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Looking to Reduce Overall Building Energy Usage? Choose Energy Star

Energy is a commercial property’s single largest operating expense. That’s a lot of power when you consider that, according to the most recent Annual Energy Review of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 19 percent of all energy in the entire country was consumed by commercial buildings.

It gets even more daunting. By 2030, commercial building floor space is expected to reach 103.3 billion square feet – a 44.16 percent increase over current levels, the DOE reports.

There is no question that the concept of “saving energy” is incumbent upon all of us. Of course saving energy means more dollars in your pocket, as opposed to the utility company’s coffers.

“Green thinking” is far more about the environment that dollars and cents. Yet, it’s often easier said than done for many companies who have no idea where to start. They want to “go green.” They understand the critical importance of conserving the planets valuable resources. And, it’s only common sense that the only way to ensure we will have energy resources tomorrow is to figure out real ways to make what we have right now last longer.

Recognizing that we’d been frittering away our planet’s natural resources at an astonishing pace, in 1991 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the DOE launched the national Energy Star rating system, leveraging competitive data and giving big incentives for products to be as energy-efficient as possible.

Take the major appliances in a home – refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines – which account for a sizeable chunk of a household monthly utility bill. If the fridge is more than a decade old, you are likely using a lot more energy – and paying the high cost of that energy – to run it than you need to. Home appliances must meet minimum federal energy efficiency standards, so any new appliance you buy today has to use less energy than the older model you’re replacing. And we’re saving a lot of energy with those replacement models.

But that’s in our homes – where decision-making is often left to one or two individuals. In commercial buildings, making decisions about how and when to save energy can take more time and effort than most people have to give.

That’s why the Energy Star ratings system has grown to cover a whole range of energy-users, including commercial real-estate properties. Buildings are rated by an external benchmark that helps energy managers assess how efficiently their buildings use energy, relative to similar buildings nationwide.

The EPA developed the energy rating as a screening tool; it helps businesses evaluate a building’s performance, and identify those that offer the best opportunities for improvement and recognition. All of the calculations are based on source energy. It levels the playing field, and compares buildings’ energy efficiency performance; it also correlates best with environmental impact and energy cost.

Based on information about your building’s size, location, occupants, number of PCs, etc., the rating system estimates how much energy the building would use if it were the best performing, the worst performing, and all levels in between. The system then compares the actual energy data you entered to the estimate to determine where your building ranks relative to buildings of equal valuation.

Controlled Energy Use=Controlled Costs

That’s an equation we can all work with. When commercial property owners jumped on the bandwagon to get their properties efficient, they started to enjoy significant financial savings. The Energy Star rating has helped commercial real estate owners significantly reduce energy consumption – by more than 35 percent through building operation and management strategy changes alone! It has also proven to increase property asset value from energy performance improvements, and tenant satisfaction and retention.

Commercial property owners know that strategic energy management is the key to controlling energy consumption and operating costs. No surprise there! What business doesn’t want to save money? But in energy reduction, it’s a win-win for our wallets and our planet.

Article by Bari Faye Siegel, a technology writer and marketing consultant at Noveda Technologies.