Energy Star is an essential partner to LEED

ENERGY STAR is a voluntary energy-efficiency program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Currently, over 450,000 commercial buildings benchmark their energy performance through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, and 32,900 have earned EPA’s ENERGY STAR certification. Look for ENERGY STAR plaques in a building lobby. Building owners and managers proudly display them next to their LEED plaques. 

Energy Star Basics

To determine the ENERGY STAR scores for commercial buildings, the buildings are compared to those with a similar primary use using data from the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). This survey is conducted on approximately every four years by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) and represents the most comprehensive information of the characteristics and energy use of U.S. commercial buildings. Data from CBECS is normalized, and a benchmark is created for each type of building. However, those benchmarks are about to change.

Why are ENERGY STAR scores changing this year?

For over the past decade, the ENERGY STAR scoring system for commercial buildings has utilized CBECS data from 2003. That’s 15 years ago! Of course new data has been available, but the market wasn’t ready to use it for benchmarking.

In 2016, CBECS data became available based on the 2012 survey results. The EPA has been updating the performance metrics in Portfolio Manager accordingly with new scores being released on August 26, 2018. This will keep scores reflective of the current market data.

But first, how are ENERGY STAR scores calculated?

When a building’s data and characteristics are inputted into Portfolio Manager, the actual and predicted source energy use intensities are computed for that building. From this, the efficiency ratio comparing actual use with predicted use is calculated and compared to the national distribution. This comparison is quantified in the ENERGY STAR score for that building.

A score of 50 indicates the building is performing at the industry average, and a building with a score 75 or higher is eligible for the ENERGY STAR certification. 

For more information on how ENERGY STAR scores are calculated click here.

How will ENERGY STAR scores change?

On average, current and previous scores will go down a predicted 8-15 points as the energy efficiency of U.S. commercial buildings improved significantly from 2003 to 2012. This is the average, however, and the score for an individual building could go up, down, or remain the same depending on the characteristics and energy use of the building.

Historical scores will change so that there is a valid comparison for tracking changes year-over-year, but the EPA will not rescind any prior ENERGY STAR certifications even if that score used drops below 75. Exact changes for specific buildings will not be available before the update goes into effect.

Scores for these building types will be updated:

  • Bank branches
  • Courthouses
  • Financial Offices
  • Hotels
  • Houses of worship
  • K-12 schools
  • Offices
  • Retail
  • Supermarkets
  • Warehouses

What else is changing with this update?

Data Centers

There will be an option to use estimated IT Energy for data centers to obtain a score and certification, if the data center does not exceed 10% of the property’s gross floor area. This estimate will be calculated in Portfolio Manager and is beneficial when submetering IT energy is not an option.

Source Energy Factor

The source energy factor accounts for different fuel types by tracing the energy requirements from the building back to the raw fuel input (coal, gas, steam, hydro, etc.) The new national average for the source election factor will be slightly lower, resulting in buildings receiving a credit or penalty based on their fuel-mix ratio. However, compared to the other 2018 updates, the effects from this will be relatively small.

How can you prepare?

  1. Apply for ENERGY STAR certification before August 2018, especially if your score is close to 75! If the year ending date for your 2017 certification was between July and December of 2017, you can apply early in July 2018 before the changes go into place.
  2. Download past performance reports and old scores. Once the scores have been updated, your pre-August 2018 scores will NOT be accessible. This especially important if you’re pursuing a LEED certification.

Need more help?

If you have a a building that needs its

2018 Energy Star Certification

before these changes happen,

contact our friends at SIG [404-343-3835]

Written by Annabelle Mathis | SIG

Contact SIG

Fill out the from below for more information about LEED Consulting