New Building Rating website will continue trend toward better information about energy use
There's a strange disconnect in our economy. We devote a massive amount of resources to heat, cool, and light our millions of homes, offices, stores, public spaces, coffee-shops, etc.. Yet we track only a tiny amount information on our performance. That is, we have little readily-available information that shows whether we are wasting money by allowing the heat to go through an un-insulated ceiling, or by cooling the outdoors through very leaky windows, or by cooling space that is only hot because of too many light-emitting space heaters (i.e., old fashioned light bulbs).
The MPG sticker on a new car conveys more information than most building owners and tenants have about their building energy use. Yet information about how a house or building is performing is essential to making good decisions about the space.
This is why NRDC and others are working on Building Ratings. In fact, we have just launched an excellent new website that will serve as a central resources on Buildings Ratings, developed in cooperation with the Institute for Market Transformation, leading thinkers (and do-ers) in this field.
Who uses Buildings Ratings? In the commercial building sector, the building owner would use it to get a snapshot of relative performance. How is my building on energy costs compared to other similar buildings? The results could be a red flag leading to discovery of money-saving improvements, A prospective tenant would use the rating to evaluate possible space to lease. This is especially important since tenants often pay their own energy costs yet often do not have the ability to improve the building efficiency. Financial institutions considering financnig improvements to a building should be interested in reducing the operating costs for the owner, which will improve the owners ability to re-pay the loan, and a rating can serve as a before/after measure. And, there are similar applications for residential and multi-family buildings.
For many cities, including New York, Washington DC, Seattle, and others, Building Ratings are an essential ingredient for a sustained future of economic growth. Spending resources to do no productive work (such as heating or cooling the outside air due to poor insulation or leaky windows!) makes no sense and those resources could be put to productive use. Moreover, building new power plants and transmission lines to power that wasteful behavior makes no sense.
Making information more available and useful can help to change behavior.