[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 152 (Monday, August 8, 2011)]
[Notices]
[Pages 48152-48158]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-20014]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

[Docket Number EERE-2011-BT-NOA-0049]


Commercial Building Asset Rating Program

AGENCY: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of 
Energy.

ACTION: Notice of request for information (RFI).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE or the Department) seeks to 
develop a voluntary National Asset Rating Program for Commercial 
Buildings (AR Program). The AR Program would establish an Asset

[[Page 48153]]

Rating system for commercial buildings based on a national standard and 
would evaluate the physical characteristics and as-built energy 
efficiency of these buildings. It would also identify potential energy 
efficiency improvements. The goal is to facilitate cost-effective 
investment in energy efficiency and reduce energy use in the commercial 
building sector. DOE seeks comments and information related to the 
development of the AR Program.

DATES: Written comments and information are requested on or before 
September 22, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Interested persons may submit comments, identified by docket 
number EERE-2011-BT-NOA-0049, by any of the following methods. Your 
response should be limited to 3 pages.
     E-mail: to AssetRatingRFI-2011-NOA-0049@ee.doe.gov. 
Include EERE-2011-BT-NOA-0049 in the subject line of the message.
     Mail: Ms. Brenda Edwards, U.S. Department of Energy, 
Building Technologies Program, Mailstop EE-2J, Revisions to Energy 
Efficiency Enforcement Regulations, EERE-2011-BT-NOA-0049, 1000 
Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20585- 0121. Phone: (202) 586-
2945. Please submit one signed paper original.
     Hand Delivery/Courier: Ms. Brenda Edwards, U.S. Department 
of Energy, Building Technologies Program, 6th Floor, 950 L'Enfant 
Plaza, SW., Washington, DC 20024. Phone: (202) 586-2945. Please submit 
one signed paper original.
    Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name 
and docket number.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Direct requests for additional 
information may be sent to Mr. Cody Taylor, U.S. Department of Energy, 
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Building Technologies 
Program, EE-2J, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20585-
0121. Telephone: 202-287-5842. E-mail: Cody.Taylor@ee.doe.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Department seeks to develop a voluntary AR Program. The AR 
Program would establish an Asset Rating system for commercial buildings 
based on a national standard and would evaluate the physical 
characteristics and as-built energy efficiency of these buildings. It 
would also identify potential energy efficiency improvements. The goal 
is to facilitate cost-effective investment in energy efficiency and 
reduce energy use in the commercial building sector. The Asset Rating 
is intended to complement other building rating and benchmarking tools 
in the market, DOE's Better Building Challenge (in which partners will 
commit to an energy savings pledge, assess the improvement 
opportunities across their portfolio, undertake a showcase building 
retrofit, and share their progress), and DOE's partnership with the 
Appraisal Foundation (which would enable investors, building owners and 
operators, and others to accurately assess the value of energy 
efficiency as part of the overall building appraisal).
    The AR Program will inform building owners about the energy 
efficiency of their buildings, enabling comparison of the energy 
performance between buildings while controlling for differences in 
building operations and occupant behavior. The AR Program will also 
identify opportunities for cost-effective improvements in the building 
systems to increase energy efficiency.
    Voluntary green building rating systems and ENERGY STAR Portfolio 
Manager have been used to varying degrees in the building industry to 
demonstrate building sustainability and energy performance. For 
existing buildings, measured energy performance based on utility bill 
history has been the dominant way to rate building energy performance. 
However, when a complete and continuous utility history is missing (for 
example, a vacant or partly empty building or a multi-tenanted 
building), it becomes difficult to evaluate building energy 
performance. Moreover, building stakeholders don't have a consistent 
basis for determining whether the energy use differences between two 
similar buildings are associated primarily with installed building 
systems or with operational choices. This information is important for 
building owners and investors when making decisions about efficiency 
improvement; it also informs prospective buyers and tenants who may 
want to compare among existing, new, and renovated buildings. 
Therefore, a national program would enable building stakeholders to 
directly compare as-built energy performance of building systems among 
similar buildings, regardless of occupant behavior and building 
operation.
    Recent regional Asset Rating initiatives, such as California's AB 
758 and the Massachusetts Commercial Asset Labeling Program, indicate a 
growing interest in a national Asset Rating system. The AR Program 
would facilitate the evaluation of energy-related building 
characteristics, which include building envelope, HVAC systems, 
lighting systems, and other major building service related equipment. 
The program would identify opportunities for energy efficiency 
improvements and estimate their likely savings. If communicated to 
potential buyers, lessees, and lenders, the Asset Rating would provide 
information necessary for the real estate market to value building 
energy efficiency measures.
    The Department has aggressive goals for facilitating cost-effective 
energy savings in commercial buildings, most recently stated in the 
Better Building Initiative as a goal of 20% savings by 2020. Through 
the AR Program, the Department intends to establish a building Asset 
Rating system that can be broadly applied to both new and existing 
commercial buildings, and provide affordable and reliable information 
to building stakeholders. The Department intends the Asset Rating 
system to work with and complement the Portfolio Manager Operational 
Rating system, once the Asset Rating system is sufficiently 
demonstrated. Both of these systems could be expected to evolve over 
time, providing opportunities for increasing integration. An integrated 
Asset and Operational Rating together would provide a feedback loop and 
accountability for building owners and operators to ensure that their 
building is performing as intended and meeting its potential. An 
integrated system would also help building operators track the results 
of upgrades and identify potential operation and maintenance problems. 
The Asset Rating and Operational Rating would together comprise a 
national building rating system that effectively combines the as-built 
building efficiency with a gauge of operational success.
    This Request for Information (RFI) calls on stakeholders to review 
the considered approaches and provide information to assist the 
Department in the development and implementation of this program. DOE 
intends to adopt or develop standardized approaches to evaluate the 
potential energy efficiency of commercial buildings, provide strategies 
to help building owners improve building energy efficiency, and 
establish a framework to convey the information to audiences at various 
levels. This RFI presents the following aspects of the AR Program:
     Market needs and opportunities.
     Guiding principles for the program.
     Options and approaches for key elements of the program.
     Pros and cons of various approaches.

