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Green: Tenant Star – The New Energy Star for Tenants

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Judhajit Chakraborty. Assoc. AIA, LEED® AP WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff

In September I attended the VERGE Sustainability conference held at the Santa Clara Convention Center between September 19-22. The conference was largely attended by owners, real estate developers, GRESB, banks, renewable energy firms and utilities. There was a small group of “us” meaning people from the design and consultancy world. It was good to know that sustainability is the major driving force even behind banks making their decisions on loans and how sustainability of existing buildings are really the keystone for market transformation. And when it comes to existing buildings, tenants play a big role. And that’s why to promote energy efficiency in separate spaces leased by tenants, EPA is coming up with a new standard called the “Tenant Star.” When implemented, it will address the
following objectives:
1. Stimulate greater market adoption of energy efficiency technologies and practices specific to tenant spaces.
2. Provide a mechanism to recognize tenants that voluntarily pursue high levels of energy efficiency in their spaces.
3. Create opportunities for greater tenant-landlord engagement around energy efficiency.

The Need for Tenant Star
In April 2015, the Energy Investment Act became the first federal energy efficiency bill since 2007. This bill directed the Department of Energy (DoE) to publish a study on the feasibility of significantly improving energy efficiency of tenant spaces within a commercial building through design and construction and encouraging the owners and tenants to implement the measures. The study showed that greater levels of energy efficiency in tenant spaces is feasible through technologies that exist in the market today but the study also identified certain challenges for widespread adoption. The challenges being:
1. Timing and process of leasing; less opportunities for improvements
2. Lack of awareness of the financial benefits of energy efficiency
3. Most tenants are small, distinct and hard to reach.
4. Lack of data for tenant spaces to measure impact
5. Split incentive problem whereby the landlord may not be willing to invest in upgrades while the tenant reaps the financial benefit or vice versa.

One of the recommendations of the study for overcoming the challenges above is to create a federal tenant space recognition system much like what Energy Star did for whole commercial buildings. This type of recognition system will provide the market with greater insight to evaluate building performance and therefore will help owners and tenants to showcase the value of energy efficiency measures.
That’s how Tenant Star was born.
EPA has drafted a proposed structure and criterion for this new recognition and is open to comments till November 14, 2016. This is the link: resources/request_public_comment_epa_ energy_starrecognition_efficient_office_tenant_spaces.

Proposed Criteria for Tenant Star
The following are the five criterions a tenant must meet for achieving the Tenant Star recognition:
1: Estimate Energy Use – Estimation of total energy use of the space through energy model or technical analysis.
2: Meter- Installing appropriate metering enabling accurate monitoring and tracking of tenants contribution to the total building energy use.
3: Light Efficiently- Design lighting so that the lighting energy use for the tenant space is below a certain threshold or the lighting design should include LED technology.
4: Share Data- Tenant agrees to share energy data with the landlord.
5: Purchase Efficient Equipment- All eligible installed equipment will be/is Energy Star certified, including computers, laptops, printers, and kitchen appliances. This requirement also applies to Energy Star eligible HVAC and data center equipment if installed or replaced by the tenant.

The Tenant Star recognition draft has only office spaces as eligible spaces. Currently there is no validity stamp to the program which means there is no end-date specified once awarded. The recognition should be available for office tenants by the end of 2017 and standards for warehouses and retail spaces will follow soon after.