Measuring Energy Performance: Exploring Today’s Technology and Techniques

September 13, 2021 | By: Owen Kavanagh

Energy performance and measurement play a large part in the maintenance and running of a building. They are used for certifications such as ENERGY STAR®, and LEED. They can help compare your building to others, and benchmarking data can be used to better serve tenants and occupants. Knowing how to benchmark and record your building’s energy performance is integral to the continual development to remain a competitive option for tenants.

Tech Today

Benchmarking energy performance is accomplished in a couple ways today. The first method is the use of spreadsheets and careful notetaking to measure your building’s energy performance against itself. This method helps with numerical comparisons between years and can be used in conjunction with ENERGY STAR® benchmarking for a better view of your building’s performance.

Another option is ENERGY STAR® benchmarking. This method uses ENERGY STAR®’s dashboard and the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) for benchmarking and comparison to similar buildings. The use of this benchmarking tool is required in some locations, such as Austin, Boston, and Atlanta. This benchmarking software is also used for ENERGY STAR® certifications if the building has a score above 75 in their 1-100 scale (50 being the median score for buildings).

The ENERGY STAR® Benchmarking Portfolio can aid in identifying best practices from other buildings, reveal inefficiencies to fix, and track savings as you clear up any inefficiencies. One of the best parts of ENERGY STAR® is their application of CBECS to their program.


CBECS is a national sample survey of commercial buildings to better gauge their energy use. The 2012 survey sampled around 6,700 buildings, and the 2018 survey sampled over 16,000 buildings. This enormous amount of data forms the backbone of ENERGY STAR®’s rating system. The 1-100 scale is based on a building’s energy efficiency, forming a bell-curve to score other buildings.

A 50 ENERGY STAR® rating means that the building is median for the data set, and a 75 roughly equates to the 25th percentile. The reports are compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The survey has evolved in recent years, changing from only using field listing, which involved a trained EIA personnel to travel to the location, to using virtual listing as another tool to catalogue commercial buildings.

Virtual listing leverages Google Earth satellite imaging to find and catalogue eligible buildings. This method is significantly cheaper and easier than field listing and is used in conjunction with field listing to find and catalogue more buildings than ever before. CBECS has recently released their preliminary 2018 findings, and detailed information is expected to be released in Spring of 2022.

Measuring your building’s energy consumption is important. It decides how you allocate funds; how you serve your tenants; and how you may impact the environment. Sometimes this reporting is mandatory, sometimes it is a necessity to stay ahead of your competition. No matter what, performance benchmarking is not going anywhere, it remains a constant and important factor in the development, construction, and maintenance of a building.



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