Benchmarking Jam: Get Hands-on Help To Benchmark Your Building’s Energy Use

By Johanna Schweiss,
USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

Have you recently participated in a fundraiser for your house of worship, your favorite nonprofit or your children’s school? Budgets are tight, and all of our institutions are rightly asking for community support. But there’s a way to reduce operating costs that some organizations may not have explored as of yet – reducing energy costs.

For small organizations, energy costs can eat up a big portion of budgets that could be used to fund work on mission – a staff person, an event, or the purchase of supplies. And energy conservation cuts your utility bills while also lowering your greenhouse gas footprint, a win-win in my book.

The good news is that many of the changes to our buildings that can save energy are low or no cost. Changing the settings on your thermostat, sealing those cracks around your doors, changing out your incandescent light bulbs for LEDs – small changes can make a big difference. And financial incentives are available from both Ameren Missouri and Laclede Gas (now Spire) for projects from big to small.

But how do you know where you stand? Or where to start? Energy benchmarking is the first step to energy conservation. That’s the process of measuring how much energy your building consumes and comparing your performance to similar buildings and the past. It’s the first step toward saving energy and saving money through energy conservation. You know the saying – you can’t manage what you don’t measure!

The good news is that benchmarking is pretty painless. ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is a free and secure online tool that tracks energy and water consumption, as well as the associated greenhouse gas emissions. Any building can use ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, and according to their data, buildings that benchmark for 3 years see an average 7% reduction in energy use.

Need some help getting started? Join the U.S. Green Building Council- Missouri Gateway Chapter for a Benchmarking Jam on November 30! Get hands-on help setting up an ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager account, entering your energy use, and understanding your results. And learn more about the current energy efficiency incentives available and how your organization can take advantage of them.

For best results, bring a few details about your building, including the square footage, main uses of space, and number of occupants. You will also need at least 12 months of historical energy use data. Assistance collecting historical energy use data is available.

So as you’re sending that check over to your favorite non-profit, your children’s school or your house of worship, ask if you can help track and reduce their energy use. Know you’re reducing operating costs and making a difference in local and national efforts to reduce energy use and mitigate climate change.

The Benchmarking Jam will take place on Wednesday, November 30 from 4:00 – 6:00 pm at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Commerce Bank Center for Science Education.
Visit www.usgbc-mogateway.org to learn more and register to attend this free event!