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More dots on the map have appeared since this publication last looked at mandatory building energy benchmarking policies, in 2018. Some have moved beyond benchmarking to requiring performance targets.

But as much as the word “mandatory” may make you gulp, energy and water benchmarking itself is relatively easy. “It helps you answer the questions, how are we doing? and how do we know?,” as the ENERGY STAR website puts it.

In fact, ENERGY STAR says a new user could benchmark a community in one-to-two hours, depending on the type of community and your data records.

This graphic displays which U.S. cities, counties, and states have adopted mandatory building energy benchmarking and transparency policies for existing buildings.And the tools for benchmarking are free. When you use ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager tool, you’ll be benchmarking according to industry standards. No matter where your community is located or what policies apply, you’ll have the benchmarking foundation if you use Portfolio Manager (portfoliomanager.zendesk.com).

On top of this, the benefits of benchmarking provide good reason to do it even before you have to. With Portfolio Manager, says ENERGY STAR, you can:

Benchmarking myths

Recently, Marla Thalheimer, senior ESG program manager at RE Tech Advisors, was part of a Senior Living Insights webinar where she shared how some of the myths about complexity or difficulty in changing energy use can discourage managers from going after these benefits:

Many think utility costs are part of the cost of doing business, and can’t be controlled. But a large portion of utility costs are controllable. And the best way to find out where these are is through benchmarking.

Staying on budget is not the same as running efficiently. When you proactively manage energy usage, you can uncover opportunities for significant cost savings—which can then be used to improve net operating income or to reinvest into areas such as resident programs or staff retention.

Age of a building may not be a big factor. Although new buildings are generally made to be greener, factors such as the utilities market, location, and management can be more important than age. A new building can run up costs if it’s not managed well, and an old one can be managed to realize savings.

Know your energy score

Portfolio Manager gives access to more than 150 different metrics on performance. Your community can also get an ENERGY STAR score, which “allows you to compare your energy performance to similar properties nationwide.”

The average score is 50. If your community scores below that, you have ample opportunities for savings.

Any score lower than 75 means you still have some good ways to save.

A plus for business

In addition to savings, there are other benefits to benchmarking, says Richard Nix, senior director of senior living sales at Yardi.

   “Today we are seeing a significant increase in green financing programs offering discounts for mortgages. These programs usually require properties set up reporting in Portfolio Manager and send certain ENERGY STAR reports to the loan servicer on an annual basis,” he says.

   A score can also serve as a “litmus test” for developers on financial performance, he adds.

   “Extensive studies have been completed showing strong correlation between ENERGY STAR Scores, occupancy rates, and rents per square foot.”

A good source for comparison and updates is BuildingRating (buildingrating.org). This international information exchange allows you to find specific energy and benchmarking policies for your region, as well as a history of the policies and relevant media coverage, with a click on the map.

It also allows you to compare several states, cities, or municipalities. For instance, you could look at neighboring states to yours to see what policies they have in place and how long they’ve had them, to get a sense of the trends. The word of the decade is water - sidebar

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