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What You Need to Know about Building Performance Standards

Jun 6, 2023 | Public | 0 comments

Even if you don’t have a mandatory BPS in your area, one might be coming soon.

They’re the latest trend sweeping the nation: Building Performance Standards (BPS) or Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS). These pieces of legislation on either the local, state, or national level are the newest and possibly one of the best ways of lowering building energy use, and thus lessening climate change impacts.

The Department of Energy website includes a map illustrating all the place that have passed BPS legislation. But what if your facilities are located in areas that don’t require BPS? Do you have to worry about meeting minimum energy performance benchmarks?

Beyond the argument that energy efficiency is always a good idea, there’s a good chance also that there’ll be a BPS in your area soon, if not possibly a full federal BPS. Right now, the federal BPS applies to federal agencies, but eventually could become a model for public buildings across the country. So facility managers should take heed now of what BPS are and what they are not.

We recently talked with two Building Performance Standard experts, David Borchardt, P.E.,  Senior Mechanical Engineer, at MD Energy Advisors, and Jared Lyles at Energy Engineer, MD Energy Advisors about all things BPS, and what facility managers may be able to expect regarding BPS legislation in the future.

FacilitiesNet: How do BPS differ from benchmarking ordinances that were all the rage as recently as five years ago? What are the advantages of BPS? 

David and Jared: Benchmarking is the first step in establishing a Building Energy Performance Standard (BEPs), it is the metric that is used to set the standard.  The reason jurisdictions set BEPs is to meet long term carbon emissions goals.  The advantage for building owners is it allows them to know where they stand relative to their peers and their own portfolio.

Benchmarking is measuring a building or facility against standards set by the free tool known as the Energy Star Portfolio Manager.  This tool allows anyone to compare a building to other buildings of similar type in a specified area.  The measurement is ranked from 0-100 and supports the establishment of a performance reference level and ultimately the development of an action plan for improvement.

In some jurisdictions, a next step has been established called a Building Energy Performance Standard (BEPs) these are outcome-based policies and laws aimed at reducing the carbon impact of the built environment.  In short, it means that buildings and facilities that do not meet a minimum energy performance threshold in the outline jurisdiction are required to develop a plan to improve energy use over a determined timeframe.

FacilitiesNet: Can you explain the tenets of the federal Building Performance Standard the Biden administration announced last December? How can the federal BPS help spur action on the city and state level? 

David and Jared: The Federal Building Performance Standard requires agencies to cut energy use and electrify equipment and appliances to achieve zero Scope 1 emissions in 30 percent of the building space, defined by square footage, owned by the federal government by 2030. The Standard only measures what is known as Scope 1 emissions which are those direct emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) in a building to heat, cool, power, create hot water, and/or cook at the actual building. The government can choose those activities that have the biggest impact and meet these goals without any impact on a building’s operations.  For example, if a building has an old heating system that uses oil, and it is replaced with a new natural gas heating system it can easily save 50 percent of the carbon emissions without giving up fossil fuels. The good news is that in addition to the environmental benefits of reducing carbon emissions the government will save money and taxpayer dollars by doing this.

There are two ways this will help spur action at the city and state level, some states and cities will embrace these goals and may even set higher standards for buildings they own and control, they might even set standards for private property owners. However, some private property owners might see this as a call to action or just want to keep up with the latest in energy efficiency.

In addition, there might be new or improved technologies that get a boost, such as low temperature heat pumps, which will further the development of more efficient heating and cooling systems.  This will help educate industry and contractors in the new technology.

FacilitiesNet: How do BEPs address climate change? 

David and Jared: Per the IEA “Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction 2019”  buildings account for 36 percent of final energy use.  Reducing carbon intensity of one of the largest uses of energy on the planet is a great opportunity to have a positive impact.  Energy efficiency is a prime focus area because there are many options, and it can be cost efficient. These include changing lights to LEDs, optimizing operating hours and set points, routine maintenance on equipment, and changing filters regularly.  We are not going to build our way to a sustainable future, we must begin by operating the building here today better.

FacilitiesNet: Why should facility managers in locales that don’t currently have a BPS care about BPS, and work to prepare facilities now? 

David and Jared: The primary reasons are to save money, help with capital planning, budgets, and compare your property’s performance. In addition, it can help with leasing since some tenants need to report their own carbon footprint.  If your company does ESG reporting this is usually one of the most reported pieces of information.  You can’t improve what you don’t measure.  Benchmarking allows facility managers to use the first tools to make their buildings better and more efficient.

By Greg Zimmerman, senior contributing editor

Greg Zimmerman is senior contributor editor for the facility group, which including and Building Operating Management magazine. He has more than 19 years’ experience writing about facility issues.


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