What is utility benchmarking?

Learn about utility benchmarking

Table of Contents

What is utility benchmarking?

Utility benchmarking is a fundamental asset management practice, consisting of tracking, analyzing, and reporting the consumption and costs associated with a property or portfolio of properties. It allows multifamily property owners, as well as associated funding providers and governing agencies, to gain insight into the energy and water performance of properties, the potential for improvement in those properties, changes in performance over time, and the effectiveness of investments made to improve performance.

Armed with this knowledge, property owners, funding providers, and governing agencies can make better decisions about the management of our nation’s building stock, reduce operating costs, increase energy independence, and combat climate change. For federally-supported housing, utility benchmarking serves to preserve affordable housing, protect tenant welfare, target investments, and meet environmental goals.

How can my organization get started?

Although housing providers are free to approach utility benchmarking as they choose, the step-by-step process outlined in this online toolkit was developed to demystify the process and promote best practices. It’s important for your organization to understand from the beginning that utility benchmarking of multifamily properties involves:

  • Tracking utility consumption and cost on an ongoing basis;
  • Calculating the energy and water performance of the property; and
  • Comparing a property's performance to that of similar properties.

While some multifamily housing providers undertake the process of utility benchmarking on their own, others hire interns or consultants to complete some or all of the associated tasks. Still others outsource tasks to third-party utility management service providers. (More details about organizational approaches to utility benchmarking are provided in other sections of this toolkit.) In some cases, HUD funds may even be available to cover the internal or external costs of utility benchmarking.

Utility benchmarking in the multifamily buildings sector can be challenging, particularly in cases where a large number of tenant-paid bills must be collected and organized in order to obtain “whole-property” utility data. This toolkit and the tools embedded in it are intended to help unravel and inform the utility benchmarking process for all types of multifamily properties, whatever the combination of owner-paid and tenant-paid utility types serving the property.

In addition to this toolkit, HUD will also be offering direct technical assistance to multifamily housing providers on individual and/or cohort bases. Please revisit the HUD Exchange Utility Benchmarking website for information on how to request these services in addition to recent HUD announcements, upcoming events, and archived webinars.

What are the benefits?

Improve performance and save money

What are the benefits of utility benchmarking?

Just the act of utility benchmarking itself creates a variety of benefits to property owners, tenants, and the public. Property owners who integrate utility benchmarking into their asset management approach often see significant improvements in property performance. Utility data tracking can help property owners discover billing errors and malfunctioning equipment, which, once corrected, can result in immediate financial savings. Knowledge gained from utility benchmarking can inform retrofit planning and help verify savings in individual buildings, multi-building properties, and portfolios of properties.

Utility benchmarking can also lead to improvements in property operations and operating costs, which can help protect tenants’ comfort and finances as well. The energy and water performance metrics reported through utility benchmarking programs also help funding providers and governing agencies create better incentives for energy- and water-efficiency improvements, target investments more strategically, and track progress towards mission-related goals. When made available to the public, anonymized data from utility benchmarking programs also supports academic research and enhances public awareness.

Does HUD require utility benchmarking?

HUD has issued Notices of Proposed Information Collection that, if enacted, would require the collection of utility benchmarking information from housing providers supported by the Office of Multifamily Housing's assisted and insured housing programs and the Office of Public Housing's public housing program, with certain exceptions.

HUD also hosts certain voluntary initiatives, like the Better Buildings Challenge (BBC) or the Green Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) Reduction, which require participants to conduct utility benchmarking and share the results.

Regardless of program involvement, HUD strongly encourages all housing providers to practice utility benchmarking as part of their basic asset management activities.

Read more about HUD’s existing and proposed utility benchmarking requirements.


What is Portfolio Manager?

Using software to track progress

What is Portfolio Manager?

ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager® is a free, web-based utility benchmarking software provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for collecting utility data and scoring performance.

The software can measure and track the energy use, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions of your organization’s entire portfolio of buildings, providing users with sophisticated energy and water performance metrics about their properties. ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager can calculate energy use intensity (EUI) and water use intensity (WUI), the fundamental measures of energy and water performance, for all properties.

For multifamily properties with 20 or more units, both an ENERGY STAR 1-100 score and an EPA 1-100 Water Score are available, which rate the energy and water performance of a property compared to its peers. In order for Portfolio Manager to calculate these scores, some data on basic property characteristics is required, such as number of units and number of bedrooms. Like the EUI and WUI, these scores are highly informative in and of themselves. Moreover, properties with an ENERGY STAR 1-100 score of 75 or higher may also be eligible for an ENERGY STAR Certification, which distinguishes the nation’s top performers.

Under HUD's proposed utility benchmarking information collection, housing providers will be reporting on the EUI, WUI, and the 1-100 scores of their properties, all of which are generated in Portfolio Manager. In addition, the use of ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is necessary when applying for ENERGY STAR Certification and when complying with most local utility benchmarking and disclosure laws.

What if I’ve already hired a company to analyze my utility data?

You’re in excellent shape. Third-party software providers offer alternative options for utility benchmarking, which can feature customized interfaces and enhanced functionality. Major third-party software providers offer the ability to exchange utility data with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager so that property owners can generate and submit standard ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager reports as needed, including reports for HUD.


Related Resources

Other sections of this toolkit provide detailed information for multifamily properties on setting up a Portfolio Manager account and collecting/inputting information.

The following documents also provide the EPA's general guidance on setting up accounts in Portfolio Manager, adding properties and utility data, and viewing results:

General information and FAQs

Case Studies

Leveraging innovative, replicable solutions

Case Studies

The energy- and water-efficiency solutions featured below demonstrate how leading multifamily housing providers have successfully used utility benchmarking to implement a wide range of projects, realizing deep savings in individual properties and across broad portfolios. These and other case studies and resources are available on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Better Buildings Solution Center.

Showcase Projects Featuring Utility Benchmarking

Property owners share details on their energy- and water-efficiency projects, which apply cutting-edge measures to individual properties taking a multi-measure, whole-property approach to achieve performance improvements and cost savings. Showcase Projects are available for a variety of property types and sizes, and typically show savings of 20% or more.

Implementation Models Featuring Utility Benchmarking

Property owners describe unique, replicable approaches to overcoming common energy- and water-efficiency barriers, so other organizations can apply these strategies and achieve similar savings. Each Implementation Model offers real-life resources that can be downloaded and used by other organizations to help implement similar strategies.