The Value of Benchmarking: Buildings and Operations
We may not realize it, but we rely on the process of benchmarking every day. Whether we’re in the market for a new car or simply choosing between cereal options, reviews and product information (think Consumer Reports, Angie’s List, and nutrition labels) help us analyze goods or services. Information shapes our decision making processes and is a powerful tool for consumers and businesses alike.
The concept of benchmarking, a term commonly used in the design, construction and building operations industry, involves comparing building performance against industry standards and best practices. Commonly used benchmarking metrics such as square feet of office available, parking spaces available per employee, space ratings (Class A), and cost per square foot are often used to evaluate real estate.
And while all of the aforementioned aspects are certainly important when evaluating a building, to examine only those is to miss a crucial part of a building’s associated operating costs and potential valuation—important considerations for tenants and owners alike. What about a building’s ability to produce fresh air and a high quality indoor environment? How much does a building’s energy cost relative to others available? What is the relative efficiency of mechanical systems? Too often, we forget to evaluate our buildings across these crucial criteria; and as a result tenants, owners, students and even taxpayers pay higher costs for maintenance, operations and reduced productivity. For Better Buildings, We Need Better Data.
The truth is; our understanding of a building’s operational and life cycle costs are rarely considered. This lack of information leads to an inability to manage a building as an asset worthy of investment. To fully understand any commercial scale property owners and operators must use less common, but crucial, metrics such as energy, water or air quality performance while simultaneously comparing the performance of such metrics to other comparable facilities. Those efforts in tandem can provide a plan for the future and allow for actionable improvements. A building or portfolio owner/operator that doesn’t actively monitor energy use can be fairly compared to a car company that’s builds vehicles without ever measuring miles per gallon. Existing Buildings a Promising Investment, Global Firms Say
evolveEA’s recent study of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (DLCC), measured the building’s performance across crucial metrics such as energy and water usage, waste management, sustainable purchasing, sustainability communication and marketing and benchmarked the DLCC against the entire convention center industry.
As a result the evolveEA team was able to deliver an actionable report to the DLCC allowing for immediate investment and facility upgrades (leading to significant energy cost savings) and strategic understanding of relative performance in comparison against peers across the country in a range of important performance characteristics.
Doing so has enabled the DLCC to reduce operating costs and shrink its environmental impact, all the while significantly increasing the number of events hosted and spending generated. evolveEA specializes in building performance measurement and benchmarking. We can help you choose key performance metrics that align with organizational goals and illustrate areas for improvement and performance against potential peers and competitors.
Where to begin? Understanding key metrics
Go ahead and answer the questions that follow; if you can answer yes to any of them then you’re already on your way:
- Do you actively monitor energy usage in your building or portfolio?
- If yes, do you measure using a per square foot or per occupant metric?
- How often or at what level of detail do measure energy?
- Have you ever compared your building’s energy use to others that may be similar (or others within your portfolio)?
If not, now might be a good time to take a closer look. For typical building types, the EPA Portfolio Manager is free and easy to use tool. For less traditional building types, a benchmarking analysis might be the appropriate path. In either case the role of benchmarking cannot be undervalued, and over time will improve your building’s bottom line.