Benchmarking & Feedback

Dramatic progress toward very low-energy buildings requires prompt, useful, consistent feedback on how current buildings are performing. Relevant feedback is needed by each major group affecting energy consumption including designers, owner/operators and tenants/occupants. Learn more about:

Data Sources

A number of sources are used for benchmarking at the whole-building level.  In some cases, other properties in the owner's or manager’s portfolio provide a good basis for peer-group comparison. Industry associations also sometimes compile energy use data for member comparisons.Two broad-based, publically available studies are:

CBECS. The 2003 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey provides Energy Use Intensity (EUI), in kBtu/sf/yr for the national building stock, representing commercial buildings of all ages and types.

CEUS. The State of California developed its own building performance data set, the California Energy Use Survey (CEUS), somewhat like the CBECS data set, but with a larger sample size relative to the population of California buildings and with end use breakdowns developed from calibrated energy models.

Performance Targets

Meaningful benchmarking of measured performance requires knowing that the comparison peer group or other reference target represents comparable cases.  For example, one wouldn’t expect a day care center and a fast food restaurant to use similar levels of energy per square foot. 

Energy Star. Energy Star Portfolio Manager uses statistical analysis of CBECS data to normalize building energy use for activity type, occupancy patterns and climate.  An Energy Star rating of 1 to 100 ranks buildings on a curve, with 100 being the best score and representing the top 1% of buildings.  The Target Finder tool makes it easy to estimate a building’s rating.

2030 Challenge.  Architecture 2030 issued the 2030 Challenge asking the global architecture and building communities to reduce fossil fuel, greenhouse gas-emitting energy consumption. New and existing buildings commit to the following reduction targets, relative to CBECS 2003 averages for comparable building types:

  • 60% in 2010
  • 70% in 2015
  • 80% in 2020
  • 90% in 2025
  • Carbon neutral in 2030 (using no fossil fuel GHG-emitting energy to operate).

These targets may be accomplished by combinations of innovative sustainable design strategies, generating onsite renewable power and purchasing (20% maximum) renewable energy.

Energy Disclosure

Several state and local jurisdictions have introduced building energy performance disclosure requirements to inform consumers about the energy performance of buildings. Absent the appropriate information, market forces are unable to encourage competition and drive improvements. These disclosure regulations aim to raise awareness about energy performance and encourage improvements through greater market transparency.  - is an online library of building energy performance rating and disclosure resources, including information on policies, programs, impact analyses, and rating systems and tools.  A joint project of the Institute for Market Transformation and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the goal is to facilitate the sharing of global intelligence and best practice on energy disclosure.

The website also provides a comprehensive overview of various building disclosure requirements across the United States.