A growing number of national and regional initiatives request or require the use of EPA's energy performance rating, generated by Target Finder, for commercial building designs. During the design process, architects can use the EPA rating to establish an energy reduction target, and EPA recommends setting this target higher than minimum, business-as-usual standards. As a guide for the design team, the goal of the 2030 Challenge is to design buildings that consume at least 50 percent less fossil fuel than an average building. This threshold has already been adopted by many A/E organizations, including the AIA working on commercial new construction projects.
It is important to lay out the differences between EPA performance metrics and the energy code. It has been common practice to design to exceed the code by a defined percentage as an energy efficiency goal for projects. The drawback to this approach is that it typically does not define the whole-building energy use target. It merely measures the proposed design against the energy efficiency parameters established by a set of standards. The energy code is based on a reference building, not real-world examples of how people actually use energy in buildings. In addition, the energy code sets the bare minimum standard. It does not express total annual energy use or how well the building is intended to perform relative to other similar buildings.
Architects are required to design buildings to meet the mandated code. But beyond that, EPA recommends that designers also establish energy use targets—based on energy consumption data from actual buildings—by using Target Finder. This target accounts for how activities, people, and systems will affect energy use and enables the design team to make decisions that support the function and optimum energy efficiency of the building.
To help the design team establish aggressive, yet realistic, energy use goals for new construction projects, EPA provides reference targets that are based on the energy consumption of existing buildings, as collected by the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration's Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS ). This database enables EPA's Target Finder to produce energy use targets as well as compare the estimated energy use of a design project against the energy benchmarks of existing buildings.
Once the building is occupied and operating, the same EPA rating enables the owner to measure its energy use. In other words, the rating provides an objective way to measure operating energy use and compare it to the design goal. ENERGY STAR qualified buildings have an EPA rating of 75 or higher, meaning they perform an average of 35 percent better than typical, comparable buildings and represent the top 25 percent of existing buildings.