[Bldg-rate] 8 Energy Benchmarking Hurdles (and How to Get Over Them)

James V. Dirkes II P.E. jvd2pe at tds.net
Fri Sep 26 07:36:06 PDT 2008

Dear Jason,

I just read the article, and think it's well done. I especially like the

"Businesses have all kinds of accounting protocols to track cash and other
assets; they might have armies of clerks that track $20 receipts for cabs
and business lunches, but they have no clue about where their $20 million in
annual energy expenditure goes. Energy is wealth, and fuel and power are
forms of currency; if money is worth tracking, then so is energy." 

It appears that, compliments of rising energy costs and greater public
awareness, the senior managers are starting to pay attention to their energy
costs.  Nonetheless, there's a long way to go.

In my opinion, and thinking only about energy, deciding that energy is an
important cost and competitiveness center is the first priority.
Benchmarking is the THIRD priority; it only tells where you are today and
there's a 90% likelihood that you're nowhere near optimum.  

The SECOND priority, therefore, should be determining and documenting the
many details that drive energy use: schedules of operation, occupancy
patterns, setpoints, special situations, etc.  Finding this information is
not always easy, because for many buildings, no one is paying attention to
it, let alone documenting it. Another great insight in the article is "Many
organizations' work habits and procedures have been in place for years and
reflect shortcuts that trade energy for time." The "determining and
documenting" step must include finding out WHY things are done, and not
accepting "Because we've always done it that way" or "Because we had a
problem 10 years ago".

Once you know the status quo and understand the reasons driving it,
solutions and opportunities almost always present themselves. Then the
challenge is to determine how cost effective each opportunity is.

An inherent challenge for those working with existing buildings, is that
there is a specific HISTORY which has caused the energy use.  If you don't
know or understand the history, improvement becomes a "crap shoot".  This is
a very bad basis for management and customer relations, especially if the
predicted savings never materialize.  Actually, it seems that a whole
different analysis toolset is required than is commonly used for brand new
buildings (which, by definition, have NO history and for which you make a
hundred "reasonable" assumptions).  Energy Plus or any of the detailed
analysis tools seems like (so to speak) a waste of energy, since the goal
for an existing building is not primarily prediction of energy use using a
theoretical weather pattern, but validation that you can match energy with
actual weather and actual usage.  I've just started experimenting with a
tool called "EZ Sim" (www.ezsim.com), which is geared toward existing
building analysis.  It's too early to tell in detail, but it seems to have
the right philosophy, which is something like "Use good information and
logic to create a simplified model that matches actual weather well, and
you'll understand the principal energy drivers.  That will guide you toward
the most effective solutions."

Getting to that optimum is not always a cakewalk, but good results become
achievable if you start with good information!

The Building Performance Team
James V. Dirkes II, P.E., LEED AP
1631 Acacia Drive NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
616 450 8653

The Building Performance Team
James V. Dirkes II, P.E., LEED AP
1631 Acacia Drive NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
616 450 8653

-----Original Message-----
From: bldg-rate-bounces at lists.onebuilding.org
[mailto:bldg-rate-bounces at lists.onebuilding.org] On Behalf Of Jason Glazer
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008 1:23 PM
To: bldg-rate at onebuilding.org
Subject: [Bldg-rate] 8 Energy Benchmarking Hurdles (and How to Get Over

I just came acrosA good article Leah B. Garris for BUILDINGS 


Is this a good summary of the problems and solutions?

What other hurdles have people seen related to building 
energy benchmarking?


Jason Glazer, P.E., GARD Analytics, 90.1 ECB chair
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