Sharing Transparency for a More Efficient Future

2011: Year in Review

What has happened in building energy rating this year?

It has been a busy 2011 for building energy rating policy and research. Let’s do a quick tour of this year’s developments around the world. 

Across more 31 European countries, rating schemes and methodologies are rolling out in response to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) of 2007. The policy—requiring Energy Performance Certificates and their disclosure for private and government buildings—was cleaned up with a more specific recast of the EPBD legislation in 2010, but the report card up to this year has been mixed.

In general, most countries have been late. Some, like Spain, have received official reprimand from the European Commission, and won’t have a functioning system in place for years.  The case of Hungary is worse still: the government struggles to set up a mandatory system because any policy can by overturned by public referendum. Most countries, however, have at least put forward functional programs, though few sit well with the masses. The UK government ignored the pleas of the real estate industry to expand mandatory disclosure of operational ratings to private buildings, and a recent study in Germany suggests that Energy Performance Certificates are “perceived as the least useful information source” in a property transaction. The EU has made incredible effort to impact the efficiency of its building stock, but there is work to be done.

Luckily, some of that is underway. Evaluations of existing programs, best practice aggregation, and a standard “cost-effective methodology” for building energy performance assessment are all in the works.


Meanwhile, Australia maintains its leadership in energy rating and disclosure, with a mandate for new residential construction to meet NatHERS home energy efficiency standards. The mandatory Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) scheme, requiring NABERS ratings for commercial buildings, became law in late 2010. As of November 2011, however, this rating became more than just a NABERS energy efficiency score; it will now include a lighting assessment and practicable efficiency investment recommendations—part of a more robust Building Energy Efficiency Certificate (BEEC).

Two new studies this year demonstrated the greater value seen by more efficient Australian office buildings—a critical connection urgently needed by the the financial and real estate industries. An economic analysis from University of Western Sydney and Maastricht University showed increased rental premiums, sale prices, and occupancy rates in greener, more efficient commercial properties (those with higher NABERS ratings and the Green Star label). A study from IPD determined that NABERS and Green Star properties achieve higher ROI and lower cap rates than comparable commercial properties. A similar study released this year from the University of Reading found nearly identical results for Energy Star- and LEED-certified buildings in the U.S. market.


Here in the United States, a centralized building energy rating system is farther off, although earlier this year the Department of Energy (DOE) put out for comment a concept for a national asset rating pilot. Meanwhile, 2011 saw the kickoff of multiple operational rating and disclosure programs. The District of Columbia, Seattle, and New York City all began programs for commercial buildings to benchmark their energy use and report an Energy Star Portfolio Manager (ESPM) score to the city government. Compliance results are mixed, however, and DC is already falling behind in its implementation (their reporting deadline has been pushed back repeatedly). However, New York City’s government estimates that their compliance rate for the first reporting deadline was almost 70%. These local policy leaders likely portend a windfall of similar programs that are gestating around the country.

American energy efficiency and sustainability programs continue to gain traction. The USGBC  announced that there is now more existing LEED-certified building space than there is new LEED construction. Assessing the efficiency and sustainability of commercial buildings seems to be catching on with the private sector, and efforts like the SAVE Act could stimulate some demand on the residential side. The ESPM program is in such high demand that the EPA (who run ESPM) made an agreement with the Canadian government to expand its capabilities there.


In developing countries, energy rating is also on the rise. Legislation in Brazil created a rating program called PROCEL Edifica, intended to become mandatory in 2012. Yet, In light of the impending World Cup, newfound oil fields and other pressing development issues, it is likely that this law will be largely ignored. India does not yet have an energy efficiency certification policy, although the country’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has created the voluntary BEE Star program which generates operational ratings for 5 use types of commercial buildings. And in China, where constriction rates continue to outpace the rest of the world, the federal government is promoting energy rating and sustainability certification schemes through the national Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural  Development (MOHURD). Government and publicly-funded buildings are required to meet standards for energy efficiency and just this year MOHURD has launched incentives to support private green building certification.


The universe of accomplishments and challenges that played out in 2011 seems to suggest that implementation has been a challenge. Moving forward, there is an obvious need to standardize approaches and lessons that can be applied around the world to make these policies run more smoothly for all parties. Hopefully resources like can continue to provide trenchant insight as a crossroads of news and policy materials related to building energy performance assessment. We hope to augment our roll in this process in 2012 and beyond