Benchmarking: What is happening in Virginia

by Smita Chandra Thomas and Catherine Powell

April 9, 2018

Image of Buildings with their benchmarking scores

The energy benchmark score of a building depends on the efficiency of its energy use

Benchmarking is like Weight Watchers™ for buildings. As the well-known management adage goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” A meaningful weight loss journey starts with weight measurements and clear goals. Similarly, keeping the resource use of a building in shape starts with awareness of its key metrics.

Our neighbors in Washington D.C. and Montgomery County, MD understand this. They have made annual benchmarking mandatory for buildings above a certain size. Also mandatory is public disclosure of the benchmarking data. This makes the results transparent and available for broader analyses, informing local efficiency program design, climate adaptation plans, and resilience plans.

The importance of benchmarking was highlighted again last week at the Montgomery County Energy Summit. Tower Companiesa local real estate firm in Maryland, has successfully made sustainability its core ideal and delivered on it while staying profitable. During his keynote speech at the Summit, Tower Companies’ President Jeffrey Abramson mentioned ‘Benchmarking and Setting goals’ as the #1 step in creating an energy-efficient portfolio.

So how do we in Virginia compare to our neighbors when it comes to benchmarking activity? Due to local policies that limit local government authority and maintain utility data privacy, benchmarking participation has been limited to a voluntary, rather than mandatory, basis. Various public programs and private competitions have been developed that have led to the majority of participants making meaningful energy reductions. Get a quick overview in our two-page fact sheet here. 

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Helpful Links

      1. If you’re not familiar with ‘benchmarking’, the Energy Star website is a good place to start.
      2. The local governments in Virginia are limited in their ability to affect local change thanks to the Dillon Rule. What is the Dillon Rule you ask? Find out here.

Collage by Energy Shrink, inspired by UHG, city block image courtesy PSD Graphics 

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