energy benchmarking, green financing, stakeholders
Courtesy U.S. Department of Energy

Without good energy data, it’s hard to know how best to invest in building improvements and navigate the array of energy-efficiency options you could implement at your different properties. Multiply that lack of information by the many different building designs, ages, and locations involved and the task seems almost impossible.

Now imagine you have good energy data. With this information, you can confidently invest in energy-efficiency measures for your properties because your decisions will be backed by actual energy cost and consumption, enabling you to precisely plan and execute your buildings’ improvements. You can better prioritize among properties and locations, as well, and explore innovative financing options to fund your renovations.

Benchmarking, Awareness, and Action
Data-driven energy upgrades and energy benchmarking are rapidly becoming more mainstream as data aggregation and sharing enable more and more owners to access their residents’ energy-consumption data. Additionally, improvements to the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool have made it easier for owners to track their data across their portfolios, compare their buildings’ energy performance over time, and share that information with other authorized users.

As a standardized process of measuring building energy performance, benchmarking helps building owners and operators identify cost-effective energy upgrades, realize and document energy- and cost-savings benefits from those upgrades, and communicate these accomplishments to stakeholders. Accurate energy data also pinpoint costly property problems, ranging from inefficient HVAC or lighting systems to leaky building envelopes.

A 2012 study by NMR Group and Optimal Energy found that energy-performance benchmarking even prompts property improvements. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of the study’s participants cited adopting better energy management processes as a result of benchmarking practices, and more than four-fifths (84%) reported better building upgrades and behavioral efficiency projects.

The Better Buildings Challenge
Through the Better Buildings Challenge, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) are working together to accelerate the adoption of energy efficiency in commercial, industrial, and multifamily buildings. To date, more than 110 multifamily organizations have set ambitious, 20% energy-savings goals over the next 10 years, and they’re working to gain access to the data they need for benchmarking buildings in their communities.

Together, these affordable, public, and market-rate multifamily organizations are tackling the most fundamental barrier facing multifamily energy efficiency today: tracking energy use without whole-building energy data. To get there, HUD, DOE, and their partners are developing a multifamily sampling protocol to enable organizations without access to whole-building data to still have a way to measure their property-level energy use.

HUD proposed data-reporting requirements this past fall and, subsequently, will provide guidance and technical assistance to support companies in meeting the new requirements. Better Buildings is committed to providing additional assistance to multifamily firms and organizations in obtaining and analyzing their data.

If you’re a multifamily owner looking to advance your energy data access, begin by engaging with your utilities and requesting whole-building energy information. Utilities are more likely to act if they hear directly from building owners.

Funding and Information Resources
Another advantage to obtaining whole-building data is the potential to become eligible for financial products including green mortgage rates from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and special mortgage insurance premium discounts from HUD that are tied to energy performance.

A growing resource pool is available to help building owners share their data and learn from other properties. A recently released DOE tool kit features the successes of various city–utility partnerships in overcoming local barriers to energy data access. As a result of the best practices they’ve developed, more than 2.6 million commercial customers nationwide will provide whole-building energy data access to building owners by 2017. This increased access will enable more multifamily properties to improve their energy efficiency and use data to drive related decision making. You can view these findings in Better Buildings’ Energy Data Access: Blueprint for Action Toolkit.

Learn more about the tool kit, the Better Buildings Challenge overall, and the technical assistance and benefits available to your organization at