Intelligent Buildings (Facility Systems and Efficiency)

The Value of Benchmarking

The University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of the largest universities in the U.S., with an enrollment of 68,990 students in fall 2018. It is also one of the most aggressive in developing energy conservation strategies, due to in large part to its Energy Sustainability Policy and the UCF Collective Impact Strategic Plan (http://sustainable.ucf.edu). In support of this plan, UCF has successfully implemented continuous improvement measures to conserve energy and reduce costs by 42.5 percent, normalized per square foot, over the past 14 years, and has made ongoing adjustments to its organization and responsibilities to increase the plan’s impact. The university’s energy performance metrics can be found at http://oeis.ucf.edu.

Given the size of its campuses, the number of buildings involved, and the need to strategically use facilities’ budgets to create the greatest impact on reducing energy demand and consumption, the university’s first step involves benchmarking the campus’s buildings. Buildings are prioritized for benchmarking based on normalized energy and operation and maintenance (O&M) costs per square foot. The benchmark then provides comparative scores ranking the buildings’ energy performance. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGYSTAR PortfolioManager has long been accepted as the standard in building benchmarking. However, in late 2017, ASHRAE announced the launch of its Building Energy Quotient (bEQ) Portal, which provides a quick, automated approach to uploading data and receiving a Building EQ Performance Score, as well as additional insight into the performance opportunities in buildings.

Building an Energy Quotient Program

ASHRAE developed the bEQ program using established methodologies and standards. The program offers two evaluations: “In Operation” and “As Designed,” which can be used independently to compare the examined buildings against similar buildings in their climate zones, or together to assess an individual building’s design potential against its actual operation. The bEQ Portal interfaces with ENERGYSTAR, allowing metered energy data to be downloaded directly from existing PortfolioManager accounts.

However, there are several key differences between bEQ and PortfolioManager. While building owners can input building and utility data into both tools, bEQ requires a professional engineer licensed in the jurisdiction of the building, an ASHRAE-certified Building Energy Assessment Professional (BEAP), or a certified Building Energy Modeling Professional (BEMP) to review the building information and submit its data via the bEQ Portal for an official rating score. Building EQ also requires that the auditor conduct a Level 1 energy audit and an indoor environmental quality (IEQ) survey with recorded measurements of ventilation rates to provide additional information to assess the buildings’ performance.

UCF has adopted the bEQ system as its baseline benchmarking tool due to its flexibility, ease of use, and ability to determine a more realistic representation of benchmark ratings for mixed-use facilities. Recently, the bEQ Portal added a new methodology for calculating the baseline median energy utilization index (EUI) for different laboratory types.

Training Facilities Staff in Energy Conservation

At the start of its benchmarking initiative, UCF engaged an outside engineering consultant, Hanson Professional Services Inc., to provide the bEQ evaluations, with requisite energy audits, and the IEQ surveys for 13 buildings on campus selected by UCF.

Like many owners that manage large building portfolios, UCF wanted its facilities staff to become more aware of buildings’ energy footprints and ways to identify opportunities for savings. A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for training its in-house staff to perform the bEQ evaluations and Level 1 energy audits was developed.

Training facilities staff is crucial, since UCF is developing a program to audit and/or retrocommission (RCx) all of their buildings on a three-year cycle.

Leveraging Opportunities for Education

In addition to its ever-growing engineering program, UCF’s College of Engineering houses an award-winning ASHRAE student branch. Engineering students have been engaged in various intern programs both in-house and off-campus, often at local consulting engineering firms. UCF’s Utilities & Energy Services department (UES) collaborates with the College of Engineering to engage students who are interested in building energy conservation to assist in benchmarking and auditing facilities on campus. This partnership serves to strengthen the UCF academic mission by teaching students about energy-consuming systems in buildings. The practical experience they gain will help prepare them for related engineering careers.

About the Authors

Nate Boyd, P.E., BEAP, CPMP, LEED-AP, is the associate director for Energy Services at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Robert Knoedler, P.E., CxA, EMP, is a vice president of Hanson Professional Services Inc. and serves as the principal in charge of Energy and Commissioning Services. In addition, Bob is the president of the Board of Directors of the Energy Management Association (EMA).