Update on benchmarking and ENERGY STAR certification for commercial buildings impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

From ENERGY STAR for Commercial Buildings and Industrial PlantsUpdate on benchmarking and Energy Star cerification for commercial buildings impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic 

"Thank you for your patience as we continue to assess the impacts on 1-100 ENERGY STAR scores resulting from changes in building operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. We at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are pleased to share with you this updated guidance on benchmarking in Portfolio Manager and applying for 2020 ENERGY STAR certification.

NOTE: No changes have been made to ENERGY STAR certification for industrial plants. The information in this e-mail applies only to commercial buildings in the U.S. and Canada. For information or questions about ENERGY STAR certification of industrial plants, please contact Danny Macri (for plants in the U.S.) or Natural Resources Canada (for plants in Canada).

Our first priority continues to be the health and safety of all of our stakeholders. The guidance below will allow more of you to apply for ENERGY STAR certification while complying with the recommendations of medical experts for reducing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

This new guidance is in addition to the changes described in our May 4 e-mail, which are still in effect. These include:

  1. You no longer have to submit an application for ENERGY STAR certification within 120 days of the application’s Period Ending Date (PED)
  2. You must include a detailed description of how your building’s operations have been impacted by COVID-19.
  3. We can help with time-sensitive needs to receive ENERGY STAR certification.

New guidance: 

1. All building should update their use details to reflect changes in operations due to COVID-19: We recommend that you update the values for “Number of Workers on Main Shift” (or "number of full-time equivalent workers" for hospitals) and “Weekly Operating Hours” for all time periods and for all buildings in your portfolio (see this FAQ for more details and guidance). These values should reflect changes which occurred as part of the response to COVID-19, and updates should be made using the “Update with new information” function in Portfolio Manager.

2. All buildings may apply 2020 Energy Star certification use through 2020: After extensive analysis to assess the impacts of extreme changes in operations on ENERGY STAR scores, we can now accept applications for ENERGY STAR certification with a PED through April 30, 2020, regardless of the changes in operations which may have occurred in the building due to COVID-19. Before submitting an application with a PED of March or April 2020, applicants must have updated “Number of Workers on Main Shift” (or “Number of Full-Time Equivalent Workers” for hospitals) and “Weekly Operating Hours” use details as needed to reflect such changes.

3.  Building with operations that were unaffected by COVID-19 may apply using  date which includes May 2020 and later. Everyone else should wait for further guidance. If your building has a score of 75 or higher for a PED of May 2020 or later, the decision of whether to apply now or wait for further guidance from EPA depends on how your building operations were impacted by COVID-19. 

  • If your application includes only time when your building was operating normally, and your site visit was conducted during normal operations (or you can reuse the site visit from a 2019 certification), you can apply now and we will process your application.
  • If your building operations were reduced in any significant way we strongly recommend that you wait to apply until EPA provides further guidance. EPA will be providing this guidance on certification eligibility for periods from May 2020 and later by early September. Waiting to apply will decrease the likelihood of your application being placed on hold and you having to make edits to your application in the future.
  • If you are unsure of whether you should apply now or wait, please contact EPA or e-mail NRCan and we will advise you on the best course of action.

4. Some buildings have additional options for site visits 

We are introducing several new flexibilities to meet site visit requirements as we realize that it may be some time before buildings return to “normal” operations:

  • If your building received a 2019 ENERGY STAR certification and a site visit was conducted for that application, you may reuse that site visit for your 2020 application as long as it was conducted on 1/1/2019 or later. NOTE: Enabling this flexibility requires programming changes to Portfolio Manager, so it will not be available until approximately late August.
  • If your building is not yet fully operating, but portions of the building are operating at close to normal levels, you may conduct the site visit and take measurements in those spaces with close to normal operations." 

Next steps and future guidance on benchmarking and certification eligibility

We are continuing our assessment of the impacts of extended periods of reduced operations on ENERGY STAR scores and will provide updated guidance for periods after April 2020 as soon as possible. In the meantime, we recommend that you update use details for all properties as described above and continue to enter your actual energy use data as you normally do. We thank you for your patience and understanding, and we hope you are all staying safe in this difficult time.

 

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