Tools for Developing Building Efficiency Goals and Tracking Performance

Thane, India, a satellite city of Mumbai. Photo credit EMBARQ/Flickr

Gaurav Sharma is a property developer in Thane, a satellite city of Mumbai. His family firm prides itself on supplying high-quality, environmentally-friendly residential housing to India’s growing urban middle and upper-middle class. By setting ambitious efficiency goals for this new housing, Mr. Sharma’s company can play a leading role in addressing the energy and emissions impacts of urbanization and economic growth.

In 2014, global investment in buildings’ energy efficiency reached $90 billion and total building efficiency investment is expected to grow to $125 billion in 2020. To guide these investments and achieve energy and emissions savings, developers like Mr. Sharma and city policymakers need tools to prioritize actions, measure building efficiency performance and track progress against climate, energy and efficiency goals. As India pursues its Smart Cities challenge, target-setting and tracking resources can facilitate timely and cost-effective implementation.

There are dozens of publicly available tools to help all stakeholders develop building efficiency actions and track progress toward implementation. These tools can assist policymakers, project stakeholders and developers like Mr. Sharma in constructing and reaping the benefits of more efficient buildings.

Policy tools provide insights and information for effective design and implementation of policy packages, as well as their impact evaluation. A few examples include the Common Carbon Metric (CCM) and the Co-Benefits Evaluation Tool for the Urban Energy System. Project tools help to design a building construction or renovation project, calculate a building’s energy performance, simulate the effect of various building components and technologies and estimate potential savings from various energy-efficiency measures. Project tools may take the form of freely available software, such as the IFC’s Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE) tool.

New York City Makes Efficiency Tools a Priority

New York is a leading example of how cities have used data, tools and tracking to achieve integrated energy and climate goals. As part of its target to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, New York City has introduced building efficiency policies, data-collection programs and implementation tools. With city-wide targets supported by robust monitoring and reporting processes, New York’s experience illustrates the challenges and opportunities of data-driven building efficiency improvement programs.

Three things to consider in light of New York’s experience and the range of existing tools:

  • As a starting point, baseline inventories and building energy-use datasets are useful for assessing materiality of different city emissions sources, identifying key metrics and bridging stakeholder perspectives. In its recent inventory, New York City found that buildings are responsible for 73 percent of citywide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the use of natural gas, electricity, heating oil, steam and biofuel.
  • Once baseline data are collected, numerous policy and project tools are available to guide program- and policy-level goal development. NYC convened a Buildings Technical Working Group and launched a 10-year building efficiency action plan.
  • Subsequent monitoring, reporting, and verification can preserve accountability and assess cost-effectiveness. Moving forward, New York has identified seven building efficiency improvement actions to put the city on the pathway to achieving its 2050 targets.

A New Suite of Tools

To guide building efficiency stakeholders through the vast range of resources that has become available in recent years, WRI’s Building Efficiency Initiative and the Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency have compiled a list of publicly available project and policy tools for improving building efficiency. In addition to introductory webinars on building efficiency resources, the organizations have produced a decision tree that identifies tools based on available data and stakeholder objectives.

As Mr. Sharma and other stakeholders move toward improved building efficiency, these resources can help bridge stakeholder perspectives, inform actions aligned with best practices and track performance. Leaders in building efficiency are now better-equipped than ever to achieve their goals.