Energy benchmarking in spotlight at CaGBC event

IMAGE: Provincial ministry spokesman Brian Byrnes provides an update on Ontario's energy benchmarking program at a CaGBC breakfast event in Toronto. (Steve McLean RENX)

Provincial energy ministry senior adviser Brian Byrnes provides an update on Ontario’s energy benchmarking program at a CaGBC breakfast event in Toronto. (Steve McLean RENX)

Ontario was the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce an energy benchmarking regulation, and it’s also the largest in North America with this type of framework.

Some of the successes and challenges of benchmarking, as well as new tools to enhance it, were discussed by nine people involved in the process at a breakfast event sponsored by the Canada Green Building Council‘s Greater Toronto Chapter on Feb. 6 at Toronto Region Board of Trade’s Lennox Hall.

“There’s a need for government to play a role in aggregating data to enable the industry to innovate and to make good strategic business decisions,” said CaGBC Greater Toronto regional director Jeff Ranson. “That’s really where benchmarking ties in.

“It’s very much an economic story. Collecting data helps building owners improve their performance and increase their asset value. It certainly helps conservation organizations design more effective programming because it gives us intelligence we don’t have in the marketplace.”

EWRB progress report

Ontario Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines senior adviser Brian Byrnes provided an update on a provincial regulation dealing with energy and water reporting and benchmarking (EWRB), which was first rolled out for commercial and industrial buildings of more than 250,000 square feet. This year, owners of commercial, industrial, multi-unit residential and other building types of 100,000 square feet or more must report energy and water consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the ministry.

“The objective of EWRB is not only to benchmark energy and water use in your building, but to help building owners identify opportunities to reduce costs,” said Byrnes. He noted energy use represents about one-third of the typical operating budget for a building.

There’s no penalty for not reporting to EWRB, and Byrnes said voluntary reporting can limit the amount of data collected.

Energy Profiles Ltd.’s EWRB involvement

Neal Bach is the president of Energy Profiles Ltd. (EPL), a full-service energy engineering/accounting and software services firm focused on driving down energy and water use and costs in building portfolios across North America. He said EPL submitted information for about 100 buildings to EWRB in 2018, which accounted for about 20 per cent of all submissions.

Bach said it was a challenge to obtain the required utility data from tenants in order to report on an entire building’s energy use. While Ontario’s dozens of utility companies are mandated to supply information, at times it’s been difficult to get because they have different privacy policies, access procedures and rules.

“It took a lot more work than we expected,” said Bach. “It took a lot more work than our clients expected, and probably a lot more work than the utilities expected.”

While acknowledging obstacles, Byrnes said the situation is improving and the EWRB process should become easier each year.

CaGBC Disclosure Challenge

Vancouver-based Concert Properties sustainability vice-president Dave Ramslie acknowledged Ontario’s leadership in energy benchmarking. He noted there are voluntary programs in Manitoba and Alberta, British Columbia has pledged to introduce a program, and Nova Scotia is offering some support and industry training around data disclosure.

Ramslie encouraged owners to disclose building energy performance data in order to: show a commitment to transparency and sustainability; stay ahead of the regulatory curve; send a strong signal to the public and potential investors; attract and retain responsible tenants by showcasing excellent building performance; and encourage tenants to be more aware of, and act on sustainability issues.

Ramslie promoted the CaGBC Disclosure Challenge, in which companies commit to voluntary disclosure of energy and GHG emission information across their portfolios. While just Concert, QuadReal and Triovest have enrolled so far, there’s still time for more companies to sign up.

Participants’ full-year data will be collected from Energy Star Portfolio Manager for all buildings larger than 25,000 square feet in a company’s Canadian portfolio.

“As an industry, many of us are already collecting and reporting on this data,” said Ramslie. “We all have good buildings and we all have bad buildings.

“Now it’s time for us as an industry to start having a more advanced conversation about how we actually address poor performers to bring them up, and to work collectively to reduce greenhouse gases, save money and build better portfolios.”

Sustainable Buildings Canada’s Compass

Sustainability consultants Chris Frankowski and Jennifer Harmer from specialty consulting engineering firm RWDI explained Compass.

The free web-based tool unlocks the power of benchmarking in building design by leveraging the wealth of information in energy simulation models. While benchmarking tools for existing buildings have been around for years, Compass can be used before construction starts.

Compass measures performance across a portfolio by using metrics which allows users to identify best practices for implementation across the portfolio to improve energy performance. It can compare energy use intensity among proposed buildings of the same type or size.

“By collecting this data in a centralized database, we have it in a standardized form that allows for a true apples-to-apples comparison between projects,” said Frankowski. “The value of this collective database is greater than the sum of the parts from any individual firm. This is a resource by the design community for the design community.”

Building owners can decide what information they want to share, and the data is normalized to ensure anonymity.

While Compass is owned by Sustainable Buildings Canada and RWDI provides technical support, an advisory committee with oversight of the user agreement determines how the data is used. The committee also provides strategic direction for the use of Compass.

Toronto 2030 Platform

Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) managing director and Toronto 2030 District executive director Amanda Smith talked about Toronto 2030 Platform, a visualization tool of energy data from Toronto’s downtown core to support GHG reductions.

Toronto 2030 Platform is designed to help users: benchmark their buildings; connect to conservation programs; commit to the District 2030 GHG reduction goals; and understand how downtown Toronto is progressing toward reaching emission reduction targets.

Toronto 2030 Platform was created by the CUI. The data it collects will be used to inform scenario planning, identify opportunities for district energy, and support utility conservation program design, engagement and campaign design.

Toronto is the only Canadian representative among 22 North American districts involved in the 2030 District program. CUI is working with Enbridge, Enwave, Toronto Hydro and the City of Toronto to accumulate data on the energy performance of downtown buildings.

Smith pointed out that GHG emissions from transportation sources between buildings in the Toronto 2030 District are greater than those from the buildings themselves.

“We often find that the conversations around transportation and buildings are separate, and we think they need to come together if we want to look at creating this high-performance district,” she said.

GBCI Canada’s Arc

GBCI Canada’s new chief customer officer Brandy Burdeniuk spoke about the Arc energy management platform, previously known as the LEED Dynamic Plaque.

The digital platform can now be viewed on most computers, tablets and smart phones. It collects, manages and benchmarks data to help measure and improve sustainability performance across the built environment, from buildings to cities and beyond.

Buildings no longer have to be LEED-certified to use Arc, but the platform can be used to pre-certify for LEED certification.

Data can be entered into Arc manually, via spreadsheets or through Energy Star Portfolio Manager. The data can be managed and tracked in near real time and is translated into a score out of 100 by measuring energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience performance within the system.


Steve is a veteran writer, reporter, editor and communications specialist whose work has appeared in a wide variety of print and online outlets. He’s the author of the book Hot…

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Steve is a veteran writer, reporter, editor and communications specialist whose work has appeared in a wide variety of print and online outlets. He’s the author of the book Hot…

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