Blog: benchmarking

December 29, 2014
Green Buildings - benchmarking, energy efficiency, green building, real estate resources, water efficiency

The California Sustainability Alliance is proud to announce an industry report which summarizes the outcome of the Existing Buildings Think Tank Roundtable held in partnership with the USGBC-LA Existing Buildings Committee. Over 70 participants representing building owners and managers, engineers, utilities, government, trade associations, and other industry professionals were in attendance to discuss ideas and emerging trends related to the operation and performance of existing buildings. The Alliance is managed by Navigant Energy Services and funded by Southern California Gas.

The Think Tank Roundtable is an annual, half-day event hosted by the USGBC-LA Existing Buildings Committee and chapter strategic partners typically focusing on Class A buildings. This year, the Alliance sponsored an expanded scope of the meeting to include an afternoon session for Class B and C building owners. The purpose of the Think Tank Roundtable is to share best practices, lessons learned, resources, challenges, and opportunities around topics relevant to owners and managers of Class A, B & C buildings as well as tenants, brokers, government, and building professionals from all sectors. Two industry reports (one for Class A owners and one for Class B and C owners) were produced as a result of the Think Tank event and follow-up interviews with key stakeholders.

Green and energy-efficient buildings demand higher rent, increase tenant productivity, reduce operating costs, and have higher occupancy rates. The upfront cost of green building improvements is a deterrent commonly cited by building owners. However, data show that green retrofits and increased energy and water efficiency increase property values and many upgrades can deliver attractive, short-term returns. During the meeting, industry leaders from the Greater Los Angeles area identified best practices, new opportunities, and existing resources in multiple topic areas to help Class B and C building owners and managers take charge of their building performance. The report summarizes industry leaders’ discussion of these topics:

  • Building Codes and Standards
  • Energy Efficiency and Energy Management Plans
  • Water Efficiency Opportunities
  • Financing Green Retrofits
  • New Building Technologies
  • Building Sustainability Trends
  • Climate Change
  • Other Industry Updates

The recently released reports highlight key outcomes of the roundtable discussions and integrate feedback from additional stakeholders during the months following the event. The findings and objectives of the reports are to:

  • Help utilities understand how to improve their regulatory and incentive programs by providing feedback about how they can best serve these critical yet often under-represented customers.
  • Encourage owners and managers of Class A, B and C properties to improve portfolio-wide energy and water efficiency and implement green building practices.
  • Inspire action to deepen environmental goals in the existing building sector by defining critical challenges and potential solutions, and by inviting key stakeholders to engage in the discussion.
  • Provide resources and education to service providers that are in a position to help building owners design and implement energy and water conservation strategies.

View the full reports here:

Video interviews from multiple experts at the event were also produced.

December 16, 2010
Corporate Sustainability - benchmarking, green business
Nike Considered designs will lower the company's environmental footprint.

Earlier this month, I attended a seminar on sustainability innovation in the tech industry at Dreamforce 2010, salesforce.com’s 8th annual conference (anyone familiar with Dreamforce, or with salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff, should recognize this massive understatement—imagine a sales event-rock concert-thought leadership expo and you’ll get a rough idea). Titled “How Efficiency, Collaboration & Innovation Can Help Mitigate Climate Change”, the session brought together Eric Olson, Senior Vice President at Business for Social Responsibility; Lorrie Vogel, General Manager of Nike Considered; and Ted Howes, co-lead of IDEO’s Energy Practice, to share their thoughts on the role of technology in solving one of  society’s biggest challenges.

I was particularly intrigued by Lorrie Vogel’s discussion points, which covered two exciting topics: Considered Design, Nike’s closed-loop design vision, and the GreenXchange, an open platform for sharing patented design information (which I will cover in my next blog post). For this discussion, I want to discuss Considered Design and some thoughts about the broader implications that sustainability implementers of all types can draw from Nike’s model.

At its core, Considered Design represents a coordinated approach to tackling what sustainability means (definition) and how it is achieved (implementation). For a major footwear and apparel manufacturer, sustainability issues cut to the heart of business: making core products in a completely new way, without sacrificing quality. Considered Design serves as Nike’s big first step toward realizing a long-term vision of closed-loop design for all of its products.

