Saving Energy Greens Bottom Line - Part 2

April 1, 2005
Editor's note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Part 1 was published in March. Drawing from its successful practices, the Environmental Protection

Editor's note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Part 1 was published in March.

Drawing from its successful practices, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified key elements of a superior energy-management program. These practices stress top-level commitment to addressing energy waste, routinely assessing organizationwide performance, and developing an integrated plan for upgrading buildings.

The EPA offers guidelines (Figure 1) as a road map. Each step along the way, the EPA provides easy and objective ways to measure building and enterprise energy use, perform quick assessments of opportunities, and build a financial case. The EPA also provides recognition when key milestones are reached.


Performance metrics are fundamental to successful energy management because, as the saying goes, “You can't manage what you don't measure.” To understand building energy use effectively, it is necessary to move beyond predictions and simulations and focus on actual energy consumption. But using energy bills can be problematic, and comparisons are not always valid. Weather, geographic location, and changes in operating parameters, such as hours of operation and the number of people occupying a space, will vary over time. Energy-use analysis needs to be more sophisticated.

To address this important measurement gap, the EPA developed a national rating system to assess the energy use of buildings. Now, a building's energy performance can be assessed with a rating akin to the miles-per-gallon rating for automobiles. After adjusting for unique usage patterns, such as hours, square footage, and computer use, a building's energy use is compared with that of similar buildings and receives a score between 1 and 100. A score of 75 or higher is eligible to earn the Energy Star.

An online tool called Portfolio Manager implements the energy-performance rating system. Anyone with access to energy bills can rank a portfolio of properties, target resources to facilities with the greatest potential for improvement, learn from high-performing buildings, and track savings over time.

Before the energy-performance rating existed, the most commonly used measurement of energy efficiency was energy codes. The problem with relying solely on a code approach is that not all energy systems or energy-improvement strategies are included. Beating code does not mean that the projected energy use will be among the lowest in the nation. An analysis of office buildings that have earned the Energy Star show that they cost $1.20 per sq ft to operate, compared with an average U.S. office building that operates at about $2 per sq ft.

About 50 percent of the commercial-buildings market can receive an energy-performance rating. By the end of 2003, the EPA's energy-rating system has been used to evaluate almost 19,000 buildings. A significant fraction of buildings by type have been evaluated:

  • 17 percent of office buildings.
  • 11 percent of schools.
  • 17 percent of supermarkets.
  • 28 percent of acute-care hospitals.
  • 6 percent of hotels.

Today, more than 1,900 buildings have earned the Energy Star.

Because of the complementary nature of green buildings and energy efficiency, LEED for Existing Buildings incorporates the EPA's energy-performance rating as a way to earn points toward LEED certification. The EPA recently expanded this rating system to work for new commercial-building construction. New building designs can be designated as “Designed to Earn Energy Star.”


It is possible to be on the leading edge. Tap into Energy Star to help. Beyond the tools described here, which are freely available for anyone to use, joining in partnership with the EPA has additional benefits. Opportunities for partnership extend to organizations looking to adopt a superior energy-management program, as well as to service and product providers with the expertise to help organizations achieve their goals.

Energy Star partners can earn recognition for demonstrating organizationwide energy savings of 10, 20, and 30 percent. Individual buildings also can earn recognition for achieving top performance. Training, networking, and case studies are available for learning about proven energy-management techniques from peers, as well as finding expert engineers, consultants, and service providers in the market.

The Energy Star program brings to the market a stronger information base for making energy-investment decisions and an objective and credible way to assess the results. While the spotlight is on energy, take a look at the ways you can use Energy Star to build financial value and help the environment.

Jean Lupinacci directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program in the commercial and industrial markets. For more information about the government-backed program dedicated to helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency or to access Energy Star reports, case studies, and software, go to

For previous Engineering Green Buildings columns, visit the Engineering Green Buildings “microsite” at

Coming to Chicago Sept. 25-28: HPAC Engineering's second annual Engineering Green Buildings Conference. To register, go to

For More on Energy Star …

Energy Star's software tools for benchmarking and financial analysis can be found in the “Business Improvement” section of its Website:

To learn how Energy Star was adopted by Walt Disney World, read Paul Allen's January 2005 HPAC Engineering article, “How Disney Saves Energy and Operating Costs,” at

To learn how Energy Star factors into Starwood Hotels & Resorts' energy programs, read John J. Lembo's February 2003 HPAC Engineering article, “Starwood's Strategic Energy-Management Initiative,” at