Cities and states seeking to find smart and incisive ways to spur economic growth should explore implementing Building Ratings, and the best place to start is our new website BuildingRating.org.
First things first -- What are building ratings and why are they needed? Building ratings are metrics that convey the energy efficiency that can be expected from a building.
Who uses this information? Prospective tenants comparing the costs required to lease different buildings. Fiancial institutions considering financing the building or building improvements. Property insurers. And more.
How can building ratings spur economic growth? Making improvements to a commercial office building to reduce energy usage can make a ton of sense for the owner -- the investment can be repaid through lower utilty bills and increased occupancy. But there are several reasons why owners hold back. One reason is that owners frequently don't pay the utility bills -- the tenants do. Tenants frequently do not investigate expected electricity costs in large part because the information can be difficult to obtain. But there is evidence to suggest that when the information is available to tenants, it is meaningful and compelling. Building ratings convey to prospective tenants what to expect in terms of utility bills from different buildings. And it ties back to the owner -- if tenants are conscious of the value of efficient buidlings, more building owners will invest in improving their buildings.
But don't energy bills depend on occupant behavior? Yes...and no. For any given tenant or occupant with a given use, a building with a good rating (due to better windows and a high-efficiency air conditioner, for example) will require lower energy expenses than a building with a poor rating. On the other hand, for a given tenant within a certain building, behavior will certainly matter to determine energy usage. In the end, both are important.
How does a building owner get a rating? There are many possible systems and methods, but there is an emerging consensus to use the simplest method available -- the Portfolio Manager tool. The concept is easy to understand. The tool takes in the total energy used by the building along with some basic facts such as size, floors, climate zone, primary use, etc. The building owner is then able to compare usage against other similarly situated buildings. And, others, (such as prospective tenants) can get a sense of how buildings compare.
Implementing a buildings ratings regime means requiring and enabling building owners to use a ratings sytems like Portfolio Manager. There are more and more models to learn from, including New York, Washington DC, Seattle, etc. For more information, look here...at BuildingRating.org...