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EPA announces update of ENERGY STAR for hotels to ensure equitable scoring

  • September 19, 2017
  • Vanessa Grisko
EPA announces update of ENERGY STAR for hotels to ensure equitable scoring

The EPA announces updates of ENERGY STAR for hotels in an effort to ensure that scoring is equitable across hotel sizes and amenity categories

While the U.S. hospitality industry has not fully embraced the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, it’s now looking forward to changes underway that will make the program a better fit for hotels

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s ENERGY STAR program is all about driving greater cost and operating efficiencies while also protecting valuable natural resources.

For 25 years, the EPA, through implementation of the ENERGY STAR program, has helped businesses and organizations save energy, save money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by offering resources to strategically manage the energy use in their buildings.

Hotels earn ENERGY STAR certifications through a rating system developed by the EPA, which is similar to rating systems for other building types (office, retail, etc), but designed specifically for hotels. To be ENERGY STAR-certified, a hotel must meet strict energy performance standards set by the EPA. This means that a hotel must earn an ENERGY STAR score of 75 or higher, indicating that it performs better than at least 75 percent of similar hotels nationwide.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

Benchmarking is the first step in this process. Hotels benchmark their energy use in the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, which allows properties to enter in their energy and water consumption and earn ratings within the ENERGY STAR program. ENERGY STAR is a free benchmarking tool to help U.S. businesses gauge their energy efficiency.

The EPA reports that 40% of all U.S. commercial building space is benchmarked in Portfolio Manager, making it the industry-leading benchmarking tool. More than 13,000 hotels – totaling more than 2.5 billion square feet – have benchmarked in Portfolio Manager.

Nearly 31,000 U.S. properties are currently certified by ENERGY STAR. Of that number, 520 hotels are ENERGY STAR-certified.

Updates are coming: the EPA says the new model will treat hotels in different amenity categories equitably

The objective of the Energy Star score is to provide a fair assessment of the energy performance of a hotel relative to its peers, taking into account the climate, weather, and business activities/services at the property. The EPA has been working on a new, hospitality-specific scoring system in response to the industry’s specific needs and growing demand, and the hospitality industry is excited to embrace these changes. The new scoring system is scheduled to launch in the Portfolio Manager in August 2018.

The EPA is updating its data based on the 2012 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), which reviews variables impacting on-site energy use in hotels – including the number of rooms, the number of workers, the number of refrigerators and ice-makers, and whether food is prepared on-site.

EPA officials say the data is being updated to ensure hotel owners/operators that the ENERGY STAR scoring system reflects the latest trends in operations, building technologies and practices. The goal of the updated model is to ensure that scoring is equitable across hotel sizes and amenity categories (ie. luxury vs. limited-service vs. economy hotels). The new model could improve benchmarking for various types of hotels, operations, and their on-site equipment.

The new model was validated using data from a recent supplemental member survey conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). The AHLA survey was designed to ensure equitable results for variables that are not in CBECS. The goal of the survey was to help confirm that the proposed model works for hotels of different amenity categories.

In a webinar on August 28, the EPA released its findings, explaining what variables will be included in the new model and the methodology that the EPA uses to create scoring.

The updated adjustments to the new model for hotels include:

Room Density: the new model still uses rooms per 1,000 square feet, but a floor and cap is now applied.

Worker Density: the new model uses workers per 1,000 square feet instead of the natural logarithm of workers per 1,000 square feet.

In addition, the new model will continue to make adjustments for variables such as whether hotels have on-site food preparation, the percentage of the building that is heated, and weather conditions, which are other significant drivers of energy use. The EPA has made updates to better normalize for these factors.

They specifically include:

  • The presence of a commercial food preparation area (yes / no)
  • The number of open / closed / walk-in refrigerators and ice-makers per 1,000 square feet
  • The percentage of the building that’s heated and cooled
  • The weather and climate of the hotel’s location (using heating and cooling degree days).

In addition, the EPA analyzed many other variables such as the amount of conference space, occupancy rates, and laundry. However, the EPA found that these variables were “not statistically significant”, and they’re not part of the new model.

With the new scoring system launching next August, the EPA says to expect some changes to the ENERGY STAR score for your properties. The hope of the hospitality industry is that the changes will mean more equitable scoring across all segments of the hospitality industry.

To learn more about the new scoring system, or if you have any questions about how these changes could impact your hotel property, please contact Goby.

Vanessa Grisko

Vanessa is a business development representative at Goby. She uses her sustainability and PR background to help build the case for sustainability and attract clients to the Goby platform.

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