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Understanding Energy in Commercial Real Estate Buildings

Everything you need to know about where to start your journey to understanding energy in commercial real estate buildings.

In the world of commercial real estate, energy use often flies under the radar, but it's an area ripe for optimization. It's essential for organizations to understand their energy consumption patterns, footprint, and strategies for making the best use of resources. Here's how you can start.

Starting Point: Deciphering the Energy Data

Types of Energy Data

At the heart of energy management is energy data. But what does that mean? Generally, it falls into two categories. The first is timeseries data, which is recorded at regular intervals - hourly or sub-hourly. This provides a detailed view of energy consumption trends over a specific period.

The second type of energy data is aggregated data, collected on a monthly or yearly basis. This gives an overall picture of your energy use, allowing you to compare and contrast periods.

The Importance of Contextualizing Energy Data

It's not just about raw numbers. Understanding energy consumption involves interpreting data within a specific context. Absolute energy figures mean little without being compared or contextualized. That's where occupancy data comes in.

Integrating Occupancy Data

Occupancy data helps correlate energy usage with occupancy trends. This data provides insight into whether energy usage is aligned with the utilization of the building, promoting efficiency.

What is a Good Measure? Matching Energy and Occupancy Trends

The Role of Baselines in Energy Assessment

To ascertain efficient energy use, one must consider baselines, which are either set from standards or historic data. They offer a benchmark to measure your current energy consumption against, helping you identify areas for improvement.

Grid Vs. Off-Grid: Decoding Your Energy Footprint

Another critical aspect to consider is your energy source. How much of your energy comes from the grid, and how much is off-grid? Understanding this helps you gauge your carbon footprint and your offset potential.

Understanding Heating and Cooling Degree Days

In assessing energy efficiency, it's worth considering heating and cooling degree days. They measure how much (in degrees), and for how long (in days), outside temperature was above or below a certain baseline temperature. These values help indicate your building's energy demand for heating and cooling.

Navigating the Uncharted: Absence of Energy Meters

The Use of Rough Cut Profiles

Without energy meters, assessing energy consumption can be challenging. One solution is using rough cut profiles, which estimate daily energy usage based on monthly bills and understanding of your building's operations. However, this can't provide as accurate data as metered measurements.

Bill Analysis and Standards: The Second-Best Option

If rough cut profiles seem daunting, you can resort to analyzing your bills and comparing them with standards. This can still offer some insights into your energy consumption, albeit at a more aggregated level.

The Concept of kWh/Occupant

While using aggregated data, you can use total occupancy per month to derive energy/utilization, which provides kWh per occupant - a critical metric for energy managers.

Conclusion: Making Energy Management Efficient

Navigating energy in commercial real estate doesn't need to be daunting. By understanding your energy data, setting baselines, comparing trends, and even innovating in the absence of energy meters, you can make significant strides in energy management.


  1. What is the importance of timeseries energy data?Timeseries data provides detailed insight into the patterns of energy consumption over a specific period, helping to identify trends and anomalies.
  2. Why do we need to contextualize energy data with occupancy data?Contextualizing energy data with occupancy data helps understand whether the building's energy usage aligns with its utilization, promoting energy efficiency.
  3. What are heating and cooling degree days?These are measures that indicate how much and for how long the outside temperature was above or below a certain baseline. They help determine your building's energy demand for heating and cooling.
  4. What is the role of rough cut profiles in energy management?Rough cut profiles provide estimated daily energy usage based on monthly bills and knowledge of building operations. They are useful when detailed energy meter data is not available.
  5. How can kWh/occupant metric be useful?The kWh/occupant metric is crucial for energy managers as it provides a measure of energy efficiency per occupant, which can be used for performance benchmarking and optimization.

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