[[Page 48154]]

     Initial proposed approach.
     Additional work that the Department is considering.
    The RFI is structured as follows:
    (1) Program Overview.
    (2) Market Needs and Guiding Principles.
    (3) Target Audience and Building Types.
    (4) Basic Metrics.
    (5) Rating Methods.
    (6) Rating Scales.
    (7) Recommendations for Improvements.
    (8) National Commercial Building Energy Database.
    (9) Quality Assurance.
    (10) Potential for Additional Supported Options.
    (11) Glossary of Key Terms.
    (12) References.
    The Department will consider all input it receives and plans to 
have an initial program design available by the end of September 2011. 
Based on that program design, the Department expects to pilot the 
program in partnership with interested parties and ongoing commercial 
energy efficiency programs, beginning in January 2012. The Department 
welcomes input on issues or logistical concerns that could extend this 
timeframe.

Program Overview

    Limited information on the expected efficiency of a building based 
on as-built building systems and opportunities for cost-effective 
energy efficiency improvements are identified barriers to energy 
efficiency investments. The Department seeks to address these barriers 
by establishing a standardized approach for assessing the energy 
performance of commercial building assets and developing an easy-to-use 
tool to help building owners and stakeholders identify opportunities 
for improvement. Accordingly, the AR Program, as considered, has three 
components:
     A rating system to compute building energy efficiency and 
convey energy performance information, taking into account the building 
envelope, mechanical and electrical systems, and other major energy-
using equipment. The Department intends to seek ways for the Asset 
Rating to be used in coordination with the Portfolio Manager 
Operational Rating to help building owners understand the opportunities 
for both capital and operational improvements in their buildings.
     A Web application, included as part of a free Asset Rating 
online software tool (AR Tool), to maintain building data entered by 
building owners or operators and to analyze building energy use, 
accounting for envelope, mechanical and electrical systems, and other 
major energy-using equipment. This tool would provide an energy rating 
and enable owners and operators to benchmark their building efficiency. 
It would be used to provide an Asset Rating Report.
     A second facet of the AR Tool, designed to help building 
owners and operators identify and implement strategies to improve 
efficiency of their buildings. In addition to receiving an Asset 
Rating, building owners and investors would be able to use the tool to 
analyze the potential for capital improvements to increase energy 
efficiency. The potential to improve and the potential energy savings 
would be included in the Asset Rating Report. DOE intends to support 
continuous improvement of energy efficiency by allowing buildings to be 
re-rated following a retrofit.

