The Relevance of Building Performance
The real estate space has come a long way since I joined Fabriq (as EnergyDeck) in 2017. When compared to the conversations of yesteryear, it appears that there has been a shift, and back then, we talked about energy management and building performance; we investigated issues such as the impact of operating hours on energy consumption. I guess the shift in the conversation mirrored the understanding and progress of contemporary issues out there in the industry. Currently the emphasis seems to be very much on mitigating and adapting to climate related change and the conversations are much more focused on carbon reduction and reaching net-zero, which is not surprising, since we are hurtling very quickly towards 2050, the deadline for keeping us below a 1.5 degree global temperature rise.
Despite this so-called conversational shift, are we in fact talking about the same issues but from a different perspective and with additional complexity? Alongside switching to renewables and changing occupant behaviour, achieving energy efficiencies across the whole of real estate - commercial or otherwise - is an act of climate change mitigation. Therefore, being able to measure and compare building performance against a set of standards - industry or otherwise - is still very much a relevant part of the conversation.
Benchmarking Performance in Fabriq
Call it nostalgia but one of my earliest memories in Fabriq is working with Benchmarks; I had the pleasure of working with the BBP on the REEB, which taught me a great deal. I am therefore pleased to say that we have recently updated our benchmarking module with the latest BBP benchmarks for various property types. Also I want to remind everyone that Fabriq’s benchmarking module allows normalisation using factors other than floor area. This capability has been there now for a while but we’ve never shouted about it; so there, now you know.
Addressing Pain Points
No benchmark is credible unless underpinned by good quality data. Obtaining good quality data includes drawing data from a wide variety of relevant sources. For the real estate space that means drawing data across multiple organisations, locations and property types; we see GRESB and the REEB using this approach for their respective benchmarks. Additionally, data quality improves by obtaining several data points within the benchmarking period. Capturing data for individual assets has always been an issue. Luckily, Fabriq has a long history of creating data integrations with various data suppliers and automating the data capture process; we are good at that! Apart from removing the obvious pain of manually entering data - that is still an option of course - automation addresses some other pain points such as the segregation of tenant and landlord consumption data which might not be possible where landlord-tenant relationships are difficult.
Making sense of the figures
Normalisation is used to convert consumption/emissions into a comparative metric across entities (e.g. buildings, portfolios, organisations) and floor area is probably the most commonly used normalising factor. For e.g Imagine two buildings, Building A and Building B with floor area of 500 sq. meters and 1000 sq. meters respectively. Furthermore, imagine that the total annual consumption in Building A and Building B are 1000kWh and 2000kWh respectively. At first glance it is apparent that Building A has used much less energy in comparison to Building B. This does not make Building A more energy efficient than Building B. By Normalising the buildings’ consumption figures by the respective floor areas, we can show that Building A and Building B are in fact consuming the same amount of energy per sq. meter i.e. 1000kWh/500sq. m equals 2000kWh/1000sq. m equals 2kWh per sq. meter. Another way to look at this is as an average consumption. But floor area is not the only normalising factor, other useful factors include revenue, production units, footfall and occupancy levels.
While real estate stakeholders are involved in much more complex conversations around climate change mitigation and adaptation, building performance or building efficiency is still very relevant. Therefore benchmarking building performance is still very much a significant tool. Some of the benefits are:
- Obtaining a baseline understanding of a building’s energy use
- Metrics to rank buildings against others in a portfolio, allowing prioritization of energy efficiency investments
- A better understanding of how buildings’ energy performance compares to competitors
- A basis of an energy management plan to drive continuous performance improvement
- For high performance buildings, evidence of a building’s additional value