meet with the CEP representative in your city to better understand the area’s sustainability goals and how FM can contribute to success. ● Join or create a sustainability committee in your IFMA chapter. ● Connect within your IFMA chapter to determine what members can do to advance CEP goals in the city. ● Document the strategies that are working to reduce energy and water use in your own building, and share them with your IFMA chapter and city. ● Identify the major barriers to energy- and water-efficiency improvement, and brainstorm ways to overcome them through different policies, leasing practices, access to financing, etc. ● Enter your building into ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to benchmark against peers, and then share the results via IFMA’s ENERGY STAR Challenge.2 Once the city-level commitment is in place via legislation, IFMA and CEP aim to work with IFMA members to take the right actions to achieve a more energy-efficient position for the buildings under their responsibility. This is the pathway to building excellence when it comes to energy efficiency. To do the same and to learn more about the efforts of the City Energy Project, please visit To learn more about IFMA’s Environmental Stewardship, Utilities and Sustainability Community, please visit REFERENCES 1) 2) JOHN MCGEE, IFMA Fellow, is CEO of Sulis Energy Solutions. He is a past chair of IFMA, an active member of IFMA’s Environmental Stewardship, Utilities and Sustainability Community, and a City Energy Project liaison.

Published by International Facility Management Association . View All Articles.

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