Benchmarking refers to the practice of comparing the measured performance of a device, process, facility, or organization to itself, its peers, or established norms, with the goal of informing and motivating performance improvement, according to Department of Energy. There are various kinds of benchmarking in the real world, like functional benchmarking and financial benchmarking. In the field of energy, we also have our benchmarking, known as energy benchmarking. According to Department of Energy, energy benchmarking serves as a mechanism to measure energy performance of a single building over time, relative to other similar buildings, or to modeled simulations of a reference building built to a specific standard.
Why should you care about energy benchmarking?
Just like we compare to our classmates and friends at schools to know where we are at, in order to know how your building is performing, it is important to know how other buildings are doing. Energy benchmarking is a low-cost way to compare the energy performance of a building with a database of similar buildings. The result will tell you whether your building is doing better or worse than other similar buildings.
Based on the energy benchmarking result, facility managers are able to establish baseline measurement of resource consumption and waste output. With the baseline, facility managers will have a clear idea on how to manage the energy usage of the buildings. In particular, energy benchmarking can help assess efforts to reduce energy and water use as well as effluent discharges.
According to Smart Watt, a recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency indicated that, buildings that are benchmarked consistently used 2.4% less energy than those that are not, presumably because people are more aware of energy performance.
What are included in the energy benchmark?
According to Smart Watt, some key benchmark indicators are:
- Raw materials usage
- Unit electrical energy use
- Unit natural gas energy use
- Reduction in carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy
- Unit water use
The primary source of calculation in an energy benchmark is the utility bill. With all the information, you are able to establish an energy benchmarking for your facility.
Energy benchmarking in real-world practices
Denver Benchmarking Ordinance is a good example of how energy benchmarking can benefit a facility. Basically, Denver Benchmarking Ordinance requires buildings of over 25,000 square feet to meet renewable energy requirements set by the city of Denver.
According to the Energize Denver Benchmarking Ordinance 2017 Annual Report, there is a 30% reduction in energy consumption in Denver, resulting in annual energy cost savings of a $82 million across 13 different large-building types.
Energy benchmarking is also an important scoring matrix for ENERGY STAR. The EPA use benchmarking to decide whether the building is eligible for ENERGY STAR or not.
In short, energy benchmarking helps you answer questions like “how are we doing?” and “how do we improve?” By comparing to something similar, either the performance at the same time last year, or similar facilities elsewhere, facility managers can have a better idea about how the money is spent on energy and how to reduce the cost of energy.