Here's another update from the Energy Coordinating Agency on trends in energy efficiency in Philly.

Last year Philadelphia adopted a city ordinance requiring that commercial buildings benchmark and disclose their energy and water use on an annual basis. Thus Philadelphia joins the growing number of  cities across the country like New York and Seattle which are working to improve the energy efficiency of commercial spaces and helping save their owners and tenants millions of dollars a year in lower operating costs.

The Energy Benchmarking ordinance requires that all commercial spaces including  universities, schools, and hospitals over 50,000 square feet must benchmark their energy and water consumption using EPA's free software, Portfolio Manager by October 31, 2013.  Next year this information will be made available to the public and will be provided at time of sale.

Here's how Benchmarking works. At least a years' worth of utility data, along with other building characteristics like square footage and number of computers is entered into EPA's ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager Tool online. Next the building is compared to a group of peer buildings across the country. Because it would be unfair to compare the heating costs of an office building in Boston to one in Tucson, modeling software on the backend takes into account the difference in heating and cooling requirements based on climate, use and location. At the end of the process an Energy Star score is generated, which shows how one building compares to other buildings of the same type, size and location.

In 2012, the EPA published a study that showed buildings using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software saved 7% in energy on average over a 3 year period. Along with saving money, Benchmarking allows for recognition of energy efficient buildings through the ENERGY STAR certification program. This sort of public acknowledgment translates into higher value, lower vacancy and lower tenant turn over.

What makes Benchmarking so exciting is the scale on which it is being done. EPA's ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is an online database that has utility data for 40% of commercial building space in the United States. The Portfolio Manager tool was recently adopted by the Canadian Government as the engine for their energy Benchmarking initiative for commercial spaces.

The great thing about looking at peer buildings, is now building owners and operators are able to have a better understanding how well their building could be performing. Think about owning a car. The best judge for how a car's efficiency is miles per gallon. The same principle is now being applied to buildings..

Philadelphia continues to adopt smart sustainability initiatives that will strengthen our local economy and serve as a model for the rest of Pennsylvania. Look for more to come as Philadelphia continues to challenge its residents and business owners to be as green as they can be.

For more information, call ECA at 215-609-1083.