How Benchmarking Can Drive Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings

In a recent interview with REIT.com, Matthew Praske, Energy and Sustainability Manager at Washington REIT, provided some insight into the company’s comprehensive approach to energy management—an approach that Praske says helped the company save about $400K in electricity expenses in 2016.

A key driver of that success is how the organization benchmarks performance in its buildings. The process helps them gauge how their properties compare with those of their peers in the industry, ensure they’re meeting tenants’ expectations, and set targets that help drive progress in each property.

Part of the benchmarking process involves opening up the dialogue with industry peers. Praske said participating in industry events, such as NAREIT’s Leader in the Light Working Forum where the interview took place, is part of the organization’s "informal" approach to benchmarking, giving the company an idea of how the rest of the industry approaches sustainability. This aspect can be useful for informing an overall sustainability strategy and keeping up-to-date with emerging best practices.

The more formal aspects of benchmarking, such as reporting to the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), start with visibility and collaboration at the property level.

With access to real-time energy profiling data available at the majority of the company’s properties, Washington REIT can develop individual goals for energy reduction and overall sustainability success at each site. Praske told REIT.com that the majority of buildings either achieve or show progress toward these annual goals. While the targets encourage building-level staff to drive progress internally, access to recommended actions to improve efficiency and project management tools to coordinate efforts help them execute their strategy. This level of visibility and control also helps the organization align building operations with their natural gas and electricity supply contracts, which can have a substantial financial impact, Praske said in the video.

Promoting this kind of progress helps Washington REIT capture the full value of its sustainability efforts. In addition to the impact of reduced costs on the bottom line, benchmarking their buildings through industry standards helps meet the market’s expectations for how modern commercial properties should operate, which can go a long way toward attracting and retaining tenants.

“We find benchmarking ourselves against our peers is really important to make sure that what we’re delivering is best-in-class, and that we’re aligned with the rest of the industry to make sure that what we’re delivering to our tenants is a good tenant experience and that it delivers the energy and sustainability that they expect from our properties,” Praske said in the interview.

Watch the full video interview at REIT.com to learn more.

Check out this strategy brief from EnerNOC and PwC to learn how leading enterprises approach energy management
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Authored By Colin Neagle

Colin is a marketing manager for EnerNOC and editor-in-chief of the EnergySMART blog.

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