Benchmarking FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Search below to find links to frequently asked questions. 

If you can't find the support you need on this page, contact our help desk at energybenchmarking@seattle.gov

Getting Started

Compliance

Portfolio Manager

Beyond Benchmarking

Building Operational Changes due to COVID-19  


Getting Started

I recently purchased a building and don't have access to previous owner or tenant data, am I required to report?
If you are the building owner at the time of the reporting deadline (July 1,2021 for 2020 data) you are legally required to submit an energy benchmark report to the City of Seattle for the prior calendar year.

How do I attain energy consumption data for the period of time I did not own the building?
To facilitate the gathering and reporting of energy consumption data, EnWave, Seattle City Light and Puget Sound Energy can provide new owners retroactive whole building consumption data, up to two years from the time of the request, through automated benchmarking services. The building owner or authorized representative will need to request the utility service and in cases where there are five or fewer natural gas meters, tenant authorization is required. More information on automated data exchange is available in the Energy Benchmarking How to Guide. Alternatively, you can request the energy consumption data directly from your tenants to enter the information into Portfolio Manager manually.

Why am I required to report my energy consumption data to the City of Seattle if I'm already a Seattle City Light customer? Doesn't the City already have access to all my data?
Building owners are ultimately the only party who can confirm the complete listing of meters that serve a building. Utilities track the physical location of their meters, and the mailing address of the party paying bills, but neither of these provide a utility with the information they need to definitively determine which meters are associated with a given building. Additionally, benchmarking requires information about the use of the building and depending on the use type, various information about the number of occupants, hours of operation and other data points that may impact the overall energy performance of the facility. 

Seattle utilities have developed systems (see Automated Benchmarking below) to upload consumption data automatically into ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. These services eliminate the need to manually enter energy use data for each tenant. However, the building owner or manager is still required to enroll with their utility provider for these services. Owners are also required to set up the initial profile of their property in Portfolio Manager and input space type and occupancy data according to each building's characteristics. Any major changes in the number of occupants, space-types, or other variables utilized by the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool must be updated annually to provide an accurate reflection of the operating conditions of the property.

I have a new building, when is the first energy benchmarking report due?
All new buildings are required to submit their first energy benchmark report the year following the first full calendar year of occupancy (January - December) after the initial Certificate of Occupancy (COO) date. For example, a building that has a COO of August 1, 2019 will be required to submit their first annual benchmarking report by July 1, 2021 (for 2020 data). If you do not know the date your building received its Certificate of Occupancy, you can search for this information via the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections Permit and Property Records Portal.   New buildings that have not received a notification letter or building ID from the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment can submit a request for a building ID. 

How do I find my building ID?
The Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) has created unique building identification numbers (OSE Building ID) for properties required to comply with the Energy Benchmarking ordinance SMC 22.920. This building ID must be entered when you authorize reporting to the city through the Portfolio Manager Automated Benchmarking Console. The building identification number allows the city to download your building performance data from your Portfolio Manager account. Step 4 of the How to Comply section [link] explains how to enter the OSE building ID to successfully report data to the city. If an incorrect building ID is provided or is already in use by another entity, your building will be out of compliance with the annual energy benchmarking requirement. Building ID's already in use will be rejected by Portfolio Manager in the form of an error notice when you attempt create the reporting connection. Please note, if your building was previously owned and benchmarked by another entity, you may need to request the historic connection to the prior Portfolio Manager account be broken. Please contact our help desk at energybenchmarking@seattle.gov to assist you in the review of your building's reporting and connection status.

The majority of required buildings have submitted energy benchmark reports to the City of Seattle and therefore can find their building ID on the Energy Benchmarking Visualization Map, or accessible via the Seattle Open Data Portal as a part of the annually published benchmarking data set. Both resources have search functions to look up a building by address or building name. If you cannot find your building ID, or need a new building ID created, submit an ID request to energybenchmarking@seattle.gov. Requests for new building ID's must include the following:

  • Building Name
  • Building Address
  • Year Built
  • Non-residential square footage
  • Residential square footage
  • Parking square footage
  • # of stories
  • # of Units (for residential space only)
  • Building contact (owner or management)
  • King County Parcel Identification Number (PIN) if known

What is the difference between the OSE Building ID and the PM Building ID?
The OSE Building ID is a unique 1-5-digit number that has been created by the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment. The PM Building ID is a unique number assigned within EPA's Portfolio Manager tool to designate a specific benchmarked property. The PM Building ID is also known as the Portfolio Manager Property ID. The PM Building ID can be up to 7-digits in length.

The City has my building's square footage as over 20,000 Sq. Ft but I believe it's incorrect. How do I request an exemption?
The Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment references King County (KC) Assessor gross square footage (GSF) records when identifying buildings required to comply with the Energy Benchmarking ordinance SMC 22.920. If you believe your building's gross square footage is recorded inaccurately, you must reconcile the square footage difference through the King County Assessor Office. Once your building is recorded correctly in the KC Accessor Database, and is confirmed to be under 20,000 SF (excluding parking), you will be required to submit an exemption form with proof of your updated building tax records to be exempted from the energy benchmarking requirement.

