Translations Blog

Transwestern Sustainability

October 18, 2016

As the 2017 budgeting season comes to a close now is the time to build efficiency and energy-saving initiatives into your building budgets. Chances are, your building owner has established sustainability goals that you, the property manager, are expected to execute and achieve. These goals may include ENERGY STAR® benchmarking and labeling; reduction of energy or water consumption or waste; or LEED® assessment, certification or recertification. Although these sustainability and efficiency measures are now considered standard in many building operations, property teams oftentimes struggle to process the mountain of data and information associated with these processes, as well as how to report to building owners in order to meet or exceed established goals. 

As you draft next year’s budget, consider the following opportunities and associated costs to achieve your building’s sustainability goals:

Is your building benchmarked in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager™? 

If not and it’s a 2017 goal, consider the following approaches:

The “Do-It-Yourself” approach
By setting goals, measuring performance, and tracking improvements, office buildings can gain control of energy expenses. Portfolio Manager helps by rating buildings’ energy performance relative to similar buildings nationwide. Creating an account is free and easy , and it allows your property to track energy and water usage. Be sure the data you enter is accurate to ensure the calculated score is correct. Your owner may be using ENERGY STAR in a number of ways, such as mandated energy reporting, Better Buildings Challenge reporting, or public sustainability reporting, so it’s important to get the right score. Additionally, Portfolio Manager recently launched an additional waste and materials tracking feature. 

Outsource through a Third Party
Using a qualified third-party provider to benchmark your building identifies areas to save energy, identify areas for improvement and ultimately save money. Plan to spend $1,400 to $3,600, depending on the number of utility meters and availability of required data. 

If your property is already benchmarked, then you can start digging a little deeper.

Does your property have an EPA ENERGY STAR score of 75 or higher? 
Consider applying for ENERGY STAR certification . ENERGY STAR certified buildings meet energy performance standards set by EPA and use less energy, are less expensive to operate , and cause fewer greenhouse gas emissions than their peers. You will need a Professional Engineer or licensed architect to sign off on the required data verification form, so plan to spend between $500 and $2,500.

Does your property have an ENERGY STAR score under 75 or high utility usage and costs?
Consider having a commercial energy audit completed. The audit uses building diagnostic technology to identify where energy waste is occurring and areas for improvements. Once an action plan in implemented buildings will see a reduction in overhead costs, improved occupant comfort and reduced environmental impact. An energy audit will cost $10,000 to $20,000 depending on the type and amount of building equipment and the level of audit performed.

Is your building LEED-EBOM (Operations and Maintenance) certified? 

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design , called LEED, is a recognition method developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to measure and award buildings for best-in-class sustainable practices. LEED certification provides a method to evaluate current building operations, identify necessary adjustments in policies and processes and receive public recognition for your efforts. LEED was developed to address all buildings, regardless of where they are in their lifecycle. By investing in LEED certification, your building would enjoy lower operating costs, a healthier work environment, quicker lease-up and higher tenant retention. 

An experienced third party provides efficiency, real-time data tracking, integration with LEED Online to streamline the LEED project management experience and provides accountability making sure that critical milestones don’t slip or fall through the cracks.

The first step is to complete a building audit and feasibility study called a LEED gap analysis. This will gauge a building’s LEED potential and identify the “gap” between your current operations and the highest level of certification your building could achieve (Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum). The analysis will also provide accurate cost estimates for improvements and serves as a roadmap for managing a successful LEED certification project.

Costs vary depending on the method used and time spent on the collection the property information, but plan to spend $2,000 to $4,500 for the gap analysis.

For the entire new certification, costs typically run in the range of:
$22,000 to $50,000
 for base consulting and required commissioning work.
+ Gap analysis
+ Project registration through the USGBC (fees vary based on the method used)
+ Project review fees (fees vary based on the method used)
potential costs for alignment of operations with LEED requirements

LEED is an ongoing process, and if strategies are sustained, the building will maintain and can even grow its performance and certification levels, with required recertification occurring at least once every five years. 

These figures are estimates only, but they provide managers a starting point to draft 2017 budgets and bring your building a step closer to achieving its sustainability goals.