Friday 22 September 2017

Confused About Benchmarking?

By now, you’ve surely been inundated with online and direct mail advertisements alerting you to the upcoming energy benchmarking deadline. Many contain foreboding text about new laws and increased regulation, implying that without their expertise, you will be left vulnerable. In all honesty, using a benchmarking consultant may actually be a good idea, as explained below. And, it is true that without a real understanding of what all the fuss is about, the benchmarking process can seem quite daunting. However, arming yourself with even a cursory knowledge of the rules and regulations will hopefully make the entire process a lot less frightening.

In December 2009, in an effort to improve energy and water efficiency in New York City’s largest existing buildings, the City Council enacted the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. Amongst the recommendations and regulations, was the passage of Local Law 84, which requires property owners to benchmark the energy and water use of their buildings, and submit that data to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This means that owners must collect data about the utility usage of their properties, prepare and analyze the data in a specified format and submit that report online using the EPA’s Portfolio Manager. The data will then be used to compare, or benchmark, water and energy usage across different buildings throughout the city.

IS MY PROPERTY SUBJECT TO THE BENCHMARKING LAW?
To determine compliance, NYC uses the gross square footage of the building as determined by the Department of Finance. A property is subject to the law if it meets one of three conditions:
•    One building more than 50,000 gross square feet
•    Two or more buildings on the same tax lot that together total more than 100,000 gross square feet
•    Two or more condominium buildings, governed by the same board of managers, and together exceed 100,000 gross square feet
Users of EMPOWER NY can easily check if their properties are subject to the benchmarking law by visiting the benchmarking page under the Compliance tab.  The information there is linked to a list of subject properties released by the Mayor’s Office. It is important to keep in mind that the gross square footage used to determine if a property is subject to benchmarking may actually differ from the one that is reported by the Department of Finance, since that number does not include certain areas like basements and parking garages.
Multiple buildings on one tax lot must be benchmarked separately if they are individually metered for energy and have independent heating, cooling, and domestic hot water systems. If the buildings share a meter or any of these systems, the property must be benchmarked as a single entity as if the multiple buildings were joined.

MY PROPERTY NEEDS TO BE BENCHMARKED; WHAT DATA DO I NEED?
To benchmark a property, you must collect the building gross square area broken down by space use type, the property’s whole building energy use, its operating schedule and additional space use attributes. One area of good news is that there is no need to collect water usage data since DEP will upload this data directly to Portfolio Manager.
Calculating an accurate gross square footage is important, since an incorrect value will cause a building to appear to be performing worse than it actually is. The actual building gross square footage can be measured or pulled from an architectural drawing, and as mentioned earlier, will often be larger than that used by DOF.
The whole building energy use is all energy used by the property, whether by the owner or tenants, and must be reported by type, like electricity, fuel oil or district steam. A report of whole building electricity, gas, and district steam use can be obtained from Con Edison via email for a fee of $102.50 per building. National Grid will provide information for its customers in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island as well. The data may also be compiled manually from the property’s meters, utility bills and tenant-provided data.

Portfolio Manager requires information about the property’s operations, such as operating hours, amount of personal computers and number of workers on the main shift. Since accurate space use information will improve the accuracy of a property’s benchmarking, it’s advisable to collect as much actual information from tenants as possible. However, property owners are only obligated to provide actual space use information for spaces under their direct control or data that they have received from tenants. If exact data is unavailable, the space use attributes of tenant space may be estimated and Portfolio Manager will actually suggest default values.

Under Local Law 84, owners are required to request this information from non-residential tenants with their own utility meters, but there is no obligation to follow up with nonresponsive tenants. For residential, and shared-meter, tenants, owners may also request this information, but the law does not require it, and tenants are not obligated to respond.

I’VE COLLECTED ALL THE DATA; NOW WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?
Once a property’s energy usage data is collected it needs to be submitted to the EPA using their Portfolio Manager. The system can be confusing, so at the request of the Mayor’s Office, the Association for Energy Affordability offers public and onsite half-day training seminars. Free online training is also available at the EPA’s website, which can be completed in under an hour.
Portfolio Manager should be accessed via the New York City web link provided at www.nyc.gov/ggbp rather than going directly to the EPA site. This will link your account to NYC’s electronic reporting structure, and must be completed before it is possible to submit a compliance report. Inside Portfolio Manager, each NYC building’s Borough Block Lot (BBL) number needs to be entered in the Notes field for that property.
Once all the data has been entered, Portfolio Manager will calculate a Current Source Energy Intensity for all building types, and a Current Rating for a list of fourteen building types, including commercial offices and schools. At that point, you will be able to electronically submit the NYC LL84 Benchmarking 2010 Compliance Report via Portfolio Manager.

I’VE SUBMITTED MY REPORT; ANYTHING ELSE I NEED TO DO?
Local Law 84 requires property owners to maintain three years of compliance records, which the Department of Buildings (DOB) may inspect and audit. This includes the submission confirmation email from EPA and copies of the energy data entered into Portfolio Manager. Inquiries concerning these records, and the process in general, can be directed to DOB at sustainability@buildings.nyc.gov.
Now that you have all this energy use data collected, you might as well use it yourself. Tracking your property’s Current Rating or Current Source Energy Intensity year to year may identify the need to retune or retro-commission systems, or the success of capital improvements or changes to operations. As more and more tenants become conscious about reducing energy usage, you will definitely see an advantage to marketing your building’s energy performance.
Now that you have a better understanding of what the new laws entail, you can make a more informed decision about how to tackle your benchmarking obligations. Whether you work with an outside consultant or decide to handle benchmarking yourself, knowledge of the rules and requirements will help you make informed decisions and avoid common pitfalls.

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