Real Estate Journal — Spring Preview — April 25 - May 15, 2014 — 7A

M id A tlantic

E nergy & S ustainability

By Sara Schoen, LEED AP O+M, First Potomac Realty Trust Harnessing the power of data: saving green by going green

green,” but getting there is no walk in the park. The chal- l enge – i n commercial real estate, especially – has been in M

any companies un- derstand the im- portance of “being

In the commercial real estate industry, building data is not always readily available and can be surprisingly difficult for owners to track down. Even when data is available, it is of- ten scattered between multiple sources and it can be time- consuming and expensive to gather it into a usable format. To tackle this challenge, many companies are tapping into technology solutions – from software companies like EnergyPrint, EnerNOC, and Agilis Energy – to transform sustainability data manage- ment into a simpler, more

automated process. Gone are the days when data needs to be entered manually. These platforms can also automate what are called “measurement and verification” calculations, which show howmuch efficien- cy upgrades (such as lighting and HVAC projects) actually save once installed, allowing owners to compare real-life performance with projections that were estimated before a project began. Energy monitoring software that First Potomac implement- ed in 2012 has revealed that some capital upgrades the com-

pany has completed save much more energy and money than anticipated. Sometimes this is due to the fact that installing more efficient lighting can de- crease the amount of heat that lights emit into a space. So the efficiency improvement goes beyond the new lighting and actually reduces the need for air conditioning as well. These secondary effects are more dif- ficult to quantify so are often not included in savings projec- tions, but once the new lighting is in, the additional savings are very real. The software platforms

provided through Demand Response programs display real-time electricity data that allow managers to monitor the electricity use of their buildings every five minutes, in real-time. Managers can then view buildings’ “daily load curves,” which display the 5-minute data points in a graph. This shows a building’s usage throughout the day, and allows us to understand exactly when buildings are consuming energy. When energy manag- ers looks at a daily load curve, they can see very clearly where continued on page 20A

Sara Schoen

gathering the data needed to manage a property or portfo- lio’s environmental footprint. And even in cases where en- ergy and water usage data is available, companies often struggle with the momentous task of bringing it all together to truly understand the impact a building is having on the en- vironment and the bottom line. The Importance of Being Green The U.S. National Science and Technology Council esti- mates that commercial and residential buildings consume a third of the world’s energy. Building owners can make substantial changes to reverse this, and many are working diligently to do so. From a business perspec- tive, sustainability not only improves the bottom line but is also an attractive selling point with tenants and inves- tors. The LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) and Energy Star for Buildings® certifications have become prestigious recogni- tions for which building owners compete. For many employees, efforts to “go green” are an important indicator of their employer’s commitment to environmental and social responsibility. Sus- tainability is often cited as a talent attraction and retention strategy and can help compa- nies keep workers engaged and loyal. The Driver of Sustainability Today One of the most significant changes that is driving the evolution of sustainability in the commercial real estate marketplace is the use of data to measure, track, and bench- mark the footprint of an entire portfolio of buildings. Even companies that have been implementing sustainability practices for years or even de- cades can struggle with the challenge of quantifying their work and establishing ongoing measurement.


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