Energy Audits & Retro-Commissioning: The Third Phase of Orlando’s Building and Water Efficiency Strategy Is Fast Approaching

October 25, 2019

In December of 2016, Orlando’s city council unanimously voted to pass the Building Energy and Water Efficiency Strategy (BEWES) local ordinance, making Orlando the first municipality in Florida to enact energy benchmarking legislation. In passing the energy tracking and reporting policy, the city aims to improve efficiency in building operations, drive economic development, and promote public health. By 2030, Orlando anticipates that the policy will generate more than 500 jobs while saving businesses and residents $208 million in energy costs and $57 million in healthcare costs – not to mention avoiding 1.1 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

BEWES: A Three-Part Strategy

Orlando’s Building Energy and Water Efficiency Strategy, a policy impacting more than 800 buildings citywide, is designed to be implemented in three phases – benchmarking, transparency, and energy audits/retro-commissioning. The compliance deadline for phase three is fast approaching. Beginning in May of 2020, buildings greater than 50,000 square feet with an Energy Star Score below 50 will be required to perform an energy audit or undergo retro-commissioning services. The following offers an overview of each policy phase with need to know information regarding compliance.

Phase One: Energy Benchmarking

Beginning on August 1, 2018, privately owned buildings greater than 50,000 square feet are required to track and report whole building energy consumption using Energy Star Portfolio Manager (ESPM), a free online benchmarking tool. Under BEWES, the owner of each covered building must designate a Benchmarking Leader and share this contact with the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and Energy. The Benchmarking Leader is then responsible for tracking the building’s performance and ensuring that a qualified benchmarking professional completes the annual benchmarking report using ESPM. Qualified benchmarking professionals include but are not limited to, Registered Architects (RAs), Professional Engineers licensed in the State of Florida, Certified Energy Managers (CEM), Certified Facilities Managers (CFMs), and Building Energy Audits Professionals (BEAPs).

By requiring building owners to benchmark energy and water consumption, Orlando believes that businesses and residents will be empowered to confidently set and track performance goals by better understanding how their building(s) are performing relative to other buildings of a similar size and type. The ESPM tool makes understanding relative performance easy by providing a percentile ranking of how a particular building is performing relative to similar buildings nationwide. For example, an Energy Star Score of 50 represents median performance while a score of 75 (the minimum score to receive Energy Star Certification) indicates that the building is performing better than 75 percent of similar buildings nationwide. While manual data entry into ESPM can be cumbersome, several Energy Management Information Systems like BuildingOS, can automate this reporting process.

Phase Two: Transparency

Phase two of Orlando’s Building Energy and Water Efficiency Strategy places an obligation on the Mayor’s Office of Energy and Sustainability to release an annual report and online mapping tool analyzing the benchmarking data that was reported during phase one. The first annual transparency report was issued in September of 2019 and provides building-specific information including address, square footage, use type, compliance status, energy use intensity, greenhouse gas emissions, and Energy Star Score. The reported Energy Star Score indicates whether building owners are required to comply with phase three.

Phase Three: Energy Audits or Retro-Commissioning

Now that Orlando has released its first annual transparency report, it is time to prepare for phase three. Beginning in May of 2020, privately owned buildings with an Energy Star Score below 50 are required to perform an ASHRAE Level 2 energy audit. Alternatively, building owners may choose to substitute the energy audit requirement with a retro-commissioning of their building systems. An energy audit or retro-commissioning must be completed once every five years for underperforming buildings. In order to ease the burden of compliance, Orange County Utilities (OCU) offers free energy audit services.

By performing an energy audit, building owners and managers are provided with a business case for specific measures and upgrades that can be implemented to improve efficiency and overall performance. The energy audit is based on historical consumption data, including the data that is now tracked and reported as part of Orlando’s benchmarking policy. Retro-commissioning, on the other hand, involves the testing and tuning of major building systems to ensure that building performance is optimized.

How Modern Energy Management Practices Can Help Avoid the Need for Energy Audits and Retro-Commissioning

While energy audits and retro-commissioning are both useful in identifying opportunities to improve building performance, the opportunities identified are also at risk of quickly becoming obsolete. This is due to the fact that both are performed at a set point in time without the ability to anticipate future changes in building performance due to occupant behavior, extreme weather events, equipment failures, and more. Implementing modern energy management practices can help avoid the need for energy audits and retro-commissioning by continuously identifying savings opportunities through real-time building systems analysis. This is made possible through advanced submetering and the implementation of Energy Management Information Systems like BuildingOS.

Unlock Savings Opportunities with Our Building Energy Management Software

There are many ways to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions to help comply with Orlando’s Building Energy and Water Efficiency Strategy, but perhaps one of the most important steps is fully understanding your current energy – and that’s where we come in. BuildingOS is a comprehensive software platform that centralizes all of your building systems and utility data, automates Energy Star reporting, and allows you to understand and act on real-time data to continuously improve operational efficiency and reduce energy consumption. Want to see how BuildingOS can help improve your building portfolio? Contact us today!