NYSERDA’s Focus on Commercial Real Estate Program with New-Generation Benchmarking and Tracking Tools

Categories: Case Study

Case Study


Background

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) developed the Focus Programs – sector-specific initiatives including schools, industry, and governments – to promote greater energy efficiency awareness and market penetration. Performance Systems Development, together with real estate consulting firm HR&A, were awarded a Focus on Commercial Real Estate contract to encourage investment in energy efficiency by commercial building owners.

PSD provided targeted education sessions for the Real Estate Board of NY and local EPA staff to show the benefits of anonymous peer comparisons using a benchmarking portal we developed for NYSERDA. Our efforts laid a solid foundation for the subsequent introduction of New York City’s landmark energy usage disclosure mandate, Local Law 87. Prior to our involvement, there was concern among major building owners and managers that a national benchmarking tool would not correctly represent the “unique” building stock of the city. In fact, the distinctive quality of a region’s buildings has been a common concern in all cities we have since engaged. Our tool’s ability to show peer comparison of similar buildings within a city, rather than just the national comparison offered by Portfolio Manager, has done much to alleviate this worry.

Our Solution

In 2007, PSD launched a customized, web-based tool that allows commercial building owners and managers to rate their buildings’ energy efficiency and carbon footprint relative to peer office buildings in New York City, the state, and across the country.  This “Benchmarking Toolkit” serves as an overlay to EPA’s Portfolio Manager (PM), customized to the New York commercial real estate market.  The energy data analysis tool is linked directly to PM, which rates a building’s energy performance on a scale of 1–100 relative to similar buildings nationwide.  Our tool adds new analyses to accurately produce a score that represents the building’s source energy usage and carbon footprint relative to similar buildings in New York.   Buildings with the greatest need for investment in energy efficiency are more easily identified, and progress towards city and state energy efficiency targets can be tracked more effectively.

We also developed an energy scorecard to better identify specific opportunities for energy saving measures, and estimate the cost and payback of each measure. The diagnostic report identifies the range of upgrade opportunities, and informs building improvement investment decisions.

While developing the Benchmarking Toolkit, we recognized a limitation in the way the EPA managed data sharing in Portfolio Manager (PM).  Although not within the scope of our contract with NYSERDA, we proposed critical enhancements to PM, which were later adopted by the EPA.    The experience and technical expertise of our engineers allowed them to recognize the limitation, and develop an innovative solution to how the EPA managed their ABS interfaces.  This greatly enhanced the utility of Portfolio Manager.  Most importantly, it allowed cities and programs to use PM as a data hub, in their quest for increased energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

The Outcome

In 2009, New York became the first U.S. city to begin a mandatory, comprehensive effort to reduce emissions from large existing buildings when Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the passage of a landmark package of legislation to increase the energy efficiency of the city’s building stock.  The “Greener, Greater Buildings Plan” contained four laws designed to dramatically reduce the city’s energy usage and provide new initiatives to help building owners finance building efficiency retrofits.  Our work with NYSERDA’s Focus on Commercial Real Estate program helped provide stakeholder buy in and paved the way for the city’s groundbreaking efforts to make commercial building space more efficient.