Energy | Ecotrope

Which Of These Buildings Uses More Energy?

Ecotrope | Nov. 1, 2012 3:46 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 3:37 p.m.

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City Hall and the Portland Building have joined a citywide competition that will compare the energy use of commercial buildings and reward the most efficient ones. It will also flag inefficiencies for building owners who want to save energy.

It’s called the Kilowatt Crackdown, and it sets up a system of comparing energy use among buildings to reveal which ones are highly efficient and which ones could be doing better.

The program is an alternative to mandatory energy reporting now required in other cities including Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Boston and Washington D.C. But sustainability leaders at the City of Portland hope to achieve the same results by fostering competition among building owners and showing them how their buildings stack up against their neighbors. Ultimately, it could create a market where consumers can shop around for the most energy efficient buildings.

“It show us where the laggards are and whether they need different kinds of resources,” said Michael Armstrong, sustainability manager for the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. “We want to make it easy for prospective tenants and buyers to compare energy performance.”

A scoring system based on a national program called Energy Star Portfolio Manager will tell participating building owners how their energy use stacks up against other buildings in the city and across the country.

The first step in the competition is for building owners to supply their buildings’ square footage, type of use, number of people using it, and energy use from utility bills, among other details. They can then decide whether their score will be published for all to see.

The Kilowatt Crackdown program provides building owners with a free technical walk-through with energy efficiency experts – a service that can cost $1,500 to $4,000. The service is paid for through the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, one of several partners in the competition. Over time, the building owners will track their energy efficiency improvements, and the best performing buildings will be recognized.

“The city’s interest here is improving commercial building performance,” said Armstrong. “We want to see very efficient buildings with low very costs. That also correlates to low carbon emissions.”

Other partners include the Building Owners and Managers Association of Oregon, the Portland Development Commission, Energy Trust of Oregon and Clark Public Utilities.

So far there are a little more than 20 buildings signed up to compete (you can see some of the participants in the slide show above). But the goal is to enlist 150 commercial buildings to save 1 to 2 megawatts, equal to roughly $2 million a year in energy costs.

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