Guest Blog: Energy Star for Commercial Buildings

Energy Star for Commercial Buildings

by Robert Harris, PE, LEED®AP BD+C

Can Earning the Energy Star for Commercial Buildings Help My Business?

Just about everyone has seen the familiar blue Energy Star label on appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, computers, printers, and televisions.  According to EPA, “Energy Star is the single most trusted environmental label in the United States. It’s the nation’s symbol for superior energy performance. In fact, more than 85 percent of Americans recognize the Energy Star when they see it.” Now, did you know you could earn the Energy Star label for your commercial buildings?

I can earn the Energy Star for my Commercial Building?

Why, yes! The United States Environmental Protection Agency has free online tools to help building owners and their consultants benchmark energy use, improve energy performance, and earn recognition for energy efficient buildings. The first Energy Star commercial building earned its label in 1999. Now, Energy Star certified buildings can be found in all 50 states. The certification program is based on actual utility bill data and building characteristics, verified by licensed designed professionals, and checked by EPA, so there is little chance of greenwash. I’ll say it again… Actual Data!

How do I earn the Energy Star for my Commercial Building?

Start by entering utility bill data and building information into Portfolio Manager, EPA’s free online tool. Once the data is entered, the tool will calculate a score between 1 and 100. Buildings that have a score of 75 or higher are eligible to apply for the Energy Star. In order to earn the Energy Star label, the data entered into Portfolio Manager must be verified by a licensed design professional, including a visit to the building.

Why should I earn the Energy Star for my Commercial Building?

Energy Star buildings save energy, save money, and help protect the environment by generating fewer greenhouse gas emissions than typical buildings. No matter where it is seen, the Energy Star label is a well-known mark of top performance in energy efficiency. It’s very recognizable by your employees and customers, and can build relatively inexpensive goodwill with the public. Research has shown that most people prefer to work or do business with companies that they perceive as being environmentally responsible. Energy efficiency isn’t just a first step to being green. It’s a smart business decision that can have a high return on investment, and can bolster your competitive advantage.

How much does earning the Energy Star label cost?

Unlike other green building recognition programs, there are no registration or certification fees involved in earning the Energy Star label for Commercial Buildings, and EPA makes the online tools available for free. Costs include the labor to gather and enter the utility bill and building information into Portfolio Manager, and the cost to hire a licensed design professional to visit the site and verify the data that was entered. If you have a large building portfolio with sites located throughout the country, the travel expenses can be one of the higher costs. According to the EPA the certification costs can be ½ to 1 cent per square foot, and this is consistent with our experience for large format retail store verification. Certifying smaller buildings will have higher costs per square foot. Some state and local government entities may offer incentives that can help to offset the costs of the licensed professional verification.

How do I get started?

Visit https://www.energystar.gov/buildings for more information on EPA’s Energy Star program for commercial buildings. Or contact Robert.Harris@larsonbinkley.com if you would like to learn more about licensed professional verification for your commercial building.

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