A city skyline of buildings that likely need energy benchmarking is center with a sunset in the background
As part of the movement toward electrification and decarbonization, taking inventory of the energy consumed in the built environment is a necessity. To organize all that data, states and local jurisdictions have implemented energy benchmarking requirements for certain buildings under their jurisdiction. As a building owner or operator, you’ll want to power up your knowledge about these requirements to avoid fees and compare your building’s metrics with its peers.

Here we’ll cover the major benchmarking mandates rolled out in California:

– CA State Assembly Bill 802 (AB802)
– City of Los Angeles’ Existing Buildings Energy and Water Efficiency Ordinance
– City of San Jose’s Energy and Water Building Performance Ordinance
– Leveraging any of the above when pursuing LEED

But first… what is benchmarking?

Benchmarking is the practice of tracking your energy and water use through monthly utility bills to analyze your building’s costs, usage, and operational flow. States and cities use this data to identify trends but don’t penalize or reward for usage amounts.

Why benchmark?

While energy benchmarking is required in some regard for any building in the state of California, some cities – as explained below – require extra benchmarking measures. In addition to meeting government mandates, energy benchmarking (and water benchmarking) is a useful tool to help you prioritize improvements for your building, cut operational costs and improve your bottom line, reduce emissions associated with your building, share insights with tenants and compare performance against peer buildings and portfolios.

Energy Benchmarking: CA AB802

Buildings 50,000 square feet or larger (or residential buildings with more than 17 units) in the state of California are required to submit their monthly energy use to the state once it has accumulated 12 months of utility bills. A few exemptions, like planned demolitions, can push your compliance year back.

Benchmarking for LA EBEWE and SJ BPO

Buildings 20,000 square feet or more within (or owned by) the City of LA need to meet LA’s Existing Buildings Energy and Water Efficiency Program. Property owners submit 12 months of both energy and water use to meet the annual benchmarking mandate, then audits and retrocommissioning are required every five years. Fines are incurred for any projects that do not meet these deadlines. The City of San José’s Energy and Water Building Performance Ordinance requires these same compliance steps. Luckily, both LA and San José’s programs satisfy California’s AB802 requirements, so no double work is needed in these two cities.

Leveraging Benchmarking for LEED Points

For California projects pursuing LEED Homes, especially sites in the City of LA that need to comply with LA EBEWE or SJ BPO, the “advanced utility tracking” credit is a no-brainer. Housed under the Energy and Atmosphere credit category, Case 2, Option 2, Path 1 (stay with us) offers one point for sharing your site’s aggregate energy and water data with USGBC. Therefore, if you’re already required to comply with benchmarking for the state or a city, this credit is just one extra step for a two-for-one deal.

How to benchmark

VCA Green’s team of energy analysts and auditing professionals can help you meet state, city, or corporate benchmarking (and subsequent auditing) goals. For more information, contact VCA Green Principal:

Moe Fakih, Principal

Robyn Vettraino, Principal

Contributing writer: Dani Grace