Natural Resources Canada creating energy bench marking tool for commercial buildings

Canadians are most familiar with ‘ENERGY STAR’ as a label for identifying new energy efficient household products such as major appliances, residential heating and cooling equipment, office equipment, consumer electronics, windows and doors as well as for new homes. 

ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Federal Government program that has been adopted for Canadian markets. Natural Resources Canada's (NRCan's) Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) promotes the international ENERGY STAR symbol nationally and monitors its use. 

Natural Resources Canada's is considering a similar made in Canada program that would apply to commercial buildings according Michael Zatz, Manager, ENERGY STAR Commercial Buildings, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.   Speaking at the Green Real Estate Conference held April 30th, 2009 in Toronto he said "Natural Resources Canada is working on its own benchmarking building program in which they would be a partner with ENERGY STAR."

A joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, ENERGY STAR is intended to help save money and promote energy efficient products and practices. It is a credited with saving enough energy in 2008 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 29-million cars and saving $19-billion U.S. on utility bills according to the ENERGY STAR website.

There is also an active ENERGY STAR program for commercial buildings. It offers an energy management strategy that helps in measuring current energy performance, setting goals, tracking savings and rewarding improvements.  It is an energy rating system that has been applied to over 100,000 commercial buildings in the U.S.

Jones Lang LaSalle, one of the largest commercial real estate consulting companies in the World, is using ENERGY STAR in conjunction with Green Globes, an environmental benchmarking tool that it recently acquired from Canadian company EDC.  JLL is applying the tool to the portfolio of buildings it manages and recommending it to its clients located in over 70 countries.

Clients and investors are interested in reducing their carbon footprint said Dan Probst, Chairman, Energy & Sustainability Services, Jones Lang LaSalle.  They also need a measurement tool for benchmarking and managing their property’s energy use and so they can offer transparency to prospective tenants, purchasers and regulators.

There are several reasons for ENERGY STAR’s success according to Michael Zatz, Manager, Energy Star Commercial Buildings, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.   He said that it is a reputable and trusted program that is free and easy to apply to individual buildings or entire portfolios. Because it only measures energy use it is less cumbersome than broad stroke environmental systems, such as LEED.

ENERGY STAR is also known as a rigorous program where only the most energy efficient buildings, the top 25%, are eligible to receive the program label.

As local and State governments in the U.S. demand that building owners disclose their energy usage, ENERGY STAR is gaining momentum as the benchmarking tool of choice.  Washington D.C., the State of Washington, New York and California have either introduced legislation, or are moving toward legislation, that will require that building owners be fully transparent about their energy consumption.

There has been a 100% increase in the number of applicants for ENERGY STAR in the past year according to Katz.

A standard method for measuring energy use is also seen as a precursor for measuring carbon and carbon trading, a market in which commercial building owners are expected to have carbon offsets that can be sold to large emitters of green house gases.

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