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Heads Up: Building Energy Efficiency – Volume 1, Issue 8

Volume 1, Issue 8

Solutions to start-up costs of benchmarking

Energy benchmarking is a valuable energy management best practice with many benefits that requires some initial time and resources to get started. Here are some ideas on how to get your account up and running, and ensure that you both develop and manage your data well.

First and foremost, it’s important to emphasize that whatever investments you make in data development at the beginning will be recouped. Analysis conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that buildings that consistently benchmark their energy use experience average energy savings of 2.4 percent per year, and after 3 years, EPA observed savings of 7 percent. Given the cost of energy, this represents significant financial savings. With that kind of potential on the table, it should be easy to justify the initial investment.

To help make that initial investment as small as possible, we offer the following tips.

Start small
To get a feel for the system and for how much time is actually required to enroll your buildings, we recommend starting with just one building. Open your account, set up your first building, and enter one year’s worth of energy data. With Portfolio Manager’s intuitive interface and helpful wizards, you might be surprised at how quickly it goes. And, armed with this information, you’ll be better prepared to budget your time and resources to enter the rest of your portfolio. Note: If the building you choose to enter is a test building with placeholder data, please include the word “test” in the building name so we know not to include it in our data analyses.

Use bulk upload
If you have more than a handful of buildings, you can save time by using Portfolio Manager’s powerful spreadsheet upload features. Within minutes, you can have multiple buildings and their meters set up, and then quickly upload all your energy data.

Temporary Resources are Available
To further reduce the time commitment, temporary resources are available such as through the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. Using a student to help compile, review, and verify building use data, and to set up the energy and water meters (with the correct units) is a real time saver and can be done at minimal cost without taking your team off their other projects. You’ll still need to collect and enter your monthly energy and water consumption data for your properties, but with the profiles set up, you are ready to begin tracking the property’s energy and water performance. This can be a win-win: you benefit by accurately capturing the necessary data, and the student benefits from gaining valuable practical experience. Visit the Youth Employment Strategy web site to see if you’re eligible, or talk to a local school to see if you can take part in its co-op program. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) works with many organizations across the country that have taken this approach with much success. Please contact us for more information.

Encourage your utility to set up automatic data exchange
Portfolio Manager offers a full suite of web services to enable your utility provider to automatically upload data to your account. Through these web services, you can benchmark your buildings with practically no effort at all. Portfolio Manager web services are still new in Canada, but a number of Canadian utilities are working to offer automatic data exchange with the tool. Talk to your utility or energy management provider to find out if they are planning to offer this service or encourage them to do so. For more information, see ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager for utilities, energy service providers and energy bill aggregators.

Don’t forget: There are three ways to enter data into Portfolio Manager

  • Manual – Use Portfolio Manager’s simple interface to enter your buildings, meters and energy data.
  • Bulk upload – Use Portfolio Manager’s specially formatted spreadsheets to quickly upload large amounts of data.
  • Data exchange – Work with your utility to have your data uploaded automatically into the system with Portfolio Manager’s web services.
For more information, see How to Get Data into Portfolio Manager.

Do what’s right for you
Although it’s helpful to enter energy data going back as far as your records cover, Portfolio Manager is designed to be flexible in what you enter and when. So if you have the resources, consider entering all of the data you have for all your buildings. You’ll be able to see metrics right away and have access to valuable trend data. Or you can enter just enough data to see your metrics (including a score, if your building type is eligible). Portfolio Manager requires one full year of data for its metrics calculations, so if you can enter just that much, you’ll be all set. Or if your resources are really tight, you don’t have to enter past energy data at all. Just get your buildings set up in the tool, and add your energy data as you receive it going forward. This means you’ll have to wait a while to see your metrics, but you’ll be able to get started with very limited resources. And you can go back and add past data at any time if you find you have the resources to do so.

Ask your peers
Many other organizations have found ways to get their data into Portfolio Manager despite limited resources. Why not take advantage of your next networking event to find out more about how they did it?

So what are you waiting for? Natural Resources Canada invites you to join the thousands of other Canadian building owners and managers who have entered their buildings and are already reaping the benefits of a regular energy benchmarking routine. Sign up now for your free Portfolio Manager account, start benchmarking your first building, and join the Canadian benchmarking movement today.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager start-up made easy with coop students

“I would highly recommend hiring a coop student particularly if you have a large portfolio as a school board or a health authority would have. It will be money well spent,” says Donna Dagg, Sustainable Development Finance and Administration, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MBLL).

As Dagg explains, MBLL has several headquarter buildings as well as over 50 liquor marts. “We really wanted to have everything in our portfolio in the tool as well as four years’ worth of data but didn’t have the resources to do this.” That is where MBLL looked to the local coop programs for help.

“The process of hiring a coop student was easy,” says Dagg, noting that it was a perfect fit for both parties. “We always hire coop students for specific projects so they can maximize their learning. Students are looking for meaningful work and we needed someone to fill a gap.”

