Building Benchmarking

Katie Jones, Molly Janis Smith, Brady Steigauf

Why This Work Is Needed

We live and work in buildings that are heated, cooled, plumbed, and powered — all things that require energy and water. To efficiently manage energy and water use and related costs, we turn to benchmarking. 

Benchmarking means the ongoing tracking of energy and water use over time and relative to peers, meant to ensure that a building uses energy and water as anticipated. Standard benchmarking uses the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool to combine property characteristic information with energy and water use, to develop high-level efficiency metrics such as the 1-100 ENERGY STAR score.

Project Process and Expected Outcomes

In 2013 the City of Minneapolis adopted the Commercial Rating and Disclosure ordinance, which requires commercial buildings that are 50,000 square feet and larger to submit benchmarking reports annually. Since 2014, CEE has provided training, technical assistance, and outreach on behalf of the program, resulting in compliance rates greater than 90%. Through benchmarking we are able to see annual reductions in energy use of an average of 1% per year, and connect buildings with utility and City resources to help them improve. This success has prompted the City to investigate expanding the policy to large residential buildings. 

Like Minneapolis, many cities are looking for ways to reduce energy-related pollution while helping businesses thrive. Benchmarking is one option that could lower emissions and reduce building operating costs. Currently, CEE is working with government officials in both St. Paul and Rochester to develop and implement voluntary benchmarking programs. CEE also helped shape the Hennepin County Benchmarking Collaborative, a platform for cities exploring benchmarking policies to share tools and resources, making implementation more cost-effective for all. CEE is now working with two participating cities to engage their communities and develop city-specific benchmarking policies. 
Information is increasingly becoming the world’s currency, and energy efficiency information is no exception. To be managed effectively, building owners and managers need easily understandable, whole-building energy efficiency metrics. To that end, CEE works with communities to give building managers the tools they need to better manage their facilities’ energy performance.

Project Info




Inspire energy efficiency actions in large buildings through whole-building energy performance awareness

Non-Energy Benefits

  • Recognition of high-performing buildings
  • Energy actions result in less costly building operations and more comfortable spaces


Large commercial and residential buildings

CEE Contacts

Katie Jones 

Molly Janis Smith

Related Links

Minneapolis Benchmarking

St. Paul Benchmarking

Hennepin County Benchmarking

News: Rochester Going Green (2/2019)