How do I have my building's square footage corrected in King County Assessor records?
The square footage in a building can be updated by any KC Commercial Division appraiser. King County requires documentation in the form of building plans or measurements completed by a recognized building trade professional reflecting the correct building gross square footage. There is no charge to make a change to your building's assessment record, simply email documents to Assessor.Info@KingCounty.Gov and request your building's records be updated accordingly. Building owners may also call (206) 296-7300 and ask to speak with a commercial appraiser or email Assessor.Info@KingCounty.Gov to request a free assessment to update building measurements. Based on availability, a King County Assessor will measure your facility via a site visit and update assessor records accordingly.

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Compliance

I don't have access to my tenants' meters, how do I complete the process?
Automated data exchange services, provided by local utilities upon enrollment, will directly upload energy usage data into an owner's Portfolio Manager account. This service eliminates the need to manually input data from bills and building owners do not need to collect energy bills or gain permission from individual tenants. These services preserve tenants' privacy by summarizing the entire building's energy use for a specific fuel source. The owner-and the City-will be able to see the total energy use, aggregated (summarized) across all meters serving a building. Individual tenant meter readings will not be disclosed. There is a minor exception for PSE gas customers only: if a building has four or fewer tenants who separately receive service from PSE and are individually billed, each needs to sign a release form. Step 3 of the How to Comply section explains how to set up automated data exchange services with Seattle City Light, Puget Sound Energy and Enwave.

Why did I get a notice that my account is flagged for reporting inaccurate data or requires verification?
The City of Seattle is now identifying annual benchmarking reports with possible errors and requiring further review. Possible errors are identified based on a few factors, such as extremely high or low energy metrics, a possible missing fuel compared with previous years, or drastic increases or decreases in energy data. Reports with possible errors require additional verification, and corrections where required, to be considered compliant. If your report is flagged for verification, you must complete all data verification requirements and submit the online verification form.  See our Data Accuracy and Verification help section

How do I know if my building is compliant?
Energy Benchmark reports are due to the City of Seattle annually. To be considered compliant, the building must have an active Portfolio Manager account shared with City of Seattle Annual Reporting, 12 months of complete energy consumption (for all active meters) in Portfolio Manager, and submit a report free of errors. Portfolio Manager accounts that are not correctly shared with the City of Seattle or are missing any months of energy consumption will not be able to successfully submit an energy benchmark report and will be considered non-compliant. Review the Compliance Checklist to ensure all the steps have been completed and confirm compliance on our compliance portal.

Am I required a achieve a certain score for compliance? 
There is no mandatory requirement for making energy efficiency improvements. Although we encourage everyone to invest in all cost-effective measures, the intent of this program is to put the information about comparative energy performance results in the hands of appropriate decision makers, so that market awareness and competitiveness will drive improvements in building energy efficiency.

I received the Notice of Violation (NOV) What do I need to do?
Notice of Violations are issued to building owners who failed to submit an annual energy benchmark report to the City of Seattle. If you received a Notice of Violation, you must submit an energy benchmark report and resolve the penalties associated with the violation. To resolve the penalties associated with the violation, building owners must submit an appeal or pay the penalty, within 30 days from receiving the violation. Buildings that continue to remain non-compliant will receive additional penalties-assessed quarterly. Fine amounts, deadlines, and appeal instructions are available here.

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Portfolio Manager

What do I do if I cannot log in using my existing Portfolio Manager Username and Password?
City of Seattle and benchmarking help desk staff cannot help with forgotten passwords or usernames in Portfolio Manager. Access to Portfolio Manager is administered by U.S. EPA, and you must contact them if you have trouble getting into your Portfolio Manager account. If you cannot log into your existing Portfolio Manager account, you can submit a request to recover your password here. If you do not remember the username associated with your existing Portfolio Manager account, you can retrieve your username here. If you do not have access to the email associated with the account, please contact Portfolio Manager by using their help request form here

Can a building's previous Portfolio Manager account be transferred to me?   
An existing Portfolio Manager account can be transferred to a new entity responsible for benchmarking a required building. Transferring a Portfolio Manager account will transfer all the buildings details and historical consumption. However, if the building had been set-up for automated utility data exchange, transferring in Portfolio Manager will break that link, and the receiving end will stop receiving data from utility companies. The new Portfolio Manager account holder will need to still re-submit the consumption request form to Seattle City Light and Puget Sound Energy, as if they were setting up this building for the first time. More information on how to transfer here.

How to I include parking details in Portfolio Manager?
Whether a parking garage or lot(s) is added or not to Portfolio Manager depends on how its energy use (typically lights and ventilation) is metered.

  • If the parking lot IS served by energy meter connected to a building associated with it, ADD it to Portfolio Manager as a "space use" of the building.
  • If the parking lot IS NOT served by energy meter connected to a building associated with it (i.e. it is on a separate meter), DO NOT ADD it to Portfolio Manager.

