Benchmarking and Transparency

About Benchmarking and Transparency

Building energy benchmarking is a proven strategy for helping measure and reduce a commercial or multifamily building’s energy use. More information on a building’s energy use—and how it compares to other similar buildings—allows businesses to make their own informed decisions on how to save on energy costs and increase efficiency. The data from benchmarking helps building owners and managers prioritize and verify the effectiveness of energy efficiency retrofits, and it helps investors and tenants find the most cost-effective buildings to invest in or lease. In other words, the data from benchmarking helps businesses make better and smarter investment decisions.  

Benchmarking is free using Energy Star Portfolio Manager, and requires only a few hours upfront to set up plus part of an hour annually to update and review the data. 

A benchmarking, transparency (sometimes referred to as disclosure), and tune-up policy is one of the top actions a city, county, or state can take to support businesses within its border by lowering energy costs in owned and leased space. These ordinances require large buildings to benchmark and then share the energy scores with potential investors and tenants.

Benchmarking and Transparency in the Southwest

Several large cities in the southwest—Denver, Boulder, Fort CollinsSalt Lake City, and Reno—have joined most of the nation’s other major cities in adopting a benchmarking, transparency, and tune-up policy. Several more are in the process, and we expect the number to keep growing. (Arizona, on the other hand, went backwards by banning all local mandatory benchmarking policies statewide, due to misinformation about the policies’ applicability and value.) 

Other jurisdictions in the southwest are benchmarking their own buildings as a way to increase accountability and show good stewardship of taxpayer dollars. Many private businesses, too, are now routinely benchmarking their properties and portfolios on their own as a way to prioritize and maximize investments and track improvements. It is becoming a standard good-operating practice. Many of these larger companies and jurisdictions began benchmarking their properties or portfolios after joining the DOE Better Buildings Challenge, though it has spread to smaller entities too who see the value to their bottom line. Hundreds of thousands of businesses nationwide benchmark through Energy Star Portfolio Manager, and buildings that consistently benchmark energy use save an average of 2.4 percent per year.

SWEEP’s Role in Benchmarking and Transparency

SWEEP strongly encourages cities, counties, and states to adopt benchmarking and transparency, as a proven and effective strategy for reducing businesses’ energy costs and improving real estate transactions. We help in local policy adoption (designing policies, crafting a path to adoption, stakeholder engagement, options analysis, and utility interaction) as well as policy implementation (increasing compliance rates, scorecard and map advising, next steps, data utilization, and maximizing the impact). In short, we want to see benchmarking and transparency ordinances adopted and implemented.

We also urge that these local policies include basic tune-up requirements for low-performing buildings, such as energy audits, retro-commissioning, and lighting retrofits. 

In addition, SWEEP promotes benchmarking to private businesses as well as state and local government buildings, encourages enrollment in the DOE Better Buildings Challenge program, and works with utilities to implement user-friendly and streamlined energy data access to make benchmarking easier. Finally, we help cities, states, and businesses to use benchmarking data results as a stepping stone to greater energy efficiency investments.

Other Resources

  • Pro-Benchmarking is Pro-Business: And Here’s Why: A three-page briefing from SWEEP on why businesses line up to support benchmarking and transparency ordinances.
  • Get in touch with SWEEP for help launching a benchmarking and transparency ordinance.
  • is an up-to date resource on the status of benchmarking and transparency policies nationwide, including ordinance text, policy comparison matrices, adoption maps, tune-up requirements, and more. 
  • Model benchmarking and transparency ordinance, including optional building performance upgrade requirements. 
  • The City Energy Project is responsible for spurring many of the benchmarking policies by targeting efficiency in large existing buildings, co-funding city resources, and sharing expertise among cities.