News Brief

DOE's Asset Rating Program to Complement Portfolio Manager

According to the nonprofit Institute for Market Transformation, building rating and disclosure policies continue to spread throughout the U.S. Few governments require asset rating, but DOE's move toward a national asset rating program that costs very little to implement and pairs with Energy Star Portfolio Manager could change that.

Source: Institute for Market Transformation

We have national efficiency ratings for cars, refrigerators, furnaces, and many other products—but despite the huge contribution of the building sector to energy use and global warming, we have no comparable rating system for entire buildings. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is trying to change that with a program it will start piloting in September 2011.

DOE released a proposal and request for information for what it’s calling the Commercial Building Asset Rating Program on August 8 and will accept comments through September 22. Details are still up for discussion, but the request for information proposes the following:

• The rating will measure the “as-built” efficiency of commercial buildings (not their actual energy use), like the MPG rating for cars. An online tool will allow building owners and managers to receive a score based on information they enter about envelope, mechanical and electrical systems, and other major energy-using equipment in the building. Actual energy use can already be measured and benchmarked through Energy Star Portfolio Manager, which compares similar buildings’ annual use and assigns a percentile score.

• The asset rating will interface with Energy Star Portfolio Manager, so building managers can benchmark their actual energy use against the building’s potential energy efficiency.

• The program will help building operators identify cost-effective upgrades to improve efficiency. Though it will not be a substitute for a comprehensive energy audit, DOE says it will be “a quick, easy, affordable tool based on a national standard.”

• Like Portfolio Manager, the program will be voluntary. However, with building rating and disclosure policies becoming more common, building operations managers anticipate that local governments will use the program as part of their policies—just as many currently use Portfolio Manager.

• Third-party certification of the asset rating will be optional.

• DOE is considering various ways of reporting asset ratings to potential tenants and other building users, everything from a kBtu/ft2 metric that mirrors MPG to a star-based scale more closely resembling a restaurant or movie rating.

According to Andrew Burr, director of the building rating program at the nonprofit Institute for Market Transformation, some building owners dislike the idea of having their buildings rated exclusively based on their tenants’ behavior. “DOE’s logic in doing this is good,” said Burr, “where you would have an operational rating based on the actual utility bills and you would have an assessment of the structure that’s independent of occupancy and operation.” He added that both are important for future tenants or building owners. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” he said, predicting that full integration with Portfolio Manager would be crucial to the program’s success.

For more information:

Institute for Market TransformationDownload the DOE Request for Information (PDF); the RFI begins in the bottom right corner of page one.

 

Published August 25, 2011

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