DOE Commercial Building Energy Asset Rating Pilot Project Information Webinar (text version)

DOE is looking for commercial building owners, managers, or operators interested in participating in the commercial building energy asset rating pilot program, starting in spring 2012. Webinar participants received an analysis of their building's energy performance at the system level and a list of cost-effective energy efficiency recommendations for each building entered in the pilot. Technical support was provided throughout the webinar process.

Below is the text version of "DOE Commercial Building Energy Asset Rating: Pilot Project Information" webinar, originally presented on March 12 and 15, 2012. In addition to this text version of the audio, you can view the presentation slides and a recording of the webinar (WMV 7.5 MB).

Nora Wang:
Hi, this is Commercial Building Energy Asset Rating Pilot Project Information Session. And thanks for joining us. We'll start our Webinar soon. And this is just to test our audio system. Thank you.

Hi. Welcome to the Commercial Building Energy Asset Rating Pilot Project Information Webinar. We will give a couple of more minutes for folks to sign in and then the Webinar will start momentarily. Thanks for your patience.

Hi. Welcome, everyone. This is DOE Commercial Building Energy Asset Rating Pilot Project Webinar and Nora Wang with Pacific Northwest National Lab. I'm glad you could join us for our Webinar today about the Pilot Project of the Commercial Building Energy Asset Rating Program. At the beginning, we will have a quick overview and update of the Energy Asset Rating Program. If you are not familiar with the DOE Energy Asset Rating Program or want to learn more, you can find more information from our Web site. The link is on the last slide of this presentation. We will share this PowerPoint deck after today's Webinar.

Before we begin, I have a few logistical announcements at this time. All participants are in a listen-only mode. You may ask a question at any time during today's presentation by using the public chat function and you can find it at the bottom of this Web conference interface. Please note that everyone can view your question, because it's a public chat. Please mute the speakers of your computers. Otherwise, you may hear another voice through the Internet.

Cody Taylor from the Department of Energy is also joining us today. He is the project manager of the Energy Asset Rating Program. Cody will give us a program overview at the beginning and he will also be available to answer a question at the end of this presentation.

So now I would like to turn a call over to Cody. And Cody, please begin.

Cody Taylor:
Great. Thank you, Nora. And thank you everyone for joining us and for your interest in this program.

My name, as Nora said, is Cody Taylor. I'm with the US Department of Energy and the Building Technologies Program, where we are developing this Energy Asset Rating for Commercial Buildings.

Some of you may be familiar with the Home Energy Score, which is a similar project on a track a few months ahead for the residential side. And this is our effort for that in the Commercial area. DOE's goal in this is to really develop standardized metrics and evaluation and performance tracking tools for various levels of building energy use, including design, operation and retrofit over time. So that's where we want to go in the long term.

In the near term, the Energy Asset Rating is one piece of this that we are developing and — as a — as a compliment to Energy Star Portfolio Manager, which obviously already exists and is one tool out there for another piece of building energy performance evaluation.

And we're going to be using this Pilot period that Nora will be talking more about today to test the asset rating and determine how best to integrate it with Energy Star Portfolio Manager and really to get feedback from users in the market about how well it works and how meaningful the results are and how useful and easy it may be — or may not be — to integrate into other existing programs out there. And so we're using this time to test all of those things and learn and we appreciate you having an interest in doing that along with us.

So with that, I will go ahead and turn this - things over back to Nora, whose going to walk you through most of the program for today and description of how this will go. And I'll - I'm happy to help answer questions as we come to a Q and A at the end. Thank you.

Nora Wang:
Thanks, Cody.

So we'll start with a general question you may have — what is Energy Asset Rating? I assume some of the participants today may not be very familiar with the concept of Energy Asset Rating. Energy Asset Rating evaluates a building's physical characteristics, including building envelope, HVAC, lighting, service hot water systems and other major energy-using equipment.

Here, the major energy-using equipment doesn't include plug loads. Examples are commercial refrigerator in a Grocery store, computer servers in a Data center, or commercial kitchen appliances in a restaurant. So this is the major energy-using equipment that we are referring to. Today, many building owners and operators are using utility bill history to rate their building energy performance. If utility information is missing or incomplete, it becomes difficult to evaluate the building energy efficiency.