Market Needs and Guiding Principles

    The AR Program is intended to enable building stakeholders to 
directly compare expected as-built energy performance among similar 
buildings and to analyze the potential for capital improvements to 
increase energy efficiency cost-effectively. It would give building 
stakeholders insight into a property's long-term energy cost, thus 
informing their valuation of that building. The AR Tool would provide 
an as-built rating, identify potential energy efficiency improvements, 
and provide the anticipated rating resulting from those improvements, 
illustrating for stakeholders the impact of potential capital 
improvements. Research (McCabe, 2011; McKinsey, 2009) shows a need to 
communicate energy and cost savings to owners, investors, financiers, 
and others to overcome market barriers and motivate capital investment 
in building energy efficiency.
    The AR Program is intended to complement and coordinate with the 
existing Operational Rating system, ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. The 
Department is aware of other rating systems and standards that exist or 
are under development. These include but are not limited to ASHRAE 
Building EQ, LEED, Green Globes, ASTM Building Energy Performance 
Assessment, COMNET Commercial Buildings Energy Modeling Guidelines and 
Procedures. The Department will consider developments in these rating 
systems and standards as it creates a national Asset Rating system.
    The primary goal of the AR Program is to spur commercial building 
energy improvements in construction and/or retrofits, so the principles 
that guide the program are based on market needs. These guiding 
principles, which drive the key program elements, are as follows.
     Information must be credible, reliable, and replicable.
     Information must be transparent and easy to understand.
     Collecting information and generating a rating must be 
affordable.
     Opportunities identified must be relevant and practical.
     Program must include effective quality assurance.
     Rating must recognize building energy performance across 
the full range of building efficiency.
    The Department welcomes stakeholder comments on these guiding 
principles as the framework for the development of the program.

Target Audience and Building Types

    The AR Program is aimed at a variety of building stakeholders--
owners, operators, investors, tenants, appraisers, and designers. It 
may also inform lenders, local government, utilities, and green 
building rating systems. Considering the variety of audiences, the AR 
Program would provide an easy-to-understand rating that can convey 
building energy efficiency information to those in the general public 
who have no knowledge of building efficiency. The AR Tool would also 
provide technical information and identify opportunities for 
improvements to building professionals who would be implementing the 
recommendations. The Department seeks to develop an affordable system 
that provides a useful rating with minimal data collection. The 
Department is considering a two-tiered program. The first tier would 
yield a preliminary rating and identified opportunities for building 
improvements, as well as an estimate of the savings from the 
improvements. The preliminary rating of building efficiency would be 
based on minimum building information. The second tier would provide a 
certified rating after a qualified professional has validated the 
building information (see Quality Assurance section). The preliminary 
rating would give users rapid feedback on building efficiency and 
improvement opportunities; the second tier rating would be appropriate 
for the communicating the performance of the building to others.
    The AR Tool is not intended to replace any engineering analysis 
needed for building retrofits, but to provide building owners and 
operators with a quick, easy, affordable tool based on a national 
standard. The AR Tool would be designed for users who have basic

[[Page 48155]]

knowledge of building systems, such as building engineers, facility 
managers, or contractors. Assistance from credentialed or third party 
AR certifiers would only be needed to receive a certified rating. The 
Department intends to work with interested parties, including state and 
local governments, utilities, and energy service companies, to develop 
ways to use the AR Program to promote market transformation.
    Because of the different levels of complexity due to building type 
and size, the AR Tool development will first focus on building types 
that generally have simpler building systems and have adequate 
information sources to establish a reliable rating system. These 
building types include office, school, retail, warehouse, and assembly. 
In time, other building types will be added, including data center, 
laboratory, refrigerated warehouse, health care, lodging, food sale, 
food service, and mixed use buildings.

Basic Metrics

    A building's expected energy performance can be described in a 
variety of ways, including (1) Energy use; (2) energy cost; or (3) 
greenhouse gas emissions associated with the building's energy use. The 
Department is considering several options for representing building 
energy performance, as described below.

