Holding Your Facility to ENERGY STAR Certification Standards


Improving energy efficiency should be a top goal of facility managers. Beyond environmental concerns, there’s a direct dollars-and-cents component. In 2016, the ENERGY STAR® program for commercial buildings and industrial plants translated to savings of nearly $10 billion and $1.4 billion (respectively) in energy costs.

Buildings and plants that have earned ENERGY STAR certification perform among the top 25 percent of similar buildings nationwide, and on average, use 35 percent less energy and generate 35 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than their peers.

Interestingly, the economic advantages of having ENERGY STAR certification go beyond cost savings. According to the Department of Energy’s 2011 Buildings Energy Data Book, studies have shown that commercial buildings with the ENERGY STAR label fetched quantifiable rental rate, sale price and occupancy premiums relative to comparable non-labeled buildings. When you’re certified as an ENERGY STAR building, the door opens for you to lease space to the federal government.

Facility managers who want to earn the ENERGY STAR label or those that have already earned ENERGY STAR certification but want to ensure re-certification can use either the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® for buildings or the ENERGY STAR Energy Performance Indicators (EPIs) for industrial plants to measure performance.

Buildings: Using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager

The Portfolio Manager is an online tool that measures and tracks energy, water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions with data drawn from past energy bills and some basic building information. The Portfolio Manager can also be used during the design stage for new buildings, allowing facility managers to set the energy use target and compare it to similar, existing buildings nationwide.

Additionally, the Portfolio Manager offers automated benchmarking to transfer data from energy service providers into Portfolio Manager via the internet. With this, energy performance scores can be updated monthly, thereby keeping important benchmarking data up-to-date.

Industrial Plants: Using the ENERGY STAR Energy Performance Indicators

Energy Performance Indicators (EPIs) are external, industry-specific benchmarking tools that score a plant’s energy performance and compare it to that of similar plants in its industry within the U.S. on a scale of 1 to 100. Plants that attain a score of 75 or higher are eligible to earn ENERGY STAR certification, once the final verification by a licensed professional engineer or registered architect is completed. This ensures that the building’s energy data and operating characteristics are correct and that the building meets indoor air quality standards. At that point, the facility is ENERGY STAR certified for a period of 12 months.

While there is no fee for applying for or earning ENERGY STAR certification, there is a cost associated with the verification by a professional engineer or registered architect—typically in the $1,000 – $1,500 range, according to ENERGY STAR. However, free or discounted verifications may also be available for K-12 schools, congregations or those in need of financial assistance.

What New ENERGY STAR® Applicants Should Know

The process of earning ENERGY STAR certification starts with measuring energy performance, using either the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager or ENERGY STAR Energy Performance Indicators (EPIs) detailed above. A score in the lowest quartile, or an ENERGY STAR score between 1 – 25, indicates a need for investment and potential improvement, while a score of 50 indicates that the building is performing at the industry average.

For facilities that need to improve their energy efficiency, the EPA recommends the following five-stage technical approach as described in the ENERGY STAR Building Upgrade Manual:

  1. Retrocommission—Identify underperforming equipment, determine which equipment should be replaced and review operational tips to improve building performance.
  2. Lighting—Upgrade lighting systems to reduce lighting-related energy use, improve the visual environment and affect the sizing of HVAC and electrical systems.
  3. Supplemental Load Reductions—Improve heating, cooling and electric loads in the building to reduce the size and cost of equipment upgrades.
  4. Air Distribution Systems—Upgrade or adjust the fan systems to maximize energy efficiency.
  5. Heating and Cooling Systems—If needed, upgrade to a new, properly-sized system or retrofit the existing system to optimize operation, reduce noise and reduce the amount of required maintenance.

ENERGY STAR-Certified Facilities

Given that certification needs to be renewed every year, ENERGY STAR-certified facilities should monitor their performance on an ongoing basis, via the Portfolio Manager or the Energy Performance Indicators (EPIs). Using the applicable ENERGY STAR tool allows facility managers to establish priorities and goals, identify under-performing buildings, correct issues and verify energy improvements—all with an eye on achieving and maintaining that coveted certification status.


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