REALpac’s Energy Benchmarking Program

In September 2009, the Real Property Association of Canada (“REALpac”), in collaboration with the Canada Green Building Council (“CaGBC”) and the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada (“BOMA Canada”), adopted an energy consumption target for office buildings of 20 equivalent kilowatt-hours of total energy use per square foot of building area per year (“20 ekWh/ft2/year”), to be achieved by 2015. For short, “20 by ‘15”.

After launching the “20 by ‘15” energy reduction target, REALpac again collaborated with CaGBC, BOMA Canada, and various energy experts, to develop further tools to help enable the real estate industry to understand their energy use and measure it in a meaningful way. These tools were released in the summer of 2010, which paved the way for a Canada-wide building energy consumption survey to be performed – REALpac’s Energy Benchmarking Program (“EBP”) was launched!

Among those tools developed is a unique approach to calculating whole building energy use that uses normalization to credibly compare buildings with different characteristics allowing an “apples-to-apples” comparison between buildings and portfolios. Normalization adjusts the total energy consumption from all major energy sources for variables such as the building’s gross floor area, different heating power of various energy sources (e.g. natural gas or steam), high intensity or exceptional energy use space types (e.g. data centers), plus occupant dependent variables (e.g. occupant density, vacancy, and operating hours).  The use of a normalized approach to calculating a building’s annual energy use accounts fairly for buildings with different characteristics and allows for more meaningful and robust energy intensity reporting and benchmarking between buildings across the country.

To launch the Program, REALpac asked its members, partner organizations, and affiliates, as well as other industry stakeholders, to participate in this groundbreaking, national Energy Benchmarking Survey (“the Survey”) by submitting 2009 energy consumption data from office buildings in the fall of 2010. The first Survey was intended to establish a baseline of building energy use in Canada and to begin to grow a database that had a foundation of accurate and robust data, collected using credible and equitable assumptions and a replicable methodology. Recognizing the growing interest and need for national benchmarking programs, REALpac has endeavoured to continue to collect data on an annual basis in order to maintain and grow the national benchmarking tool and data set in the same credible and consistent manner.

Now, with three years of building energy consumption data, it is possible to compare a building’s performance over time as well as within a geographic area, as part of a larger portfolio and/or amongst its competitors. For owners and managers, the consistent tracking and evaluation of performance data is central to any reduction initiatives and activities. The continuous collection and analysis of energy use data provides both the stimulus for action and the outcome of such actions taken, thus providing a feedback loop for improved operations. This type of data analysis can also be invaluable as an indicator of areas needing attention or of management systems that not generating the results expected and we hope that both owners and property managers incorporate these metrics/analyses into their operations.

Benefits of Participation

By participating in surveys year-over-year and having their buildings included in the resulting reports, building owners and managers will have more useful information and tools to:

  • track energy use and building performance over time,
  • pinpoint where energy is being wasted within their facilities and where adjustments can be made to reduce excess energy use,
  • use trends in building energy performance to make more informed asset management decisions,
  • use trends and comparisons to inform and guide capital budgeting programs,
  • develop more focused training programs for building operations professionals,
  • develop employee incentives and compensation programs which incorporate the proven energy performance of a building or portfolio, and
  • prioritize future initiatives to be taken with respect to energy reduction targets and initiatives.


Timeline and Implementation Activities:

  • Sept 2009 – Launch of “20 by ‘15”
  • Fall 2009 and Winter 2010 – collaborate with CaGBC, BOMA Canada, and various energy experts to develop tools and launch the first annual Energy Benchmarking Survey
  • Apr 2011 – Release of the 2010 Energy Benchmarking Report: Performance of the Canadian Office Sector, quantifying a baseline of energy use Canada-wide
  • May 2011 – Launch of the second annual Energy Benchmarking Survey
  • Nov 2011 – Participated in CivicAction Greening Greater Toronto’s Race to Reduce initiative as the data aggregation platform and results provider for 2011 Awards
  • Apr 2012 – Launch of the third annual Energy Benchmarking Survey
  • Feb 2013 – Release of the 2012 Energy Benchmarking Report: Performance of the Canadian Office Sector, quantifying the progress of office building energy use reductions achieved Canada-wide
  • May 2013 – Launch of the fourth annual Energy Benchmarking Survey…


Results Achieved

It is difficult to calculate the amount of energy saved over the two years of the project as different buildings participated and submitted their energy use in different years. If we assume that the 267 buildings included in the first Survey saved the average amount of actual energy over the next two years as was seen in the results, then 267 buildings saved 2.15 ekWh for each of 103,784,507 ft2 of area over 2 years = total savings of 223,136,690 ekWh over two years.

If we then assume the additional 88 buildings that participated in later Survey years would have saved approximately the same amount of energy over the same time period had they participated, then 88 additional buildings would have saved 2.15 ekWh for each additional 22,971,204 ft2 of area over two years = additional total savings 49,388,088 ekWh over two years.

Grand total energy savings from REALpac’s Energy Benchmarking Program (actual energy use) = 272,524,778 ekWh over two years!


Recognition Worthy Project Features

  • This Program lead (jump-started!) the commercial real estate industry forward in energy efficiency and energy benchmarking activities during a time where there was not another freely accessible program in Canada,
  • The “20 by ‘15” target and Energy Benchmarking Program acted as transformational tools for the market, shaking up/disrupting “business as usual” and shedding light on the need to conserve energy and feeding into more recent initiatives such as CivicAction’s Race to Reduce and the Mayor’s Megawatt Challenge plus multiple internal corporate targets and programs, and
  • The Program laid the groundwork for the industry to be open to and embrace the initiative taken by Natural Resources Canada to license Energy Star Portfolio Manager for use in Canada. Now, building owners and managers are speaking the language of energy efficiency and reduction and are in a better position to manage risks and grasp opportunities in the future.