Energy Metric--Source or Site Energy Use

    An energy metric is the most straightforward way to represent 
building energy performance. Three building energy metrics to be 
considered are site energy use, net onsite energy use, and source 
energy use. Site energy use can be directly calculated using the sum of 
electricity natural gas and any other fuels used. If renewable energy 
is generated onsite, the expected energy generation and net energy use 
can also be calculated. Using a source energy metric requires the use 
of a conversion factor to convert site electricity use to a source 
equivalent, which would allow consumers to more equitably consider all 
fuel types and the environmental consequences of electricity 
generation. Although site energy is most closely related to the values 
that customers see on their energy bills for each fuel type, using 
source energy as a metric more closely reflect the cost tradeoffs among 
different fuels and the long-term cost implications of different energy 
choices. Regional source-to-site conversion factors vary and the 
offsite generation mix is generally not controlled by the consumer. 
Although regional source conversion factors more accurately represent 
actual energy use, a national conversion factor allows comparison 
across the nation and ensures that a building does not receive a 
relatively low rating just because of its location.
    The Department plans to use source energy with a national source-
to-site conversion factor as the basic metric because source energy can 
most accurately represent total energy use of a building and the 
related environmental impacts. Also, using source energy makes the 
Asset Rating system compatible with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, 
which adopted source energy as its basic metric. Source energy use is 
familiar to building owners and operators who have been using Portfolio 
Manager or other building rating systems relying on Portfolio Manager. 
The Department welcomes stakeholder comments on the energy metric for 
Asset Rating.

Cost Metric

    Consumers are generally more familiar with cost metrics. However, 
energy costs for commercial buildings vary considerably in different 
parts of the country and change over time, including over the course of 
the day. Without much more specific information about a building's 
operations and its time-dependent per-unit energy prices, energy cost 
does not provide a durable, comparable metric upon which to base a 
rating. A cost metric alone cannot directly be used to judge building 
energy performance or guide building owners' investment decisions.
    For the above reasons, the Department does not intend to choose 
cost information as the primary metric for the program. However, the 
Department is exploring how to use cost information to assess 
opportunities to improve building energy efficiency and describe the 
likely cost savings associated with these improvements. Though the 
actual Asset Rating would not be affected by energy or equipment costs, 
both of these costs may be used to perform a life cycle cost analysis, 
the results of which could be used to propose opportunities for cost-
effective energy savings.

Greenhouse Gas Metric

    Energy use significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, 
and the AR Program would provide an opportunity to educate consumers 
and help them reduce their emissions. Using a greenhouse gas metric as 
the primary program metric would most closely link the Asset Rating to 
associated environmental impact. However, the primary focus of the AR 
program is cost-effective energy efficiency improvements, which is not 
perfectly aligned with a greenhouse gas metric. As noted by the 
Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships using a greenhouse gas metric 
can ``confuse the existence of non-carbon power sources--including 
large hydropower and nuclear power--with actual energy savings.'' 
(Dunsky, et al, 2009).
    Therefore, the Department does not intend to choose greenhouse gas 
information as the primary metric for the program. However, the 
Department is exploring ways to support greenhouse gas information as 
an optional element of the program based on a partner's interest.
    Initial Approach: The Department intends to use source energy use 
intensity as the primary performance metric. Onsite renewable energy 
generation may be recognized, but separately from the rating 
calculation. The Department welcomes stakeholder comments on the above 
metrics.

Rating Methods

    Various rating methods are possible. All methods share some 
characteristics, such as:
     A data collection phase in which the user defines key 
building characteristics.
     An energy use prediction phase.
     A comparison/rating phase.
    For the data collection phase, the user would enter the 
characteristics of the building being examined; these values would then 
be used in conjunction with a set of default building characteristics 
to develop the required inputs for the energy use prediction phase. The 
user inputs would fall into six broad categories:
     General characteristics (use type, location, age, 
available fuels, etc.).
     Design characteristics (geometry, orientation, window to 
wall ratio, structure type, etc.).
     Envelope elements (window types, wall constructions, roof 
constructions, etc.).
     HVAC system characteristics (technology used, fuel type, 
efficiency, etc.).
     Lighting system characteristics (lamp type, numbers of 
lights, sensors and controls, etc.).
     Service hot water (fuel type, efficiency, storage 
capacity, etc.).
    In addition to the above user inputs, a set of internal values 
would be used in the analysis. The internal values are based purely on 
a building's use type and would be held constant across all models of 
buildings with similar functions. This set of inputs primarily

