Sustainable Biz Canada

ENERGY STAR building certifications now in Canada


Natural Resources Canada has taken the next step in Canada’s push to promote a low carbon economy, launching its ENERGY STAR certification program for commercial and institutional buildings on March 26.

ENERGY STAR“ENERGY STAR has long been a trusted label to help make smart decisions about energy use,” said Natural Resources Canada spokesperson Catherine Leroux. “Now, building owners and managers can receive recognition for the superior energy performance of their buildings and they can showcase this by demonstrating they have met an ENERGY STAR-certified level in energy management.”

The program uses ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, a free, interactive energy management and benchmarking tool which allows a building owner or energy manager to track and assess energy and water consumption across a portfolio of buildings in a secure online environment. The tool itself was launched in Canada in August 2013.

Under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, federal, provincial and territorial governments have committed to work together to require labelling of building energy use by as early as 2019.

Benefits of energy benchmarking

Energy benchmarking can:

* identify poorly performing buildings;
* establish a baseline for measuring improvement in energy consumption for all buildings;
* help to set investment priorities;
* verify efficiency improvements;
* enhance and create competition through comparison with similar buildings;
* enable a building to participate in green building certification programs and other environmental initiatives;
* and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make a positive contribution to the environment.

“Energy benchmarking is the ongoing review of a building’s energy consumption and performance in comparison to other buildings of that type across the country, other buildings in an organization’s portfolio, and that particular building’s energy performance historically,” said Leroux.

“Commercial building energy performance benchmarking is a foundational element of an organization’s energy management strategy because you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

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ENERGY STAR certifications

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager can generate an ENERGY STAR score of one to 100. It indicates a building’s percentile energy efficiency ranking with respect to similar buildings nationally.

An ENERGY STAR certification is awarded to buildings that apply with an ENERGY STAR score of 75 or higher, provided their data is verified by a professional engineer or registered architect, and the building meets other program eligibility criteria. At least 12 consecutive months of energy data is required.

Buildings already certified as BOMA BEST or under the LEED Canada EB:O&M program are prime candidates for ENERGY STAR certification.

ENERGY STAR-certified buildings will receive signage and graphics to share as well as a free promotional kit so their managers can let others know about the accomplishment. Natural Resources Canada will house an online registry of all Canadian ENERGY STAR-certified buildings.

The first seven building sectors that are eligible for ENERGY STAR certification are: commercial offices; kindergarten to Grade 12 schools; hospitals; medical offices; senior care communities and long-term care facilities; food retail; and ice/curling rinks. Natural Resources Canada will add additional building types over time to a maximum of 21 by 2026.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager

In addition to ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, Natural Resources Canada also offers training, online webinars, customized webinars, information, case studies, best practices and guides for building owners and managers.

“Increasing the energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions of buildings is a key focus of federal and provincial commitments under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change,” said Leroux. “ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is one of the tools the Government of Canada offers to support provinces and territories, municipalities, industry and the private sector in achieving this national commitment.”

Organizations including BOMA Canada and the Canada Green Building Council utilize and recommend ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. Cities across the country have made it a part of their environmental and energy plans, and many provincial utilities have adopted web services to connect with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and offer programs supported by it.

The Province of Ontario’s Energy Water and Reporting (EWRB) for large buildings, which was launched in January, requires certain buildings in Ontario to benchmark and disclose their energy data using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. 

The first phase requires commercial, industrial and multi-unit residential buildings 250,000 square feet and larger to report their water and energy use annually, along with other details such as gross floor area and number of occupants. The initiative will be expanded to cover more buildings and, when fully implemented in 2020, will capture approximately 18,000 commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet.

“Once fully phased-in, EWRB has the potential to become the largest mandatory benchmarking requirement in North America,” said Leroux.

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Steve McLean

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Steve is a veteran writer, reporter, editor and communications specialist whose work has appeared in a wide variety of print and online outlets. He’s the author of the book Hot Canadian Bands and has taught reporting to college students. He is based in Toronto.

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