Taking the first step toward energy efficiency can often be the hardest for building owners and managers. Darlene Pope, president and CEO of CorAdvisors, an energy management and intelligent building systems integrator for commercial and corporate facilities, said establishing a baseline energy profile is a critical first step in energy management and makes the process easier.
"If you can't measure it you can't manage it," she said in a recent webcast of what will be a three part series on 'The Roadmap to Energy Efficient Buildings.'
The baseline would be used to compare against other properties, identify areas that need improvements and serve as a means to measure the success of energy conservation efforts, Pope explained.
She said benchmarking, monitoring and reporting are the most important steps in learning where a building is in terms of its energy efficiency. This enables owners to gain a better understanding in planning the next steps in the process.
Liberty Property Trust (NYSE: LRY) has had success in implementing a real-time energy monitoring platform across 130 buildings. The company's sustainability program has evolved from a set of individual initiatives to a corporate-wide mindset, according to Marla Thalheimer, Liberty's director of sustainability.
"We do a real-time energy monitoring, which has just been a tremendous tool to allow our people to see what's really happening in the building and realize and react in real time to anomalies as soon as they happen, as opposed to down the road," she said during the 2012 NAREIT Leader in the Light Working Forum.
George Caraghiaur, senior vice president of energy and procurement at Simon Property Group Inc. (NYSE: SPG), said while Simon currently measures its energy efficiency efforts, the company plans to roll out its own energy benchmarking tool designed to make it easier to compare mall's energy per square foot against each other.
"We do a lot of reporting monthly to understand where we stand," he said.
This resulted in energy use for comparable properties dropping 27 percent since 2003, which Caraghiaur said is the equivalent of $37 million annually in energy cost savings.
"Implementing real time energy monitoring works the same way as when you go on a diet and buy a scale," Pope said. "It measures progress over time. It's the same way with buildings. You need to be able to have some type of benchmarking.
In addition to benchmarking Pope suggests reviewing utility rates and conducting competitive bids for energy purchasing.
"From that standpoint, there's a lot of money to be saved from the procurement of energy," she said.
Additional first step tactics discussed include evaluating and implementing a demand response and strategic load management program which focuses on reducing energy during non-peak times.
Pope also recommended sub metering tenants because it makes them more vested in the building's energy performance.
Rick Avery, Health Care REIT Inc.'s (NYSE: HCN) vice president of energy management and building technologies agrees it's important to ensure that tenants are involved and understand their role.
"You can invest a lot of money in the physical plant, but really the best dollar spent is changing how people operate – not in a negative way, but creating information that they can positively affect their own use of energy," he told REIT.com during the 2012 NAREIT Leader in the Light Working Forum.
Although benchmarking is used as a starting point to measure a company's sustainability efforts Andrew Burr, director, building energy performance policy, with the Institute for Market Transformation, said it's also important as more cities and states increasingly require mandatory benchmarking and reporting in the marketplace.
"Existing policies will impact more than 60,000 buildings totaling more than 4 billion square feet of floor space in major real estate markets over the next few years," according to Burr.
Among the jurisdictions that currently have reporting policies in place are California, Washington state, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and New York. Burr said he expects other jurisdictions will follow, including Chicago, Minneapolis and Boulder, Col., which are currently reviewing mandatory requirements.