Additionally, you may not have a consistent way to determine if the difference in energy use between similar buildings is because of the installed building systems or because of differences in tenancy and operational choices. As shown in the figure on the right-hand side of this slide — assuming each building is a puzzle and its' energy-use outcome is the combination of many pieces, then the Energy Asset Rating isolates the as-built components.

This information is important for building owners and investors to get insight into a building's as-built efficiency and its' improvement potential.

Let's look at a couple of examples. So assuming we are showing two buildings — that one on the left is building A; the one on the right is building B. Two buildings may have the same utility consumption.

Building A on the left has more efficient systems, but poorly operated and maintained. On top of that, the tenants may have a heavy plug load for their business needs. Building B on the right-hand side is in the opposite way around. Without Energy Asset Rating, these two buildings may appear to be equally efficient — if you just look at their utility bills. Therefore, Energy Asset Rating of these two buildings can unveil the state of their physical assets that are hidden when simply comparing utility consumption.

What does this mean to building stakeholders? So when you put Energy Asset Rating and utility information side by side, you will know building A may be a great candidate for low-cost operational improvement. Building B has obsolete equipment that is more likely to fail and it may require the potential near-term Capital investment to replace the equipment.

And let's look another example. What if two buildings have the same asset rating? Again, the one to the left is A and then B is on the right. So besides the overall efficiency rating, an Energy Asset Rating Program will also provide you with system evaluation. That means you can learn that building A has good HVAC systems, but poor lighting systems.

So building A can be a great candidate for low-cost lighting upgrades. But building B on the right has low-efficient cooling equipment and poor wall insulation. This usually costs more to upgrade. So by looking at Energy Asset Rating, utility information and system evaluation, you will gain additional information about a building.

In the summary, Energy Asset Rating Program will provide overall energy efficiency rating based on energy models. It will also provide system evaluation and a cost-effective upgrade package.

The potential rating after upgrade will also be calculated. User will have access to a Web-based Energy Asset Rating tool, which runs centralized, real-time simulation. This will reduce the cost of hiring individual energy modelers and also increase the standardization of energy modeling.

Here, we want to emphasize that the Energy Asset Rating tool is not intended to replace a full Energy Audit or any engineering evaluation and we don't expect the users to take Energy Asset Rating results to purchase any equipment or materials. It rather produces a preliminary energy analysis at a lower cost.

The program has been organized in three phases. Phase one building types will be included in the initial roll out and the coming pilot project. It includes office buildings, schools, retails and a refrigerated warehouse.

Please note that the building types in Phase two and three are not final here. What we are showing is, in general, Phase three buildings are either built with more complex system or those for which we currently have a limited body of information for us to set up a reasonable rating scale.

Let's look at a comparison between the Energy Asset Rating and Portfolio Manager. Energy Asset Rating is designed to be a complement to Energy Star Portfolio Manager. It will offer an additional way to evaluate buildings whose operational choices or mix of uses may prevent them from getting meaningful scores out of Portfolio Manager.

If you are familiar with the Portfolio Manager, you may have seen a Statement of Energy Performance. In the Statement of Performance, you will have a statistical score based on source energy use and then you can also obtain other analyses using your utility bills.

Energy Asset Rating provides an analytical report including a technical score, based on model of the source energy use under standard operating condition and normal weather. It also provides system analysis and an upgrade package.

So the score is not based on any database and your utility bills are not required to obtain an asset rating. And we'll further discuss the Energy Asset Rating report later. So the asset-rating tool will guide you to collect data, it will store your building information; it will also generate a report.

So here is the architecture of the asset-rating tool. It has a simplified user interface built on an inference engine and a centralized modeling tool—we use energy plus. The asset-rating tool will also run Lifecycle Cost Analysis and identify upgrade opportunities, which will help you get insight into the energy efficiency potential of your building.

Let's look at a few screenshots of the Energy Asset Rating tool. First, this is the login page. You can create your own account for a building or a group of building. All of your building information will be password protected.

And after you log in, you see this - like a summary page you can have a list of all of the buildings that you have entered into the asset-rating tool. And if you would click one of those buildings or click on the cross button — add a new building — you will be directed into this user interface. So this is the main interface where you enter building data.

So you can create your building block on the left and define the building characteristic on the right. We'll provide a tutorial and a training Webinar for the tool users and you will find it yourself - it's very intuitive and it requires little training to get to know the user interface.

