|Portfolio Manager: A Cross-Border Platform to Measure Energy Performance
By Barbara Carss
About 4,000 buildings in Canada already boast scores derived from the U.S. ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager program, pegging their energy performance relative to a vast database of similar buildings located across the United States. Beginning next year, analysts based in Canada will be able to benchmark themselves in a more local context – with metric units of measurement and in either English or French.
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) recently signed an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the developer and overseer of the ENERGY STAR program, to customize Portfolio Manager for Canadian use. Comparative metrics will initially be available in two building categories – office buildings and schools – enabling evaluation against a reference database that Statistics Canada has compiled with energy use data from 6,000 buildings.
“It is statistically representative. This is the country from end to end to end,” Phil Jago, Director of the Buildings Division in NRCan’s Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE), told attendees at the Green Real Estate conference in Toronto in early April. “All you early adopters can finally see yourselves against comparable buildings on this side of the border.”
The U.S. program’s database currently encompasses more than 270,000 buildings in 15 different categories, amounting to nearly 27 billion square feet of space. In addition to the benchmarking tool for existing buildings, it offers a companion program, known as Target Finder, which evaluates projected energy performance for new construction and major renovation projects based on design parameters and expected operations.
“Target Finder uses the same scoring system and models as Portfolio Manager does so it could be available [in the future] in Canada,” reported Michael Zatz, Chief of the Market Sectors Group in the U.S. ENERGY STAR Commercial and Industrial Branch, and a co-presenter with Jago at the Green Real Estate conference.
However, the Canadian Portfolio Manager will not convey a Canada-specific ENERGY STAR label like those available for buildings in the U.S. that obtain a score of at least 75 on the program’s 1-100 scale – i.e. standing in the 75th percentile of similar buildings across the U.S..
As is also the case in the U.S., Canada’s Portfolio Manager will be integrated with other energy benchmarking and assessment tools. For example, the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada’s newly updated BOMA BESt version 2 now includes ENERGY STAR references in preparation for the program’s rollout.
“There are already tools in the marketplace and we are not here to compete,” Jago stressed. “It is designed to be complementary to LEED and BOMA BESt. We are not labelling buildings. We are providing a benchmarking tool.”
The comprehensiveness of the data and the flexibility of the software will give building owners/managers easily accessible means to track their performance through numerous energy, emissions and financial measurements. This may support their own internal and corporate reporting requirements, as well as other compulsory and broader voluntary reporting exercises.
Canadian weather data, source energy and emission factors will be used in normalization formulas to provide a more accurate comparison of a building’s performance in relation to its peers. Simple entry of the building’s postal code will trigger the applicable weather information. System administrators are promising that existing database information pertaining to Canadian buildings will be seamlessly recalculated with the new values once the new version of Portfolio Manager is operable.
The project arises from the Canada/U.S. Clean Energy Dialogue, which Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama forged in an effort to promote bi-national collaboration on clean energy technology and innovation. “Energy benchmarking is an important aspect of an effective strategy to improve energy efficiency in buildings because what gets measured, gets done,” Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, announced when plans for the Canadian version of Portfolio Manager were released in November 2011.
“Benchmarking is really at the core of our program,” Zatz observed “We view this as an important step to have the ability to benchmark properties in both countries using the same methodology.”
Real estate industry insiders concur.
“We’ve got clients for whom we manage properties both in Canada and the U.S. and we report on assets in both countries,” notes Nada Sutic, Director of Sustainability for Bentall Kennedy (Canada) LP. “If we can do more things that apply across borders, that is definitely attractive to us.”
Program developers are now focused on the approaching launch date. “Every journey begins with a first step, and the first step is getting it up and running in 2013 for existing office buildings and existing schools, but, certainly, we would like to build and add to what we have,” Jago said.
For more information, see NRCan’s web site at http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/corporate/8803 or the US ENERGY STAR web site at www.energystar.gov/buildings.