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Public Housing Environmental & Conservation Clearinghouse

Utility Benchmarking Tool

A benchmark is a standard by which something can be measured or judged. Building utility benchmarking is the comparison of one building's utility use to the utility use of similar buildings. Just as gauges in a river tell you if the water is higher or lower than normal, building utility benchmarking tools tell you if your building is performing more or less efficiently than is usual for similar buildings.

Building utility benchmarking is a very useful starting point for PHAs to target energy- and water-savings opportunities and can help with a PHA's overall asset management strategy. Knowing where your buildings rank compared to other similar buildings is the first step toward improving utility efficiency and the overall financial performance of properties.

If your building scores low, that building appears to use more energy than it should, and if it scores high it is probably relatively efficient. Once you have used the benchmarking tools to score your buildings you can target low scoring buildings to see how they can be made more efficient. Low scoring buildings have the most room for improvement. Generally, if your building scores 60 or less, there is lots of potential for cost effective utility-saving upgrades.

Analysis beyond simple benchmarking-usually some type of energy audit-will be needed to identify the causes of low benchmark scores.

Energy and Water Benchmarking Tools for Public Housing

The Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) has developed preliminary, easy-to-use energy consumption (MS-Excel, 769 KB) and water consumption (MS-Excel, 724 KB) benchmarking tools that are applicable for all residential buildings throughout the entire U.S. public housing stock: multifamily elevator, multifamily walk-up, rowhouse/townhouse, semi-detached and single family residences.

Each tool requires a few inputs in order to provide a building's (or development's) energy or water consumption benchmark. Each tool is self-explanatory or you can follow these simple instructions for the energy tool (MS-Excel, 769 KB) or the water tool (MS-Excel, 724 KB).

***Warning: These are whole-building benchmarking tools so for energy benchmarking, electricity AND heating fuel (if the building is not all electric) must be entered. Otherwise the score will be artificially high. Similarly, if residents pay all or part of the utilities, you must include their usage, in the "Annual Consumption" inputs in order to get an accurate benchmarking score.

How the Energy and Water Benchmarking Tools Were Developed

Energy and water consumption data were voluntarily submitted for over 9,100 buildings by almost 350 PHAs nationwide. Regression analyses were performed on the datasets to see which of over 30 characteristics (e.g., building size, unit size, climate, building age, laundry type, parking, utility prices) were most closely linked to energy and water use. The benchmarking models were then developed by correlating the dominant and most common building characteristics to building energy and water consumption. The draft report (MS-Word 3,148KB) contains the details of this study.

Regression model-based benchmarking is not a perfect science. While the benchmarking score is a good indication of where your building stands, it is likely that some buildings, due to their unique characteristics, will be more or less efficient than their benchmark score would indicate.