Mandatory Energy Benchmarking.. Coming to a City Near You?

Measurement enables Management; Transparency enables Accountability… The quintessential concepts driving adaptation of mandatory energy benchmarking legislation.

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Mandatory energy benchmarking represents a pivotal step towards reforming energy usage in American cities, as it galvanizes populations through collective reduction. Like any immature “innovation”, the practice faces barriers and static hindering widespread adaptation and dissemination into the mainstream.

What factors influence proliferation?

Unique building stock and varied regulatory needs necessitate city-specific reporting plans. Until there is a scaleable model of best-practices, development will continue to be resource and time intensive for administration.

Complexity in execution threatens data integrity and program usefulness. Unintentional errors, difficulty in obtaining information, and unfamiliarity with ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager all weaken database strength. The remedy lies in educating elected reporters. Program handlers must be well versed with the operations and techniques necessary to perform their role effectively.

Stakeholder push-back during implementation deters participation and damages program reputation. Greater visibility of post-retrofit results will dispel doubts of program usefulness, while increased availability of financial incentives will quiet claims of marginalization [under-performers stigmatized as poor living options] and unfair penalization [fining of historic buildings or financially underserved properties].

Survey says.. Feedback is Fundamental.

While commissioning and utility metering provide quantitative building performance data, post-occupancy surveying qualitatively gauges tenant awareness, understanding, and appreciation of green features. Forego this step, and you miss a critical opportunity to engage end-users in the green building experience.

Recently, SWA launched an initiative to collect post-occupancy evaluations from certified projects. University Village on Colvin (LEED® for Homes™ Gold-certified, Syracuse off-campus housing) was the first to participate.

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Key Survey Findings from University Village Residents:
• 94% of respondents reported being conscious of energy and water conservation
• 77% of respondents were satisfied with the green features of the buildings. Green features were defined as those that save energy, water and natural resources, and promote indoor environmental quality.
• Favorite green features among the respondents were: air conditioning, recycling accessibility, low-flow shower and aerator, and ENERGY STAR® appliances
• 94% of respondents reported satisfaction with the general building site maintenance

Surveying is an essential touch-point coupling building, management, and resident. It forces both stakeholder groups to assess their relationship with the sustainably built environment. At University Village, tenants took stock of their green living area, assigned a personal value to green features, and considered ecological impacts of their behavior. In turn, property managers can discern how their investment translates to improved quality of life, which elements of their investment carry added marketability for luring prospective tenants, and how residents interact with green features to either maximize or minimize their usefulness.

Post-occupancy surveying humanizes green building through education and exposure, demystifying what would otherwise be overly esoteric or easily overlooked technology. In an industry largely under-discussed by a green-ho public, a simple measure that improves accessibility and relatability of green building is invaluable to mainstreaming our beloved practice.