Energy Benchmarking of Commercial Buildings: A Low-Cost Pathway towards Urban Sustainability*

The journal Environmental research Letters just highlighted and shared this CEPL work in a News Insight, available on their website.

U.S. cities are beginning to experiment with a regulatory approach to address information failures in the real estate market by mandating the energy benchmarking of commercial buildings. Understanding how a commercial building uses energy has many benefits; for example, it helps building owners and tenants identify poor-performing buildings and subsystems and it enables high-performing buildings to achieve greater occupancy rates, rents, and property values. This paper estimates the possible impacts of a national energy benchmarking mandate through analysis chiefly utilizing the Georgia Tech version of the National Energy Modeling System (GT-NEMS). Correcting the input discount rates for seven major equipment classes representing 45% of commercial sector energy demand results in a 4.0% reduction in projected energy consumption relative to reference case forecasts in 2020. Further discount rate reductions spurred by Benchmarking policies yield another 1.3% in energy savings in 2020,. Benchmarking would increase the purchase of energy-efficient equipment, reducing energy bills, CO2 emissions, and conventional air pollution. Achieving comparable CO2 savings would require more than tripling existing U.S. solar capacity. Our analysis suggests that nearly 90% of the energy saved by a national benchmarking policy would benefit metropolitan areas, and the policy’s benefits would outweigh its costs, both to the private sector and society broadly.

Energy Savings and Fuel Switching Projected

Graph of Energy Consumption of Seven Major Commercial End-Uses by Year (2010 - 2035)

*Forthcoming in Environmental Research Letters, 2013.



  • Dr. Marilyn A. Brown: marilyn.brown [at]
  • Matt Cox:  etan.gumerman [at]
  • Xiaojing Sun: xsun44 [at]