08/25/16 : Tim Wentz

Understanding your building energy use can save you money

On July 19, during the Alliance to Save Energy’s EE Noon webinar, we posed the following question: What if you could determine the efficiency capability of your building by measuring how it uses energy? Well, actually, you can: ASHRAE has created a building energy rating program – the Building Energy Quotient (Building EQ) – that can determine your building’s energy performance based on its potential and actual performance. The process involves an audit completed by an experienced practitioner using ASHRAE’s methodology.

Information leads to action

Obtaining information is the critical first step in reducing energy use and making necessary choices and changes. Making that information publicly available is also a powerful motivator, which is why ASHRAE is creating a label that communicates a structure’s Building Energy Quotient.

Our industry has already experienced mandatory labeling in Europe and disclosure of a building’s energy performance becoming required by several states and local municipalities. ASHRAE is taking that a step further by creating a label that can serve as a model for mandatory (or voluntary) programs.

How does it work?

ASHRAE’s Building EQ is a voluntary labeling program that provides a way to benchmark performance and is the only such program to include both an ASHRAE Level 1 Energy Audit and indoor environmental quality survey. Building EQ allows for comparison of As Designed (asset) and In Operation (operational) ratings. (More about that in a minute.)

With these features, Building EQ goes beyond simple benchmarking by identifying specific recommendations to improve your building’s energy performance and providing information about the building’s indoor environmental quality.

“As Designed” versus “In Operation”

Just because a building was designed to perform at a certain level doesn’t mean that it is performing at that level. To understand the difference, you can compare your building’s As Designed rating to its In Operation rating.

As Designed

The As Designed rating provides an assessment of energy performance potential, based on building’s physical characteristics and systems. This is independent of building occupancy and operating conditions, and is based on results of a standardized energy model as compared to a baseline. The score for this rating can be improved by upgrading building fabric or systems.

In Operation

The In Operation rating provides an assessment of energy performance with the existing characteristics and how it is operated. It is based on actual metered energy use of a building and an on-site energy audit. The score for this rating can be improved by upgrading building fabric, systems or operating procedures.

This consistent process for evaluating a building’s energy use allows a building to get a baseline (or benchmark) assessment before improvements are made and a follow-up assessment after improvements have been implemented. The assessment provides actionable recommendations for reducing energy use with rough costs and paybacks and provides the ability to track and show the effectiveness of improvements.

Examples of recommendations include installing exterior shading, such as blinds or awnings; upgrading incandescent lamps to halogen, compact fluorescent, solid state (LED) or metal halide; replacing or cleaning filters in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended schedule or design pressure drop; replacing missing or damaged boiler pipe or duct insulation; and inspecting, cleaning and maintaining all sensors and meters in conformance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Cost savings

We know that that Building EQ can substantially reduce energy costs for a small investment. A case study published in the ASHRAE Journal demonstrated how the program applied to four fire stations saved between 9 and 37 percent of their energy consumption with an average payback of 4.1 years. It is a new program, a new way of looking at a building’s energy consumption and a new way of reporting that energy consumption to the building owner and its occupants.

To learn more about ASHRAE’s Building EQ, please visit buildingenergyquotient.org


About the author: 

Tim Wentz, P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, HBDP, is a faculty member of the Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. As ASHRAE’s president, Wentz chairs the Society’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee. Wentz was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska. Prior to entering academia, Wentz spent 19 years as a mechanical contractor, developing an expertise in mechanical design, estimating and construction management on commercial projects throughout the Midwest.