By Clark Reed, National Program Manager, ENERGY STAR, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
On August 26, EPA released updated models that enable commercial building owners across many U.S. building sectors to calculate revised 1–100 ENERGY STAR® scores based on the latest available market data. These revised models did not include hospitals, medical offices, or senior care communities; hospitals and medical office buildings will likely be updated in late 2019. However, hospital engineers may still have seen minor adjustments to their score. Model updates provide EPA an opportunity to update other factors that go into the calculation of ENERGY STAR scores. Since the electrical grid has become more efficient, Portfolio Manager’s Site-to-Source conversion factor for electricity was updated from 3.1 to 2.8. This affects all property types, and EPA calculations show that hospitals will see a small 1- to 3-point increase, on average, in their scores as a result of this change.
EPA also made more significant changes to the score models for offices and warehouses. If your portfolio of buildings includes either of these, then you likely saw the ENERGY STAR scores for these buildings drop sharply. Office scores nationally declined an average of 12 points, while warehouses fell an average of 7 points.
Why the Large Drop?
ENERGY STAR scores compare a building’s performance to others in the nation. Because the national building stock has become more efficient over the past decade, on average, ENERGY STAR scores for most building types decreased after these updates. Moreover, it has been 9 years since the last updates to the score models (something EPA normally plans to do every 4 to 5 years). This gap was the result of 2007 survey data not being published for public use as we had been expecting.
Industry Engagement and Review Period for Updated 1–100 ENERGY STAR Scores
EPA has implemented a review period for the new score models that will help ensure that the models are working as intended to deliver energy performance metrics that empower you to make the business case for operating energy-efficient buildings. EPA will work in conjunction with stakeholders and technical experts to conduct this analysis and adjust the scoring models, if needed. This will include further evaluation of score changes for U.S. buildings of different sizes, locations, and fuel mixes, as well as additional types of analysis that are possible now that stakeholders are able to update their data and calculate their revised scores in the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software tool.
During this period, EPA will temporarily suspend awarding certifications for all U.S. property types with new score models. (This excludes hospital, senior care community, multifamily, and data centers, as well as facilities located in Canada, which will continue to be processed normally.) EPA will work to resume certification as soon as possible, and will begin accepting certification applications by property type as each model is evaluated and finalized.
Why Are My Scores Different from the Average?
The two most common questions we’ve received since the update are:
My score changed more than the average published by EPA. Why?
The averages published by EPA in advance of the updates were based on typical buildings of each type. Your building’s score change will vary from the average we published depending on its energy use, fuel mix, business activity, property type, and other variables. Furthermore, by definition, roughly half of buildings of any type should have larger decreases than average, and half should have smaller decreases than average.
I’m seeing wide ranges of changes across my portfolio. Why?
Each building’s score is dependent on its particular energy use, fuel mix, business activity, and other variables, so wide ranges are to be expected. To read more about the data analysis and model development behind the ENERGY STAR score, read our technical reference documents.
Tips on How to Increase Your ENERGY STAR score
- Replace default values: We added a number of new required property use details for several property types, and populated these with conservative default values. Replace them with actual values to improve accuracy, and possibly your score. Learn more.
- Benchmark data center space: If you have data center space within your building, but it isn’t metered as required for benchmarking, you have a new option to use “estimated” data to account for the high energy intensity of data center spaces, and possibly increase your score. Learn more.
- Check data for accuracy: Confirm that all your other benchmarking data is accurate. Small errors can sometimes have a big impact.
- Identify potential projects in your building: Find low-cost opportunities for improvements within your properties using our new Treasure Hunt resources, which many organizations have used to reduce their energy use by up to 15 percent.
About the Author
Clark Reed serves as a national program manager for ENERGY STAR at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where he works with hospitals to identify energy opportunities, promote energy efficiency best practices, and recognize top performing buildings.