How COVID-19 Has Changed How Energy Star Measures Efficiency
By Ken Stack, Vice President, Facility Management Solutions & Transitions

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many buildings operate, and Energy Star has responded by altering the way it models buildings and modifying its application process for Energy Star certification. These changes reflect the new environment, where everyone’s top priority is protecting the health and safety of all stakeholders. The biggest changes are in regard to detailing building Occupancy/Operating Hours and the site inspection process.

Acknowledging that COVID-19 has led to a widespread change in how buildings are utilized and that far fewer people now visit buildings on a day-to-day basis, Energy Star has provided updated guidance to ensure these changes do not penalize a building’s Energy Star score. The guidance now states: when entering the building’s operating info, the “weekly operating hours” and the number of “workers on the main shift” should be updated to reflect the changes due to COVID-19. In many cases, this will show a reduction of “weekly operating hours” and a drastic reduction in the number of “workers on the main shift.” Other parameters, such as “number of computers” and “occupancy” should not be changed and should reflect the pre-pandemic state of operations.

Typically, as part of the Energy Star certification process, a building professional (typically a licensed professional engineer or professional architect) needs to perform a tour of the building to verify the data entered on the application and to ensure HVAC and lighting meet the appropriate ASHRAE and IESNA standards. To protect the health and safety of the building occupants and the certifying professionals, Energy Star is allowing buildings to reuse the results of the 2019 site visits to certify the building conditions. This should ease the burden for previously certified buildings to maintain their certification for the 2020 and 2021 periods. Unfortunately, buildings seeking certification for the first time will need to follow the full on-site inspection process.

For more information about Energy Star certification and building performance, please don’t hesitate to contact our team of industry experts.