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March 10, 2010
Built Environment - benchmarking, energy efficiency, energy performance labeling, green building

One of the leading contenders in change.org's Ideas for Change in America competition is the notion of an energy performance label for homes that works like the miles-per-gallon sticker that comes with a new car. Called the Energy Performance Score (EPS), the concept heralds from the Pacific Northwest and is more than just an idea, having been developed and piloted by Earth Advantage in 2008, and then adopted on a voluntary basis for new homes in Oregon and Seattle.

The scorecard is similar to the UK's Energy Performance Certificate, which has been mandatory for all buildings on construction, sale or rental, since 2008. Both of these labels go beyond the EnergyStar and ASHRAE EQ energy labels, which measure energy performance, but not CO2 emissions.

The EPS scorecard is completed following a home energy audit by a certified EPS auditor, who reports the home's current score in terms of energy use and carbon emissions.  The scorecard indicates where the home falls in relation to the state average and also how the home would score if all of the recommended upgrades were completed. Earth Advantage report that there has been a lot of interest in the label from across the country:

This comprehensive initiative has attracted national interest. The City of Chicago, City of Houston, Clinton Climate Initiative, U.S. Department of Energy, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development are all assessing the final recommendations from the pilot report issued in August 2009.

We look forward to seeing versions of the EPS appearing elsewhere in the not-too-distant future.

January 6, 2010
Built Environment - benchmarking, energy efficiency, green building
ASHRAE's Building Energy Quotient label

Washington DC is leading the way in many aspects of sustainability, and may be the first place in the nation where building energy performance labeling becomes mandatory. Starting this year, the owners of approximately 260 of the largest commercial buildings in the District will be required to record their performance data in the EPA’s Portfolio Manager website. According to the Washington Post, the initiative has supporters and opponents:

Cliff Majersik, executive director at the Institute for Market Transformation, an environmentally focused, Washington-based nonprofit group, said the law should fix a long-standing problem. It's tenants, not landlords, who typically pay the energy costs for a rented corporate space, he said. "The people in the best position to improve the energy efficiency of buildings don't pay the energy bills, and the people who pay the energy bills are unaware that they could be saving money," he said. The Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington and the Cato Institute opposed the bill, noting that it calls for the District to fund a third-party contractor to conduct sustainable energy programs for the city. "It's something else that will make it more expensive to live in Washington or run a business in Washington," said Pat Michaels, a senior fellow on environmental studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "If left to its own, the market would produce these efficiencies better."

The Washington program closely mirrors similar initiatives in other states, notably New York and California, and at the Federal level.

  • Section 204 of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 establishes a plan for a national building energy performance labeling program. The Act, which also includes the controversial “Cap and Trade” legislation, is currently awaiting action in the Senate.
  • California was the first state to draft energy performance labeling legislation, with AB 1103 in 2007, which requires that, as of Jan. 1, 2010, non-residential buildings release their Portfolio Manager-benchmarked data and ratings to parties in a commercial real estate transaction involving the sale, lease or financing of a whole building.
  • In December 2009, New York passed the Greener Greater Buildings Plan, which includes the disclosure of energy performance for large commercial buildings by September 2011.

In June 2009 ASHRAE introduced a prototype building energy performance label, the Building Energy Quotient Label, which is currently being piloted. The Building EQ program is a more sophisticated version of the EPA’s Energy Star program, which has been in existence since 1992 and provides performance labels for buildings and appliances. In Washington, the building performance data will not be made public knowledge until 2012, giving building owners time to improve their scores by installing energy saving upgrades.


December 15, 2009
Built Environment - benchmarking, green building, real estate

As one of the leading global real estate services firms, CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) made an early commitment to the promotion of sustainability in real estate, both in its work with clients and in its own operations.  Reflecting this, the firm released corporate responsibility reports in 2007 and 2008 and declared its goal to be carbon neutral in operations by 2010. CBRE's December newsletter, "6 Degrees of Sustainability", provides a good insight to the kind of activities that CBRE is initiating across the green building spectrum. These include:

Real estate professional service firms like CBRE have a key role to play in the promotion of green building practices, and we expect to see that role - and their influence - increasing as sustainability becomes mainstream in the commercial real estate industry.