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Data Collection for Multifamily Energy Benchmarking 


 Written by: Dillon Ackerman


"You can't manage what you can't measure." Whether one is a regulator looking for reductions in the nation’s biggest emissions-producing sector or a multifamily property owner trying to reign in utility costs, the task is impossible without adequately measuring total energy. In an ideal world, all multifamily properties would already have accurate gauges for total energy usage, but in reality, data collection can be complicated and cumbersome. Some examples of the potential barriers include convoluted meter structures, tenant data sharing, and inconsistent utility data reporting. 

Why Perform Energy Benchmarking? 

As covered by Waypoint in this post from 2020, property owners have different motivations for performing energy benchmarking at their multifamily properties. A few of the most forefront are: regulatory compliance, identifying savings, and asset value indication. 

  • Regulatory Compliance:  Building owners and operators need to ensure that their properties adhere to benchmark reporting regulations. Below is an illustrative map of compliance states/cities which details regions with benchmarking requirements. 

  • Identifying Savings Opportunities:  Energy benchmarking allows property owners to understand the total energy usage of their buildings. This knowledge can be leveraged to identify opportunities for energy savings and implement measures to reduce unnecessary energy burdens. Not only does this contribute to cost savings, but it also adds value to tenants by creating more sustainable and affordable living spaces. 

  • Highlighting Asset Value:  For property owners, energy benchmarking serves as a means of comparing asset value. Benchmarking enables property owners to compare their energy usage with similar buildings. An energy-efficient building is more attractive to potential investors and tenants, contributing to the overall market value of the property. 


Steps Involved for Energy Benchmarking 

Data collection for energy benchmarking can vary slightly from region to region, but generally follows these steps: 

  1. Determine applicable regulatory requirements (compliance requirements, usage types, reporting formats, reporting period) 

  2. Map out sources of energy usage (natural gas, electricity, propane, etc.) 

  3. Data collection  

  4. Data analysis (transforming usage data into requested/usable formats) 

  5. Reporting 


Barriers/Challenges to Successful Energy Benchmarking 

While the steps themselves may be relatively straightforward, there are a couple significant hurdles, which can complicate or extend the energy benchmarking process. 

  • Individual Metering:  One significant challenge is the need to collect utility data from all individually metered tenants, which can be a time-consuming and resource-intensive task, especially for properties with a large number of units. In addition, if data releases are required, building owners can expect a signatory rate from tenants of just 20-60% on average according to a 2018 survey. Different utilities also have varying methods and requirements for sharing and providing data, adding complexity to the process. 

  • Manual Data Collection:  In an ideal scenario, total energy usage would be readily accessible at the building level. Absent a standardized resource for accomplishing this, building owners often have to perform manual data collection or requests for utility data, which can be a cumbersome and repetitive process. 


Methods for Collecting Building Energy Use Data 

Depending on a property’s utility payment structure, utility provider, number of tenants, and meter type, different options may be most relevant. The following methods (listed in order of convenience) describe pathways available to collect necessary usage data for benchmarking: 


  • Request Aggregate Whole-Property Data  Requesting aggregate data from the utility provider(s) is the most straightforward and accurate way to benchmark buildings Unfortunately, not all utilities provide this service. The following resource from the EPA can be used to identify utilities that provide aggregate whole-property energy data. This data is delivered either through web services or by specific request and comes in two forms: 

    • Periodic Data Report: a one-time snapshot of a period’s energy usage, often broken down into months or other periods by request 

    • Automatic Data Sharing: Implement automatic data sharing mechanisms, including periodic usage requests, that will be automatically sent to web services such as Energy Star Portfolio Manager. 

  • Owner-Paid Utility Bills  Benchmarking can also be managed by collecting utility bills for each individual meter during a reporting term or using bill aggregators like Conservice, Urjanet, or Ecova. 

  • Tenant-Paid Utility Data For some properties, manual requests can be made to tenants for utility data sharing. This option is often one of the most cumbersome, since tenants each have individual meters and paperwork to sign in order to release data. 


Whether driven by regulatory compliance, cost savings, or asset value, accurate data collection remains the linchpin of successful benchmarking initiatives. As you navigate automatic data requests or dive into the world of manual data analysis, remember every hurdle is just another step toward a brighter, more efficient future. In addition, if you are unclear of or uncertain with next steps, feel free to contact us at, and we will be happy to assist you. 




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