During the course of the summer, the student learned the intricacies of Portfolio Manager, collected the required data, entered data from 2010 to 2014, and made presentations to facility managers about the power of the tool.

“This initial setup allowed us to compare energy performance among similar buildings, determine the impact of renovations and plan for future improvements,” notes Dagg.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking for input from users like you for the next round of enhancements to Portfolio Manager. Make sure you do so by filling out this survey (in English only) by 15 December 2014.

Energy Start Potfolio Manager Vote image

Energy benchmarking leads to serious savings and Race to Reduce recognition

Bentall Kennedy, its tenant Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and its facilities manager, the world’s largest full service real-estate services Canadian company Commercial Real Estate Services (CBRE), were awarded the 2013 Team Excellence award for a capital or operating project by Toronto’s Race to Reduce Challenge for their ongoing efforts to improve energy performance in their building at 6880 Financial Drive in Mississauga, Ontario. Since Bentall Kennedy started benchmarking energy consumption at the facility in 2000, various building systems have been retrofitted with more efficient alternatives. Currently, the company is upgrading all of its existing lighting fixtures with a fully dimmable lighting interface that could cut energy consumption by 1.6 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per annum.

Bentall Kennedy adopted the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager energy benchmarking tool once it entered the Race to Reduce Challenge, a move that helped the company in its drive for continuous improvement. The tool has also been useful in terms of tenant engagement in energy efficiency improvements. For example, Bentall Kennedy holds monthly meetings with RBC/CBRE to share benchmarking data and to brainstorm energy efficiency ideas. That kind of engagement has been critical to the achievements in reducing energy consumption to date.

Another 2013 Race to Reduce Challenge award recipient was Menkes Property Management for the greatest reduction in energy use for a property of 23 225 square metres or less. The company cut energy consumption at its 5500 Explorer Drive facility in Toronto, Ontario, by 23 percent or 157 000 kWh between 2011 and 2013. These impressive savings were prompted by the energy benchmarking conducted through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager that resulted in an extensive lighting retrofit that saw the replacement of fluorescent T-12 with T-8 bulbs.

Like Bentall Kennedy, Menkes credits its collaboration with tenants and its use of ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager for its energy efficiency improvements. By 2013, 5500 Explorer received a rating of 76, up from 47 in 2010. “It’s not just about electricity,” explains Lorelei Fernandes of Menkes Property Management Services. “Portfolio Manager lets you look at water efficiency, gas consumption, everything. Benchmarking is so important in helping us stay competitive. If a company has the opportunity to benchmark, I don’t see why they wouldn’t.”

For more information on Toronto’s Race to Reduce, visit:

To get started on energy benchmarking with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, visit To learn more about the Circle of Energy Benchmarking Champions, go to

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager: Web Services 4.0 release

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to release Portfolio Manager Web Services 4.0 on February 11, 2015. Version 4.0 will include the following schema changes:

  • Fixes for various known issues that require alterations to the schemas
  • Adding audit information and type tags to all notifications
  • Adding audit information to pending connection and property/meter shares
  • Adding audit information to property use details
  • Modification to sharing rules
    • More than one web services user will be able to have full access to each meter
    • Web services users will no longer be able to block/restrict access for other web services users
  • Ability to designate test properties
  • New Use Details for Supermarket, Convenience Store (with and without Gas Station), and Food Sales, Retail Store, and Wholesale Club/Supercenter

To help you prepare for these changes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will open its beta test site on December 10, 2014

We invite you to attend a webinar hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on December 10, 2014 that will cover upcoming improvements to the Portfolio Manager web services version 4.0, scheduled for live release in February 2015. (Register for December 10, 2014 Webinar (1:00 pm EDT )

For more information, you can follow the full details of the web service update plans here , as well as the changes being made to the Portfolio Manager application here.

New publications now available from Natural Resources Canada

Now available: Energy Benchmarking Primer

Energy Benchmarking Primer image

Improve Your Building’s Energy Performance: Energy Benchmarking Primer is our newest resource to help you use energy more responsibly. This document provides a compelling business case for energy benchmarking, supported by case studies and testimonials from organizations that have successfully implemented benchmarking programs. It also offers helpful tips and a wealth of resources to help you along your energy benchmarking journey.


CAN-QUEST Building Energy Modelling Software factsheet has been published. CAN-QUEST is a new, faster software that improves on NRCan’s EE4 tool, and can help with provincial, territorial and municipal code compliance with the NECB (2011). Refer to the factsheet for information on training.

Calendar of events and other important dates

The following list highlights key events:

If you are interested in having a customized Dollars to $ense workshop, please note that it will take eight to ten weeks from planning to delivery.

Let us know what you think

Heads Up: Building Energy Efficiency is published by Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency and distributed monthly to 12 000 subscribers. Our goal is to deliver meaningful news and information about programs, services and events related to energy efficiency in commercial and institutional buildings and, as well, to share the success stories of organizations that have benefited from positive change. Help us spread the word by sending this link to your colleagues. We encourage you to subscribe to our sister publication that focusses on energy efficiency in industrial facilities, Heads Up CIPEC.

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