The race towards a greener and more energy efficient built environment is on, and every joule matters. Such is the philosophy behind Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)’s ENERGY STAR for Buildings programming that includes ENERGY STAR Certification, a new program designed to recognize those Canadian buildings that stand out as assets whose energy performance is amongst the top 25 percentile.
Introduced to Canada in 2018, the ENERGY STAR Certification program targets a wide range of building types including: office buildings, K-12 schools, hospitals, medical office buildings, hotels and motels, warehouses, and others.
A platform for change
ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager® is the cornerstone of its certification program for buildings. The Canadian adaption of the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA)’s online benchmarking tool helps users measure, track, and optimize energy consumption by comparing their building’s performance against itself as well as similar buildings. In Canada, much of that data comes from Statistics Canada’s Survey of Commercial and Institutional Energy Use (SCIEU), which is conducted every five years and generates a timely and accurate snapshot of building characteristics and energy usage across the commercial and institutional sectors.
“The ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool is designed to give Canadian users an easy, secure, and cost-free way to benchmark a building’s energy and to generate a wide array of performance metrics.” explains Mike Dennison, Senior Program Officer, in NRCan’s Office of Energy Efficiency. “A key value component of benchmarking in the tool is the ability to compare your building’s performance against a similar, national reference building that has been modeled from the SCIEU data.”
ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is also the gateway to ENERGY STAR Certification. Eligible building types that achieve a score of 75 or higher (top quartile) on the ENERGY STAR 1-100 score scale are able to submit an application for certification through the Portfolio Manager tool. Building set-ups and data must be verified by an in-house or third-party Licensed Professional.
“The verification process exists to protect the integrity of the certification,” adds Dennison. “The sign-off by a licensed engineer or registered architect, in their professional capacity, means buildings that earn the ENERGY STAR have done so authentically.”
Once approved by NRCan, buildings receive an ENERGY STAR Certification decal and branding materials. With the owner/manager’s permission, they are also added to NRCan’s online registry of certified buildings and have an opportunity to be promoted alongside other energy efficiency leaders.
ENERGY STAR Certification is not a one-and-done process. To maintain status as ENERGY STAR, a building is required to re-certify on an annual basis, thus ensuring that the building continues to maintain its top-quartile energy performance on the ENERGY STAR 1-100 scale and is keeping pace with industry changes.
“The playing field is always changing, as is the data from the SCIEU survey. The need to re-certify annually means that your building continues to prove an ability to innovate and improve how energy is managed,” notes Dennison.
A multi-purpose tool
While ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager was designed with a focus on energy benchmarking, its potential doesn’t end there. Recent enhancements to the tool have added the ability to track water and solid waste usage. Additionally, the tool’s features and functionality have seen it integrated as the reporting platform for an increasing number of programs and initiatives such as the Ontario Large Building Energy and Water Reporting and Benchmarking (EWRB) regulation.
“ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is not intended to “compete” with other market (some more sophisticated) benchmarking tool options,” says Dennison. “I always use the old saying that goes: usually when you get something for nothing, that’s what it’s worth. ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager bucks that trend; it is a tremendous complementary benchmarking tool that offers a wealth of benefits.”
Power of the brand
There are perks to a building being certified as ENERGY STAR. At last check, ENERGY STAR enjoys upwards of 90 per cent market recognition, making it a brand that denotes leadership in energy conservation. This is an advantage for today’s building owners, managers, and investors who are looking for ways to stand out from among their competition.
“From a tenant’s perspective, certification can be a differentiator – especially if it means I may pay less for my utilities,” says Dennison, noting, “Not only that, but some tenants and organizations are starting to focus on being in a building that is part of the solution on climate change and carbon reduction.”
The journey towards ENERGY STAR certification is as easy as a click. ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager can be used to input building data and gauge one’s standing free of charge, and it can also be used to answer virtually any question participants have about the program and the certification process.
“There is no cost. Someone can open a Portfolio Manager account within a matter of 15 minutes, and instantly set up a sample building to see what their building will look like when it’s set up. A new user can then easily explore the robust functionality of the tool,” Dennison explains.
Moreover, both NRCan and the EPA conduct introductory Portfolio Manager webinars throughout the year, the latter of which includes a wealth of content applicable to Canadian building stakeholders as well.
To date over 300 new and re-certified buildings have been welcomed to the ENERGY STAR family with more in the pipeline. And with that number growing, NRCan is confident that its ENERGY STAR Certification program for commercial and institutional buildings will reach new heights in the year ahead.
Says Dennison, “We’re very happy with where things have evolved since we launched this program, and we’re extremely happy with the uptake for ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager itself, which has in excess of 26,000 buildings in Canada benchmarking their energy, representing approximately 35 per cent of the commercial/institutional floor space.”
Building owners and managers who are ready to begin their ENERGY STAR certification journey, and benefit from using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, are invited to visit www.energystar.gc.ca/batiments.
ENERGY STAR eligible properties
ENERGY STAR Certification is currently available to the following property types in Canada:
● K-12 Schools
● Hotels / Motels
● Medical Offices
● Ice / Curling Rinks
● Commercial Offices
● Senior Care Communities and Residential Care Facilities
● Supermarket and Food Stores
● Retail Stores