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Energy Star Update: A National Energy Performance Rating For Houses of Worship

Energy Star Update: A National Energy Performance Rating For Houses of Worship

The Environmental Protection Agency has been working to expand the National Energy Performance Rating system to houses of worship based on the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration 2003 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). Based on this analysis, eight characteristics were identified as drivers of energy consumption in houses of worship. These characteristics are used to estimate the expected energy use intensity (energy used per square foot) in a house of worship, and are compared to the actual energy usage in the individual building.

These characteristics are: the number of seats in the worship area; the number of days the building is open for use; weekly operating hours; number of personal computers; the presence of a commercial food preparation area; the number of commercial refrigerators; and local heating and cooling requirements (weather).

As with all other Energy Star-rated buildings, the house of worship rating will express energy performance on a scale of 1-100, with ratings of 75 or higher eligible to earn the Energy Star designation and a bronze plaque to display on the church building. This rating for houses of worship has been long anticipated and will help decision makers assess the energy performance of their buildings; make more informed budgetary, investment and management decisions; and help Energy Star participants publicize their energy efficiency achievements. This new model was introduced in Portfolio Manager (a free web-based tool) during August 2009.

Throughout the development of the house of worship rating, some of the most commonly asked questions were as follows:

Q: What types of facilities does the new house of worship model apply to?

A: House of worship applies to buildings whose primary function is as a place of worship. This includes churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, meetinghouses, and others. The rating applies only to buildings that function as the primary place of worship and not to other buildings that may be associated with a religious organization, such as living quarters, schools, homes, or buildings used primarily for other community activities. The rating applies to worship facilities that have 4,000 permanent seats or less.

Q: My worship area has high, vaulted ceilings. How does the house of worship model account for this?

A: The space type model for house of worship is based on an analysis of the CBECS data, which includes a random sample of houses of worship from across the United States. By using a nationally representative dataset, EPA is able to account for a variety of common operating and physical characteristics at these facilities. Houses of worship are only compared with other houses of worship, and most have some areas with high or vaulted ceilings. Since the comparison is expected to have high or vaulted ceilings, there is no need for a special adjustment.

To get started, visit www.energystar.gov/benchmark, where you can find a “Benchmarking Starter Kit.” If you would like to attend a free training webinar, visit www.energystar.gov/training and select “View live web conference schedule to sign up for training with industry experts” for a schedule of upcoming events. For general energy efficiency information for your house of worship, visit www.energystar.gov/congregations.

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