[[Page 48156]]

consists of the occupancy and operation parameters, such as:
     Occupancy schedule.
     HVAC system operation.
     Hot water use.
    Both the user-entered and the internally defined, fixed building 
characteristics would be combined to develop the inputs for a building 
energy use prediction tool.
    Several potential methods for predicting a building's energy use 
are being considered, including:
     Pre-simulating large numbers of buildings and using 
interpolation to customize the results to an individual case.
     Detailed energy simulation.
     Simplified energy simulation.
    Each of the above methods has unique strengths and potential 
issues. Selecting the correct method will require tradeoffs between 
flexibility, accuracy, and the end-user's time investment in data 
collection.
    In the case of a pre-simulation methodology, the benefits are 
relative ease of use and a level of complexity that can be highly 
tailored to the needs of the asset rating methodology. Once deployed, 
this approach is less flexible than approaches that use real time 
modeling because each possible combination of building attributes must 
be predicted and modeled beforehand. For each additional building input 
characteristic that the end-user can control, the number of required 
models is greatly increased. Depending on the level of effort required 
per model, it could be challenging to implement this approach with 
enough granularity to provide useful results.
    There is a wide range of building energy modeling tools, each with 
different strengths and weaknesses, including differing levels of input 
and output detail, required development time, and expected user 
expertise. Most one-off energy models are highly detailed to allow the 
inclusion of all of a building's unique characteristics. Using a 
detailed modeling approach to formulate an asset rating would most 
likely provide the greatest flexibility and accuracy. Such a tool 
would, however, require a substantial amount of development time and 
would still likely require a professional building energy modeler to 
use properly--though with greater development time some of the 
expertise requirements could be overcome.
    Simplified analysis models use many simplifications and assumptions 
that allow an inexperienced user to quickly develop robust energy 
models. In general, these modeling tools allow fewer input combinations 
than a detailed model and will reduce opportunities for error. The 
primary drawback of a purpose-built simplified simulation model would 
be user concern about the accuracy of the results.
    Whichever rating calculation method is selected, the required 
outputs would be the same. The Department intends to select one or more 
metrics (see Basic Metrics section) to be the primary output of 
modeling. The metric(s) would allow for both the placement of the 
subject building onto a rating scale (as defined in Rating Scales 
section) and the comparison of the building with similar buildings.
    The Department welcomes stakeholder comments on the rating 
calculation methods.

Rating Scales

    There are several ways to deliver building energy performance 
information to consumers. Various types of scales have been used in the 
existing building rating systems. The following is a discussion of the 
different methods and their applicability to the Asset Rating system.

Numeric Scale Reflecting Physical Units

    This scale method represents a certain type of physical unit. For 
example, the EnergyGuide label found on household appliances uses a 
physical scale (supplemented with cost information), such as kilowatt 
hours per year in the case of refrigerators supplemented with the 
expected annual cost of the particular refrigerator. The miles-per-
gallon (MPG) rating displayed on new vehicles is another example of 
using non-converted physical units to convey information. The physical 
units can transparently deliver the technical information to the 
consumers; however, consumers may be unable to judge if they are 
unfamiliar with the units. Unlike cost or MPG rating for vehicles, 
energy units such as kBtu/ft \2\ do not convey enough information to 
most audiences without engineering or energy knowledge. The Asset 
Rating aims to promote market transformation and educate consumers, and 
an absolute energy scale could be challenging for the general public to 
interpret. In addition, an unprocessed numeric scale does not offer a 
comparison between a building and its peers, which is a desirable 
comparison because consumers are often motivated by how they compare to 
others.

