Large buildings to start tracking energy use to boost energy efficiency

Owners of commercial buildings 100,000 square feet and larger will submit their buildings’ energy use information by June 1 under Minneapolis’ new building energy benchmarking law. The City sent letters last week to owners and managers of more than 200 buildings with about 90 million combined square feet. This includes office buildings, hospitals, sports stadiums and more.  Measuring energy use helps building owners understand and compare their energy use while finding ways to save energy and money.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings consume more than 70 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. Some buildings have been made 30 percent to 50 percent more energy efficient with currently available products and services. But many property owners and managers don't know how well or poorly their buildings use energy or how their building's energy performance compares to similar buildings. Also, consumers have no way to compare the energy performance of buildings they hope to buy or rent.

The City will work with commercial property owners every step of the way, helping them with the tools they need to benchmark their buildings. Experts will walk property owners and managers through the new software in workshops April 24 and May 6. The City is also launching a new website and help line. In addition, a new partnership between the City and Xcel Energy will produce tools to help owners of multi-tenant buildings benchmark their buildings in future years.

The City expects that benchmarking – along with numerous rebates and financial and technical assistance programs available to businesses – will spur retrofitting activity throughout Minneapolis. While building owners are under no obligation to make energy efficiency improvements to their properties, most owners who already benchmark their buildings voluntarily take advantage of their new knowledge to make improvements to reduce their energy costs.

Implementation of the ordinance is supported in part with funding through an Environmental Assistance Grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Midtown Exchange - a case study in commercial building benchmarking

The historic Midtown Exchange building in Minneapolis is the second largest building in Minnesota: a 1.1 million square foot commercial, condo, office and retail space with a global market occupying most of the first floor. Built in 1928 as an iconic Sears distribution center, the building lay vacant for close to 15 years. It’s now a thriving center of commerce and culture in Midtown and model of energy benchmarking success.

Benchmarking allowed Ryan Companies to see how much energy the building was using and look for ways to save on energy costs. Ryan Companies estimates having saved $30,000 per year at the Midtown Exchange by moving janitorial services to the day when there is natural light, which reduces the need for energy-hogging lighting at night. Replacing standard light bulbs with LEDs, fixing air leaks and making small changes to the energy management system helped get the building on track to an ENERGY STAR rating of 96 out of 100 – an A+ on the national scale.

Leading by example

The City and its partners are leading by example and recently published 2012 benchmarking results on public buildings. From 2009-2012, energy efficiency improvements in City buildings saved taxpayers more than $6 million in energy costs.

The Central Library: benchmarking reduces public building costs

The third generation of the Minneapolis Central Library, owned by Hennepin County, was built in 2006 with state-of-the-art, energy-efficient features. A grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funded a study identifying even more energy savings to be had with the heating and lighting controls, the lighting schedule and the heat recovery system. A tune up making those changes saves another $102,000 in energy costs every year. In all, the Central Library’s energy use has decreased by 40 percent since 2008.

Other cities that have building energy benchmarking ordinances include Austin, Texas; Boston; Chicago; New York; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Seattle and Washington, D.C. The states of California and Washington also have the requirement.

Under the new law, commercial building owners are required to track – or benchmark – building energy use annually starting in 2013 and report energy use to the City. Benchmarking information for 2013 will not be made public, but the City will track overall compliance with the ordinance. Beginning in August 2015, large-building owners will have their 2014 data made available to the public. Thereafter, annually, the previous year’s energy use will be disclosed in August. Small-building owners will start benchmarking their properties in August 2015, and data on those buildings will be made public in August 2016 and annually thereafter.

Published Feb 27, 2014