How the EPA is Updating Benchmarking with the Pandemic

There have been many changes across utilities consumption in the past year, due to the pandemic. More people stayed at home, which in a lot of cases, significantly increased energy usage, along with water usage and waste. Within multifamily, these consumption pattern changes have affected how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) views what goes into benchmarking scores for the Energy Star Portfolio Manager program.

How have people staying at home affected energy rates?

The pandemic has greatly shifted energy usage rates across different types of buildings. In general, while multifamily has seen increases as people stayed at and worked from home, office, retail, hospitality, and schools have seen decreases as many closed or operated at decreased capacities. However, this is not universal and these trends are reflected in many areas, but the data has shown a lot of variance across properties.

How has the EPA adapted?

According to Craig Haglund, Program Manager for the EPA, the EPA is looking into adapting to include these changes into benchmarking scores. As there is still so much uncertainty about “a new normal” or “going back to normal,” the organization is taking into consideration changes by each month. In the future, there could be different policies and programs in place to more accurately reflect the market. The EPA’s first priority is to take a look at property types that have had the biggest impacts like offices, schools, retail, and hospitality. 

Benchmarking should always be accurate and valuable for everyone as a trusted metric. To ensure that the score maintains statistical accuracy, the EPA has updated certain characteristics of buildings affected by the pandemic so that the resulting score should track true.

Why do people need to benchmark year over year?

Year over year benchmarking allows for all calculated metrics to be annualized and give a more accurate basis of how a building is performing. For example, benchmarking for a year accounts for how all seasons affect energy consumption. 

A year is a great period of time to have effective and timely feedback sessions as well as understand goals and best practices to maintain certain performance levels over time.

What’s on the horizon for multifamily benchmarking?

Reporting is the biggest thing. There is a greater policy push for city, county, and state governments to develop benchmarking ordinances. For example, this could be for multifamily buildings over a certain square footage to report annually. Many use Energy Star Energy Manager for benchmarking, and this is a voluntary program. In the future, the number of local governments that use these benchmarking ordinances along with a timeline will grow. This is part of a larger cultural shift in sustainability efforts, including tracking energy consumption becoming a responsibility for the c-suite.

Listen to Mary Nitschke, VP of Sustainability at RealPage, and her full podcast episode here: “EPA Benchmarking Updates.” To keep learning more about sustainability in multifamily housing, check out the Sustainability Series podcast.

About STRATIS

STRATIS®, a RealPage Company, creates smart apartments and intelligent buildings and is the only platform of its kind built for the complexities of multifamily and student housing. STRATIS is installed worldwide across the U.S., in Japan, the UK, EU, and Latin America. STRATIS now serves hospitality, retail, and small to mid-size commercial, as well. STRATIS is an Inc. Magazine “Fastest Growing Company in America” and a Top Ten Entrepreneur Magazine “Best Company in America.” STRATIS was recently acquired by RealPage to enable CommunityConnect, a more connected lifestyle, and unleash hidden yield through new revenue streams.

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