Managing What You Measure

Large buildings have reduced energy use 6 percent since NYC’s benchmarking requirement (Local Law 84) went into effect, so we know owners and tenants are making changes. But what do facilities managers really think of LL84? See how you do on this little quiz:

What do facilities managers really think of NYC’s benchmarking law?

(a) “Made us aware of wasteful spending and how to make cost-saving changes.”

(b) “Good for the environment.”

(c) “Very easy to implement.”

(d) “A waste of time.”

e) All of the above.


[Scroll down to see results. ]



The answer, of course, is “all of the above.” This and many other insights into the minds of New York’s building managers can be found in a fascinating survey conducted by a third party on behalf of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).[1] In all, many more facilities managers think positively of LL84 than negatively, by about a 6-to-1 ratio.[2]

A full 77 percent of respondents reported that energy benchmarking had led them to make changes to how they operated their facilities, and 75 percent reported that they had made capital investments in new equipment for efficiency[3]. Can we believe those numbers? The presence of respondents who said they were not in compliance—or did not intend to comply!—shows a good breadth of participation, lending credence to their results.[4]

The two top operational changes were absolute no-brainers: training building staff and stopping heating and cooling simultaneously. The results demonstrate why such rapid energy savings are possible in our buildings—there is still so much low-hanging fruit to be picked.

It’s encouraging that “help the environment” was the third-most common reason managers made changes, behind “save money” and “follow best practices.” That wasn’t too surprising to me; there are a lot of cost-saving business opportunities, and New Yorkers tend to “get it” when it comes to climate change. Doing the right thing helps energy savings stand out from other building improvement options.

The report is marvelously transparent, so there’s a lot to dig into beneath the headline conclusions. NEMA has shared the entire decision flow of the survey, all responses verbatim[5], their process for generating participation and click-through rates on the survey itself. Read the whole report, Building Energy Benchmarking: How Measurement Prompts Management, on NEMA’s website.

[1] That’s right, the people that certify the plastic box you use when you install outdoor lighting. Why is NEMA polling NYC building managers about benchmarking? Nominally to bolster NEMA members’ products, some of which contribute to renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, but my guess is because Patrick Hughes, the project lead, is a true believer who converted his 115-year old town house into a net zero energy building. Go Patrick!

[2] That said, I chuckled at some of the open comments receive: “no further comment on such an idiotic topic” and “just another example of more regulation that only adds to the cost of government.” It takes a village.

[3] Participants responded in early 2016, and results released in April 2017.

[4] Not to say there’s not some confusion in the industry. Take this response: “LL84 inspections helped my company identify key areas of improvement for creating a more energy efficient building. The cost savings are worth it in the long run, even though the initial capital outlays can cost a lot.” Well put, but the respondent is clearly confusing Local 87 mandates for on-site building energy audits with LL84, which has no inspection component.

[5] Your guess is as good as mine as to the meaning of “We have our flexibility in utilizing sufficient power and water supplies at the same time we look forward to have certain specific liberation and deduction in taxation.” Tweet me when you figure it out.