ENERGY STAR: Closing the Design to Performance Loop
Many commercial building owners and developers are familiar with ENERGY STAR, not just for efficient commercial products and appliances, but also for tracking and measuring energy use in buildings. The ENERGY STAR scoring system gives owners a clear understanding of how well their buildings are operating by ranking energy use against the national population of similar building types. The ranking shows which buildings are performing at peak and which ones require improvements. Over time, as efficiency improvements are made and asset values increase, tracking performance provides owners with quantifiable energy savings and carbon-dioxide-emissions reductions associated with their properties.
Rewind to building design. Building owners have an abundance of information to inform the design process, and architects have the opportunity to gain insight about operating performance of projects they’ve designed once the building is operating. Wouldn’t it be helpful for owners and architects to collaborate and use the same metrics and measurements to target intended energy use during design and then verify the results in the operating building?
Novel concept it seems. It is common practice that the architect’s involvement stops once construction is completed and the building is turned over to the owner. But as momentum for greater efficiency builds, that practice has to evolve. In fact, to achieve energy-efficiency mandates by government and industry directives, such as the 2030 goals, we need continuity between the design process and operating stage.
Thanks to EPA’s energy-performance scale, architects and owners do have consistent metrics to use and share throughout the process. Here are a few ideas about how to close the design to performance loop:
Did you know EPA has honored more than 200 projects that achieved Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR certification by receiving a score of 75 or higher (out of 100) on EPA’s energy performance scale? But the true test of efficiency is earning the ENERGY STAR label for the operating building. The process from design to building operations requires time to commission the building and verify the energy use results for at least one year with occupants engaging in their daily activities. Then the owner uses the same energy-performance scale to measure the operating efficiency. To date, the number of Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR projects that have completed the full cycle and earned the ENERGY STAR label for superior efficiency is small but growing. What’s needed now—to reach the industry’s 2030 goals—is for more architects and owners to commit to collaborating at all stages of the process to ensure high efficiency.
To assist architects and owners in producing more-efficient buildings, EPA recently completed an online guide for designing commercial buildings to achieve ENERGY STAR. It provides a start-to-finish framework for architects and building owners to set energy targets for design projects, determine whether projects achieve the desired energy goal and close the loop by verifying the actual performance of completed buildings. Check it out. Your feedback on the guide is welcome!
Karen P. Butler manages Commercial Building Design--EPA ENERGY STAR Program.