So you can see on the left is a geometry tool. And if you click the add block button on the top right corner and you can create the basic geometry. So the geometry tool here is not intended to make you build complicated building models floor-by-floor. A building is considered as one block, unless your building has different numbers of floors. For example, a part - a portion of the building is three-story and then you have another portion, which is ten story, just like the example you see on top of the screenshot.

Or if your building has different HVAC system, for example, a portion is served by a local chiller and another portion uses packaged DX units. And then you can use this block function to create two blocks, assuming there is no heat exchange between the blocks.

And this block concept also enables us to rate mixed use buildings. You can build a retail at the bottom and an office as the tower. And these two portions of the buildings may have different operating schedules and different internal loads.

So in this way, you know, you can totally separate the building but still get one rating for the overall building asset rating. Or the last situation is your building is really complicated and it cannot be simplified by the basic footprint shape that we provided. So in this case you can use this block concept to closely represent the shape of your building, because we believe the geometry of the building does affect the asset - the Energy Asset Value of the building.

After you enter the building information and then you click the rating button and your building model will be sent to the modeling engine and you will receive an Email when the asset rating report is available for download. And the waiting period currently is very short. It depends on how many buildings - how many users are running the simulation at the same time.

In order to minimize the data collection requirement - so the tool can really be used at two levels — simple level and advanced level. So simple level data collection requires minimum data input and relies on an inference engine to generate energy model and to provide preliminary analysis.

The more data you enter, the more accurate the results will be, because you are using less and less default value. Advanced level data collection requires a more detailed input set and a qualified professional to verify the data input. The Department of Energy is developing a guideline to specify the credentials that a professional must hold in order to generate a verified Energy Asset Rating report.

So this is a simple comparison of the two levels of users. So the development of these two levels in the Energy Asset Rating tool enables reduced modeling time and expertise requirements, while maintaining the ability to support the variability and complexity of commercial buildings.

At a simple level, building owners can use the tool to do a first pass on their portfolio to assess opportunities to dispose or acquire a building. The verified data at the advanced level can be used as a further means of differentiating one building from others.

I would like to point out that both the simple level and advance level users are using the same user interface, or the same tool. So for some building owners who may not need a verified asset rating, they can still use the tool to receive evaluations and recommendations by providing very detailed data.

So in that case, the only difference is the Asset Rating Report cannot be used for official purpose. Besides that - so there is really no, you know, line between simple level and advanced level users, as I had said. So the more data you enter, the more accurate your result will be.

So let's take a close look at the Asset Rating Report. The Energy Asset Rating Report includes three sections — system evaluation, reading and identified opportunities. And these tables are an example of system evaluation.

Your building envelope and the building systems will be rated as good, fair or poor by comparing with the reference values. We'll publish the technical protocol to discuss the detailed rating methodologies and you will find explanation of what the reference values are and what is defined as good, fair and poor. The system performance after upgrade will also be provided - the green color column you see in the middle of the chart.

So how do you use this system evaluation result? As an example we've shown at the very beginning of this presentation, you know, you may have two buildings having the same asset rating score. And building A may have a very poor lighting system and building B may have a very poor heating system. So the heating system upgrade can be much more expensive than the lighting upgrade. So in this case you really gain insight into two buildings that may appear to be the same.

Let's look at this Rating page. So in the Rating section, you can find three scores; and first is your Current Rating, which is the 70 points in this example; and you can find the Potential Rating, which is the 90 points at the bottom of the rating system; and you can also find a point of 65 which is the Reference.

Please note that the reference building here is just give you a sense of a same use type in a similar climate, similar size and similar vintage, and what a typical building will consume, it doesn't affect your score. So you can find a reference point of 65, 62 or 58, it all depending on all your building type, size and vintage and climate zone. Your score of 70 is independent from that.

The energy use of your building before and after upgrades and the reference building energy use are all modeled under standard operating conditions. The upgrade package is based on your actual operating schedule. How can you use this score? We have two examples here.

Okay, the first example is you may have a building, we discussed this example at the very beginning. The utility bills show that it's a low efficient building because of multiple reasons, including the tenants behaviors or the O&M activities. The asset rating, if the building has efficient system, the energy asset rating score is able to reveal that, and this result may positively impact the value of your building.

Another example will be two buildings have the same energy asset rating score, however one has a higher potential rating and the other has a lower potential rating.