Numeric Scale Converting Physical Units into Score System

    This rating method converts a metric from physical units into a 
score or index, which may be more easily understood by consumers. 
ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, for example, converts energy use in 
commercial buildings into a score on a 100-point scale. The Home Energy 
Rating System (HERS) scale, used primarily for new homes, also converts 
energy units into an index, where 100 represents a home built to 2006 
International Energy Conservation Code standards.
    The scores can be calculated using either a percentile rank method 
or an interval method. ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager uses a 100 point 
percentile rank scale based on supporting databases, which provide 
statistical representation of a given building type. This approach is 
not appropriate for the Asset Rating because there is no reliable 
database recording the efficiency of existing buildings. In addition, 
the AR Program is intended to provide information on expected energy 
use (and energy costs) and effective energy efficiency strategies 
across all buildings. A percentile rank scale does not accomplish this 
objective throughout the entire range of the scale. In particular, the 
high efficiency--on an absolute basis--of the most efficient buildings 
is not fully reflected.
    An alternative is a 100-point interval scale. Use of a 100 point 
scale would have some consistency with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. 
An advantage of a 100-point interval scale is that the rating system 
can recognize building efficiency and building efficiency improvements 
in a similar manner at all efficiency levels. DOE is also considering a 
simpler numeric scale, similar to the 10-point scale used by the Home 
Energy Score (http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/homeenergyscore/). 
A 10-point scale does not imply the same degree of precision as a 100-
point scale. In this sense, a 10-point system, although a numeric 
score, functions as a bin system, which is discussed in the next 
section.

Categorical Scale Assigning Physical Units Into Bins

    The physical units can also be converted into a category system, 
which could be presented in letters, numbers, stars, or other symbols. 
It has been shown that categorical scales, compared with continuous 
numeric scales, lead to better comprehension because ``categorical 
ratings are easy to use and quick to decipher'' (Thorne and Egan, 
2002a). Viewers can more easily gauge a building's performance relative 
to other buildings or a reference point. Categorical ratings using 
letter grades have been used in multiple building

[[Page 48157]]

rating systems such as ASHRAE Building Energy Quotient and the UK 
Display Energy Certificate. A rating system based on letter grading is 
also a common format for several countries in the European Union, 
although the meaning of each grade could be very different across 
regions. A series of studies on the EnergyGuide label has demonstrated 
that consumers favor a stars-based format because it is familiar and 
intuitive, while check marks or letter grades are more confusing 
(Thorne and Egan, 2002b).
    While stars and grades simplify things for consumers, a binned 
system also has drawbacks. Using a binned system can appear 
qualitative. Including a reference value can help alleviate this 
weakness. The number of bins is also important. Too many bins may 
complicate the system, while too few bins can make it hard for a 
building to improve from one bin to the next, and not be appropriately 
reflective of the investments made and the savings being achieved.
    With a well-defined bin range, a categorical system would allow 
easy distinction between the categories and allow quick comparison 
between buildings as well as changes within a building category as 
improvements are made. Star ratings are visually appealing, motivating, 
and quickly draw attention. Thorne and Egan's (2002b) research also 
suggested ``consumers found the stars rating system complementary with 
the ENERGY STAR label and certification.'' The shortcoming of a stars-
based format is that the number of stars needs to be limited. More than 
six stars may make it difficult for viewers to recognize the value 
quickly. In this case, a numeric format (10-point scale) becomes 
advantageous.
    Initial Approach: For the Asset Rating system, the Department is 
considering using a scale using physical units, possibly accompanied by 
a numeric interval scale. A 100-point interval scale would complement 
Portfolio Manager's 100-point range. The Department welcomes 
stakeholder comments on rating scales.
    The Department is considering including the following basic 
building information on the Asset Rating Report to ensure that similar 
buildings are used for comparison:
     Building name.
     Year built.
     Climate zone.
     Building type.
     Year rating is issued.
     Report serial number (for tracking purposes).
    Analysis results would be clearly displayed and formatted for easy 
reading and understanding, and would include:
     Calculated energy use.
     Building Asset Rating based on calculated energy use.
     Asset Rating that can be achieved with energy efficiency 
upgrades.
     Energy and cost savings associated with the higher 
achieved rating.
    Additional information may also be provided in the future, such as:
     A reference point to help users understand how their 
building score compares to a chosen energy code.
     Indication of whether the building has systems to provide 
a certain amount of energy from onsite renewables.
     Greenhouse gas emissions.
    The Department is also considering working with interested partners 
to include local benchmark information on the Asset Rating Report for 
comparison. For example, a state might wish to include information 
pertaining to average asset ratings for a particular building type 
within the state. The Department welcomes stakeholder comments on the 
information included on the Asset Rating Report.

