Enhancing energy benchmarking in condos and co-ops
Condominiums (condos) and cooperative housing communities (co-ops) are increasingly recognizing the importance of sustainability and energy efficiency in today's world. One vital tool that plays a crucial role in this effort is energy benchmarking. In this article, we will explore the concept of energy benchmarking and its relevance in the context of condo and co-op communities. Additionally, we will delve into the process of calculating energy benchmarking and how FirstService Energy is playing a key role in understanding energy consumption benchmarks, exploring energy efficiency benchmarking methodologies, and their energy benchmarking report for our communities.

What is energy benchmarking?

Energy benchmarking is a process that involves measuring and assessing the energy performance of a building or facility in comparison to established standards or benchmarks. The calculation of energy benchmarking typically begins with collecting data on the building's energy consumption. This data encompasses electricity, gas, and other energy sources. The goal of energy benchmarking is to evaluate how efficiently a building uses energy and to identify opportunities for improvement. This practice is crucial for promoting energy efficiency, reducing energy consumption, and mitigating the environmental impact of buildings.

Benchmarking regulations allow anyone – including prospective condo buyers – to see how your building’s energy usage compares to other buildings. For many buyers, a building that gets poor marks is less desirable than a higher-ranking condo. And less desirability means lower property values.

Where is energy benchmarking currently required?

Energy benchmarking is currently required in various states and provinces, and the specific requirements may vary depending on the region and type of building. As of January 2022, several cities and states in the United States, such as New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., have implemented energy benchmarking ordinances. Some provinces and territories in Canada also implement energy benchmarking requirements, particularly for larger commercial and institutional buildings.

It's essential to check with local authorities or regulatory bodies for the most up-to-date information on energy benchmarking requirements in a specific location. As sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives continue to gain momentum globally, more jurisdictions may introduce or expand energy benchmarking regulations.

What is the energy efficiency benchmarking methodology?

Energy efficiency benchmarking methodology involves evaluating a building's energy performance through various metrics. This includes the analysis of energy consumption patterns, identifying areas of energy wastage, and proposing strategies for improvement. For condo and co-op communities, adopting an effective energy efficiency benchmarking methodology can lead to significant cost savings and a reduced environmental footprint. It may involve energy audits, retro-commissioning, and the implementation of energy-efficient technologies.

How does energy benchmark reporting support vertical communities? 

Every condo or co-op board should look for avenues to lower costs. Reducing your building’s energy consumption can save your association a significant amount in utility bills; however, having the correct information can help your board make savvy energy- and cost-saving changes.

Daniel Erickson, Technical Program Manager at FirstService Energy, points out that benchmarking is the first step toward making your building more energy efficient. “These regulations help to raise awareness about energy performance. By making that information transparent, building owners – as well as potential condo buyers and lenders – can see the building’s year-to-year energy use and compare it to similar buildings.”
Reviewing the variations in your energy use month to month and year to year can provide insight into areas that may be eating away at your utility budget. If you have made some efficiency improvements already, seeing how your building compares with others will let you know if those improvements have enough effect.

“Building owners often don’t realize how much energy their building uses until they start benchmarking,” he says. “Transparency also can be a big incentive. If owners see that their building falls short relative to other properties, they are motivated to improve their position. No one wants to be at the bottom of the list.”

How can your community get an energy benchmarking report?

FirstService Residential takes an innovative approach to benchmarking energy usage. We work with our affiliate FirstService Energy to annually benchmark hundreds of properties in North American cities, collecting and tracking basic building information and whole-building energy use through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and our own energy management information system.

This allows our teams to provide our managed buildings with a customized, comprehensive Energy Report Card. The Energy Report Card uses benchmarking data comparing the energy usage and costs of similar properties. Each building is given an efficiency ranking – called a Building Energy Rating Guide (BERG) Score – of 0 (lowest) to 10 (highest).
The Energy Report Card also contains strategies FirstService Energy has recommended and successfully implemented in other FirstService Residential managed buildings. “Because of these detailed reports, properties in the FirstService portfolio are the most informed in the industry regarding operational efficiency,” says Erickson.

What’s next?

Once you have good benchmarking data, Erickson recommends getting an energy audit, especially if you haven’t done one in a few years. An audit lets your association know what retrofit options make the most sense for your building. It should also provide cost estimates for each option, as well as estimates of how much energy and money you could save by implementing the measures.
Erickson also notes the importance of education and suggests asking your condo or co-op management company if it offers training for board members, residents, and building staff. “In addition to classes from your management company, you also may be able to take classes through your city, state, or province, especially if it has shown a strong commitment to sustainability.” On the federal level, he suggests exploring the Energy Star® programs in both the U.S. and Canada. These programs provide a wealth of information about efficiency strategies and products.
It’s probably only a matter of time before energy benchmarking regulations come to your area. Getting ahead of the energy-saving curve will make it easier to comply when it does and will help your building rank higher right from the start. Your association will also benefit sooner from any improvements you make now to your building’s efficiency.
Learn more about how an experienced property management company can put you on the path toward energy and cost savings for your association. Contact FirstService Residential today and see how we’re making life simplified.

Friday January 26, 2024