Services & Maintenance: Energy Measurement And Verification

By John Schinter

Published in the March 2009 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

A facility management (FM) department operating a corporate portfolio of buildings in the U.S. spent nearly $30 million on energy costs in 2005. This organization was able to reduce its energy usage by more than 7% in the three years that followed, helping to keep costs stable at a time when some regions were seeing 20% rate hikes.

facility management energy measurement verification
Today, this organization is on track to meet its five year goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15% through the implementation of additional portfolio energy management strategies. It also hopes to establish an increased commitment to renewable energy.

The actions taken to achieve these results involved ordinary energy management tactics, but the case illustrates the importance of measurement and verification (M&V) in two ways. First, the fact that energy and environmental data across a large portfolio can be accurately measured and reported at all is unusual. More important, the sophisticated tracking and reporting system that captured the data also helped the energy management team maximize results by quickly identifying and correcting the most serious inefficiencies.

M&V Guidelines And Resources

There are many ways to measure and verify energy efficiency. Engineers generally equate M&V with the Efficiency Valuation Organization’s (EVO) International Performance Measurement & Verification Protocol (IPMVP) as a way to measure systems in isolation or to conduct whole building comparisons (see sidebar for more on EVO).

Meanwhile, the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has gained wide acceptance as an effective way to identify baseline efficiency and to quantify degrees of progress over time. ASHRAE also has standards for determining a baseline.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED building rating system draws on IPMVP, ENERGY STAR, and ASHRAE for various standards of measurement. However, the most recent LEED for Existing Buildings-Operations & Maintenance (EBOM) standard (which replaced the Existing Buildings standard) does not directly give facility managers (fms) credit for M&V follow through. Buildings that have metering installed do get credit under LEED-EBOM, and fms are expected to have a plan for monitoring the data, but whether the data is collected and used productively is an open question.

Regarding new buildings, in March 2008, the New Buildings Institute based in Vancouver, WA concluded a study funded by the USGBC, with support from the EPA, on the energy performance of LEED for New Construction (NC), version 2 buildings. Of the 552 LEED certified buildings invited to participate in the study, management in 250 of those was willing to supply information, but only 121 could supply the energy usage data typically found on monthly bills.facility management energy New Buildings Institute

Moreover, even though about 40 of the participating buildings had achieved the LEED credits that mandated M&V for at least one year of operation, only four could provide actual M&V data. (The chart shown here is from the study and shows the breakdown of participants (buildings) by their available metrics.)

In short, an fm in a LEED certified building who can maintain a good ENERGY STAR rating may have no motivation to monitor energy usage. However, fms (corporate, especially) should be strongly motivated to do so, whether or not their buildings are recognized by LEED or ENERGY STAR. Not only are these professionals under pressure to lower costs, but corporations increasingly need to report reductions in carbon emissions—a large percentage of which may come from their facility operations. Here the M&V challenge is not limited to a single site, but to every building in the company’s portfolio.

Hence, there are five levels of granularity in M&V, from the portfolio, down to buildings, then to systems and machines, and, finally, components. Can any M&V system effectively encompass all these levels? The answer is yes, it can, and it is being done at some of the largest facility portfolios in the U.S. In fact, the larger the portfolio, the easier it is in some ways to identify opportunities for improvement.


Drilling Down As Far As Needed

The key to successful M&V is to gather information on each building on a timely basis in a program that automatically translates the data into a series of on-demand charts and graphs. Visually expressed, the relevant data can be viewed on one computer screen—an interface known as a dashboard—for any type of information, time period, and level of stakeholder, from concise overviews for corporate and business unit leaders to detailed single facility assessments for fms. The dashboard data also facilitates accounting procedures for the organization by integrating with bill processing and payment firms for automatic uploading of information.

The dashboard user follows a practice known as “management by exception,” which, in simple terms, means looking for data that is out of sync.

A dashboard makes this easy: when one bar in a chart is longer or shorter than the others, or when a line on a graph suddenly lurches, it is worth further investigation to determine what has happened. With an interactive system, investigation may be a matter of clicking on a specific facility or time period to drill down to the next level of information or deeper, if necessary.

An example: The dashboard for a company with a dozen similar plants shows that one location has significantly higher electric bills than the others after adjusting for climate. Clicking on a year over year history of that facility’s bills as well as data over the previous three months, it appears that the increase has occurred in the past 60 days. The FM department reports identify a small number of projects during that time that could account for the change; by analyzing the meter data from systems relating to those projects, the FM team is quickly able to isolate the piece of equipment that was installed incorrectly.

Note in this example that the centralized dashboard data need not include every component or even every piece of equipment in the facility. The centralized energy management needs only enough measurement data to determine anomalies. Once a problem has been detected, the investigative work is at least partly in the hands of the FM team at the site, which can look at meter data and interview team members to diagnose the problem and take corrective action.

Such a system is the fastest and most cost-effective way to achieve energy savings, because it enables the FM team to identify priorities and develop a cost-benefit equation for improvements. An fm operating an old, inefficient system might make the case to upper management that an upgrade is necessary, but that case will be much stronger when the fm can show the cost differential between that facility and others like it.

The ability to compare quickly the running cost of inefficiency with the one time cost of replacement facilitates the decision making process and ultimately leads to a program that balances energy efficiency and cost effectiveness. In this way, M&V is not just an academic exercise or a rote process to ensure a facility’s LEED or ENERGY STAR certification, but it becomes an essential part of an energy management program.

As president of energy and sustainability services at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), Schinter directs teams with the goals of reducing energy use in facilities, saving money, and avoiding greenhouse gas emissions. He has worked with JLL teams on 116 completed or current LEED projects totaling more than 35 million square feet worldwide. Schinter was named 2008 Energy Engineer of the Year by the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE). He can be reached at

(Image credits: Photo (JupiterImages); Chart (New Buildings Institute))

To download a copy of the New Buildings Institute report mentioned in this article, visit and go to “LEED Energy Performance Project.”