Identified Opportunities for Energy Efficiency Improvements

    Based on the building information, the AR Tool would identify 
potential opportunities for energy efficiency upgrades that could cost-
effectively improve a building's asset rating.
    The AR Tool would identify improvement opportunities in areas such 
as heating, cooling, and ventilation equipment; envelope; glazing; 
service hot water; lighting; and electric motors.
    The AR Tool is not intended to replace energy audits or any 
engineering analysis required for building retrofits. It is intended to 
provide an affordable way for building owners and operators to 
determine which building systems are good candidates for an efficiency 
upgrade. The tool may be a gateway for building owners who have limited 
internal resources to engage with service providers who can provide 
building rating with the AR tool and offer products and services that 
can improve energy performance.
    Initial Approach: The Department is considering computing cost 
savings estimates for energy efficiency measures based on regional 
energy costs, acknowledging that local conditions will vary. The AR 
Tool will not display return on investment given that equipment and 
labor costs are likely to vary considerably. The Department welcomes 
public comments on the best way to assess opportunities for energy 
efficiency improvement.

National Building Asset Rating Database

    The Department intends to establish a national building Asset 
Rating database to track Asset Ratings and ensure the legitimacy of 
ratings. The Department is aware of potential privacy issues related to 
maintaining this information and the desire for some jurisdictions to 
require disclosure of energy Asset Ratings. Public comments are welcome 
regarding structure and use of the Asset Rating database.

Quality Assurance

    The ability to generate accurate and consistent information is 
important to maintain user confidence. The Department intends to 
include quality assurance requirements for the following:

Asset Rating Tool

    The user would receive a warning when automated checks suggest that 
data entered may be incorrect or incomplete.

Professional Requirements for Asset Rating Application

    Building owners would be able to use the free Web application to 
enter the required energy and building information, generate a 
preliminary building Asset Rating, and receive recommendations. The 
Department is considering requiring a professional with specific 
approved qualifications to validate building information inputs for a 
building to be eligible for a certified Asset Rating. The Department 
intends to develop a guideline to specify the credentials that a 
professional must hold in order to generate a certified rating.

Third-Party Verification

    Third-party verification can be an effective way to ensure program 
quality. Some jurisdictions may want to require third-party 
verification of the accuracy of data used to acquire a certified 
rating. The third party may require building owners to submit 
supplemental building information and/or perform an onsite audit. The 
Department is evaluating options for implementing this type of 
requirement, including establishing verification standards and 
approving qualified third-party organizations. Verification data and 
reports may be integrated into the Asset Rating database, software 
tool, and reports.

Technical Support

    Full documentation of the rating methodology would be available 
online for public review. A user manual, guidelines and eligibility 
requirements

[[Page 48158]]

for the qualified professionals, data checklists, and FAQs would be 
available to owners and operators to applying for certified Asset 
Ratings. In addition, help for users would be available before, during, 
and after the application process. A user feedback survey may be 
implemented to help gauge program satisfaction and to gather 
suggestions for improvement.
    Initial Approach: The Department is considering ensuring the 
quality of the Asset Rating by providing a free Web-based application 
to guide standard data collection, calculate energy use, and generate 
ratings; requiring professionals to review final submissions; enabling 
third-party verification; and providing necessary technical support. 
Public comments on the quality assurance methods are welcome.

Potential for Additional Supported Options

    While a national performance metric and rating system would help 
ensure consistency across the country, the Department recognizes that 
state and local governments and other program implementers may be 
interested in providing information that goes beyond the national 
metric and rating.
    To that end, the Department intends to partner with state and local 
governments to support the sharing of additional information as part of 
this effort. For example, while greenhouse gas information is unlikely 
to be a standard metric for the AR Program, the Department could 
provide conversion factors to states and other partners that are 
interested in providing such information.
    This document describes the major design questions that the 
Department is considering in developing a voluntary AR Program. DOE is 
seeking comments on the issues discussed above. However, stakeholders 
are welcome to raise other relevant issues that the Department may have 
overlooked in this design process.