When adding parking lots as a "space type" to Portfolio Manager, the total parking "gross floor area" or square footage (SF) must be allocated to at least one these categories:

  • Enclosed floor area - this area uses energy for lighting and mechanical ventilation.
  • Non-enclosed floor area (with a roof) - this area uses energy for lighting, but NOT for mechanical ventilation.
  • Open floor area - this area uses energy for lights but only during the night, when it is dark outside. This would typically be an outdoor lot.

Note: If you don't have 1 or more of these 3 categories, input zero "0" SF.

Weekly Hours of Access: If your lot is open 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, the weekly hours of access is 168 hours (24 x 7).

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Beyond Benchmarking

What are building performance profiles and where can I find mine?
Beginning with 2015 benchmarking data, building reports will be available online for all reporting building types. In prior years, building owners and managers of five building types were sent building performance profiles highlighting their building's performance compared to other buildings in Seattle of the same type. Seattle is now annually displaying building performance metrics such as the December ending EUI and ENERGY STAR score compared to similar building types in Seattle. This peer comparison highlights if the building is higher or lower than the average performing building of that type in Seattle. Additionally, data can be downloaded for all buildings reporting information at data.seattle.gov. 

What are Building Tune-Ups and do I need to comply with this regulation?
Seattle Building Tune-Ups is a progressive energy efficiency policy that helps building owners identify smart, responsible ways to reduce energy and water costs. Through Tune-Ups, building owners find operational efficiencies and low- and no-cost fixes that improve building performance and on average reduce building energy use 10-15%. Building Tune-Ups are required every five years for buildings with 50,000 square feet (SF) or more of non-residential space, excluding parking. To support building owners, compliance deadlines will be phased in by building size, beginning in 2019. For more info visit www.seattle.gov/buildingtuneups.

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Building Operational Changes due to COVID-19

How do I account for COVID-19 operational impacts in my annual benchmarking report? 
During 2020, COVID-19 changed the way many buildings operate which directly impacted energy consumption. Depending on a building's use type(s) building energy use may have significantly decreased due to extended lockdowns, telecommuting and a downturn in economic activity. Conversely, energy use may have increased to protect the health and safety of building inhabitants such as extended HVAC runtime, increased outside air infiltration rates or increased hours of operation to support frequent cleaning.

To accurately report your building's annual consumption for 2020 you must update the following property use details in Portfolio Manager per EPA guidance, to reflect any operational changes due to COVID-19*.

  • Weekly Operating Hours: you must update the building's hours of operation, whether they were reduced or increased. No updates are required if building operating hours remained the same.
  • Number of Workers on Main Shift: you must update the building's number of employees to reflect any changes to the number of employees physically present in the building in 2020. This use detail is where employees switching to remote work will show up.
  • Vacancy: if an existing tenant permanently vacated their lease or closed their business and the space is vacant, you may need to adjust vacancy depending on your space uses. The following use types must make building detail changes in Portfolio Manager: Office, Medical Office, Banks, Courthouses, and Financial Centers. More info here on how to make these updates.

No further updates are required to property use details to account for changes due to COVID-19. For guidance on how to make the annual updates view the Annual Update Checklist or EPA guidance on how to update property use details in Portfolio Manager. Note, these details must be updated for 2021 data as well to reflect changes when operations transition back to their pre-COVID baseline. 

Can I still apply for ENERGY STAR Certification if my building operations have been affected by COVID-19?
Yes, the EPA has resumed certification for eligible buildings to apply for ENERGY STAR Certification, although there are additional exceptions for Retail Stores, Hotels, and K-12 schools.

  • Retail Stores must not have been completely shut down for more than 60 days during the 12-month period covered by the application. See this FAQ for details.
  • Hotels must not have been completely shut down for more than 60 days during the 12-month period covered by the application. See this FAQ for details.
  • K-12 Schools must have been operational with any number of students in the school facility for at least 6 months of the regular school year covered in the 12-month application period. See this FAQ for details.

See updated EPA guidance on Applying for ENERGY STAR Certification, including modifications to the Site Visit, and Period Ending Date (PED) requirements. 

Can I receive a low occupancy exemption for 2020 annual reporting if my building was impacted by COVID-19? 
The City of Seattle is not granting exemptions for annual reporting of 2020 data to buildings that had tenant operational changes in 2020. Per the benchmarking requirement, exemptions for low occupancy (high vacancy) are only granted on an annual basis if more than 50% of the building was physically vacant for more than half of the year data is required to report.

Physically vacant space won't be leased, won't have equipment for customer/business needs, and the lighting and mechanical systems may be shut down. On the other hand, a tenant change in operations can mean reduced hours, reduced staff, reduced business needs, etc., but the space is still leased, usually equipped with desks or goods being sold, and is typically conditioned. Additionally, leased spaces with a tenant change in operations often still have other power loads such as data centers and servers for remote workers and business needs. In short, the space is still being "used" for a business purpose.

If your building meets the physical vacancy thresholds for 2020 reporting, you may fill out the exemption form, and submit to energybenchmarking@seattle.gov for review.

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