If Building A has for example, a higher potential rating because it has more cost effective energy efficiency measures or less construction limitations, this building will have a lot more potentials. And through the comparison of the current rating and the potential rating you will be able to understand more about these two buildings.

This shows the example of identified EEM package. And you will see a list of cost effective measures and their associated savings and simple paybacks. The lifecycle cost analysis is based on the local utility price and material and labor costs adjusted for state-level differences. And again, we will also allow user to enter the actual operating schedule so this package is customized to your building.

So who can use the asset rating tool and who will be using the asset rating report? We expect the primary users of the tool are commercial property owners, investors and operators. The asset rating report can also be used by financing sources, valuation experts, green building societies, utilities and the local governments.

Please note that both the tool and report are still in development. We have been collecting stakeholder feedback to refine the program. The pilot project is an opportunity to participate in this process to help us to make this program more useful for the commercial building stakeholders.

Okay, let's talk about the pilot project now. Who can be the pilot participants?

If you have a building or maybe you have a group of buildings and if you want to recognize your building as good efficiency and its potential, if you want to gain insight into your system performance, if you are interested in identifying the short-term and long-term capital investment area through building upgrades then this pilot project will be a great opportunity for you. We also welcome local governments and utilities to be our partner. Please contact us and we'll further discuss different ways to get you involved. For the Phase I, we are looking for office buildings, schools, retail buildings and unrefrigerated Warehouse.

The pilot project is focused on three areas and we have three tasks here.

Through the data collection task we'll collect feedback on the data collection time and the cost. Who will be collecting the data? You know, how easy to enter the data request for the simple level and for the advanced level? For this task the participants need to collect your building data and use our asset rating tool and also complete a questionnaire about your data collection and tool using experience.

Our pilot project Task 2 is to test the accuracy of the asset rating model and the result. For this task you need to have an existing energy audit report and a model, or you are planning to perform an energy audit during the pilot period.

The Task 3 is to build the linkage between asset rating and ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and using the real building cases. You can be asset rating partner which means you can chose to complete Tasks 1 and 2, 1 and 3 or 1, 2, 3. Or you can be an asset rating associate, at this level you only need to complete Task Number 1.

Now let's talk a little bit more about the three tasks.

For Task 1 you will need to collect data, enter into the asset rating tool and complete the questionnaire about your data collection and tool using experience. The estimated time to gather data is 6 to 12-14 hours, you know, it depends on how complicated your building system is. And then the estimated time to complete the feedback questionnaire is about an hour or maximum two hours.

The participants - okay, this task is for both levels of participants. And the participants will be provided with asset rating data collection and input sheet which maps the data entries of the asset rating tool. You can use it for site walk-through, and then later you can, you know, use the same piece of paper to enter your data into the asset rating tool. And then we estimate the data entering time is maximum a couple of hours.

The participant will also receive asset rating tool users guide and PNNL will conduct training webinar and provide real-time help. So through this task you will receive an energy asset rating report for your building and you are able to provide feedback for us. And then you will be also be the early user of the energy asset rating tool.

So the Task Number 2 will compare the asset rating tool outputs with the results of a conventional energy audit and modeling method. So which means the qualified participant should already have an energy model and an energy audit report, or you plan to perform - you plan, excuse me, to perform a full energy audit and modeling during the pilot period.

The estimated time to provide energy model and the related building information to PNNL is about two to four hours, depending on how easy you can find the information. And there might be a few back and forth, you know, to clarify some data.

Task Number 3 - to participate in Task Number 3 you need to provide us with 12 months of utility bills and other operation data required to obtain an ENERGY STAR score. If you have experience in Portfolio Manager that would be great.

So the focus of this task is to demonstrate how the information provided by the two rating system can create a feedback loop between the as-built efficiency and the - in operation performance of the building. So we want to learn how this information can help building stakeholders make decisions.

The estimated time for the participants is about four hours, and it may take less time if you are familiar with property manager or maybe longer if you are not. PNNL will work with the participants to help you understand the meaning of the two rating system and how to use the two tools together. So that's about our tasks.

As for the path forward, if you are interested in participating the pilot project, please send us an email. We'll provide a standard agreement for you to sign. By then you should identify your building names, address and the point of contact.

For both levels of participants, you will receive data collection sheet and questionnaire. PNNL will provide training webinars, users guide and a link to the online tool. For the energy asset rating partners we will develop a schedule with you after you contact us. You should expect to collect data in May and provide us with your feedback by August.