Glossary of Key Terms

    Asset Rating--An assessment of building energy performance that is 
based solely on a building's physical assets, excluding the impacts of 
building operation characteristics.
    Asset Rating Report--A short form document showing only key 
outcomes for a building that has undergone the Asset Rating process.
    Baseline--The amount of energy that is consumed annually before 
implementation of energy efficiency measures based on historical 
metered data, engineering calculations, submetering of buildings or 
energy-consuming systems, building load simulation models, statistical 
regression analysis, or some combination of these methods.
    Benchmark--The building profile used as a reference point for 
comparing energy use and other performance characteristics.
    ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager--A Web-based, portfolio-wide energy 
and water tracking system that tracks many metrics of energy use- 
including total site energy, source energy, weather normalized energy 
use index, greenhouse gas emissions, indoor and outdoor water usage, 
and (for some building types) the ENERGY STAR score.
    ENERGY STAR energy performance scale--A 1-100 percentile rank score 
that indicates how a building performs relative to similar buildings 
nationwide. The scores are adjusted using standardized methods to 
account for differences in building attributes, operating 
characteristics, and weather variables. Buildings performing better 
than 75% of similar buildings can be certified to ENERGY STAR.
    Energy Efficiency Measure--A design, operation, or technology 
change for the purpose of reducing energy consumption.\1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ Source: ConstructionDictionary.com, http://www.construction-dictionary.com/definition/energy-efficiency-measure-EEM.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Net Onsite Energy Use--The sum of all energies that are consumed in 
a building minus any energy that is generated on site.
    Operational Rating--An assessment of building performance that is 
developed to reflect the energy performance of a building, accounting 
for its physical assets and its specific operational characteristics.
    Site Energy Use--The amount of energy consumed at a building 
location or other end-use site, as reflected in the utility bills. 
Includes electricity generated by onsite renewable energy systems.
    Source Energy Use--The total energy used at a site, including 
upstream losses in distribution, storage, and dispensing of primary 
fuels, or power generation, transmission, and distribution of 
electricity.
    Percentile Rank Scale--A percentile scale that is defined solely in 
relation to a sample population; the scale itself contains no 
information in absence of information regarding the specific sample 
population. The primary purpose of a percentile rank scale is 
comparison between peer buildings.
    Interval Scale--A scale for which each location along its span 
relates directly to some metric or measurement.

References

    ASHRAE. 2009. Building Energy Quotient: Promoting the Value of 
Energy Efficiency in the Real Estate Market. Atlanta, GA. American 
Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. 
http://www.sustain-rhythm.com/HPB%20Exchange/files/Energy_ABELFinal.pdf.
    Dunsky, P., Lindberg, J., Piyale-Sheard, E., and Raesy, R. 2009 
Evaluating Building Energy Efficiency Through Disclosure and Upgrade 
Policies, A Roadmap for the Northeast U.S. Lexington, KY. Northeast 
Energy Efficiency Partnerships, Dunsky Energy Consulting.
    Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. 2010. An MPG 
Rating for Commercial Buildings: Establishing a Building Energy 
Asset Labeling Program in Massachusetts. Boston, MA. http://www.mass.gov/Eoeea/docs/doer/Energy_Efficiency/Asset_Rating_White_Paper.pdf.
    McCabe, M.J. 2011 High-Performance Buildings--Value, Messaging, 
Financial and Policy Mechanisms. Richland, WA. Pacific Northwest 
National Laboratory.
    McKinsey & Company. 2009. Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the 
U.S. Economy. New York, NY. McKinsey & Company, Inc. http://www.mckinsey.com/en/Client_Service/Electric_Power_and_Natural_Gas/Latest_thinking/Unlocking_energy_efficiency_in_the_US_economy.aspx.
    Thorne, J., and Egan, C. 2002a. An Evaluation of the Federal 
Trade Commission's EnergyGuide Appliance Label: Final Report and 
Recommendations. Washington, DC: American Council for an Energy-
Efficient Economy.
    Thorne, J., and Egan, C. 2002b. The EnergyGuide Label: 
Evaluation and Recommendations for an Improved Design. Proceedings 
of the ACEEE Summer Study on Buildings, Panel 8: 357.

Disclaimer and Important Notes

    This is an RFI issued solely for information and program planning 
purposes; this RFI does not constitute a formal solicitation for 
proposals or abstracts. Your response to this notice will be treated as 
information only. DOE will not provide reimbursement for costs incurred 
in responding to this RFI. Respondents are advised that DOE is under no 
obligation to acknowledge receipt of the information received or 
provide feedback to respondents with respect to any information 
submitted under this RFI. Responses to this RFI do not bind DOE to any 
further actions related to this topic.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on August 2, 2011.
Kathleen B. Hogan,
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency, Office of Technology 
Development, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
[FR Doc. 2011-20014 Filed 8-5-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6450-01-P