Okay so that's about the overview and the current status of the energy asset rating program. And I see a lot of questions popping out at the bottom of the page. I would like to turn to Cody to answer a few questions that you may have.

Cody Taylor:
Great, thanks everybody for putting your questions in. As you notice, I've been trying to answer some of them as we go along, to keep this moving. And the slides will be made available afterwards. I realize we're going through everything pretty quickly.

And then of course for those who are interested in participating in the pilot, we will be having more opportunities to chat about any questions you have and to go over in more detail any of these aspects of the program.

So to some of the questions that we haven't been able to answer yet; (Duane) I see your question about, "A 20 story commercial office building with ground floor retail and restaurant, and another 19 floors of office space, and the building owner controlling energy consumption in lobby and common areas." I would say this type of building would be an appropriate building for inclusion in the asset rating pilot.

Let's see, the - I see a question about, "Source energy distorting actual building performance." Now we've chosen source energy as a - as one of the metrics to use because it actually helps remove some of the distortion of building performance that you see if you were only to take site energy, which conflicts different fuels and can tend to hide some of the energy usage that is behind electricity generation.

I see a question about EnergyPlus. And so this is, as Nora mentioned, "Built on EnergyPlus as the behind the scenes modeling tool here."

And the question about the commercial energy code analyzer, I actually am not sure about the answer to that, so I apologize.

Will there be an API to this at some point? The answer is yes.

We have that in mind, that in the future we want to have an API available to this so that anyone can write third-party software or who already has third-party software can ensure that that can transmit data into the asset rating and pull an asset rating back in the same - a similar manner to what you see with Portfolio Manager, where third-party users can transmit data into Portfolio Manager and pull ratings back out in an automated fashion. So we do have that in mind. We won't have that in place and ready at the pilot stage.

I see a question about a rating system scoring of 100, meaning net-zero and, "How many buildings would actually achieve a score of 100?" And I suspect that you can count the number of net-zero energy buildings around the country at this point and that it's a pretty limited number.

The purpose of the asset rating here, I'll remind you, is although one end of the scale is pegged at net-zero, the reason for that is not so much because of trying to ask everybody to score a net-zero for their building, but because it provides a stable end-point to the scale that's not going to move over time.

So a scale that was based on anything else besides net-zero at the top end has the potential to end up shifting over time as if you were basing it on CBECS for example, then as CBECS is updated the top-end of the scale might shift. And so part of what we're aiming for is the durability of the score, that the score stays put over time. And so that's part of our reasoning in using net-zero as the end-point there.

And I see a question about, "Owning multiple buildings and could someone enroll three or four buildings in the pilot?" Absolutely. We're looking for a substantial numbers of buildings participating. So if you have three or four and want to enroll them we're happy to have that.

I see a question about, "Comments submitted last fall to the request for information at that period." DOE is not planning on issuing any formal responses to the comments that were received then. Our responses is the development of the program that you're looking at right now.

Let's see, I think that's all the questions that I can see in there. I see a, "Why no response to the comments?" We're focusing on developing that program. And I'm happy to answer any questions over email if you've got questions additionally. And I know that Nora is available also to answer questions.

So we look forward to any other questions you may have and we look forward to working with you in the pilot if you're available to do that. Nora, do you have anything else to add?

Nora Wang:
One more thing I want to point out is we just uploaded an Q&A document to the asset rating Web site, and it will provide some answers to the questions we received during RFI and also the webinars. So if you haven't seen that document that can be potential place for you to gain more information and get some sort of responses to the comments you submitted last year. So...

Cody Taylor:
That's a great point. I should have mentioned that (Carlos) and (Steve), that document does address a number of the things that we heard in the comments to the request for information.

Nora Wang:
And we'll be publishing the technical protocols, and that technical document will answer a lot of questions that we weren't able to answer last year at the initial stage of the program development.

Yes, that's all I have. So if you have further questions or you are interest in joining our pilot project, please contact us at, and you can also find Cody's email and mine on the screen, and we'll also share this PowerPoint with you after the webinar. So Cody, anything else from you?

Cody Taylor:
I think that's all from this side. Thank you all for your time today.

Nora Wang:
Okay, thank you everybody. This concludes our webinar, you may all disconnect. Thank you and have a good day.

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