Energy Benchmark Grades

Several undergraduate residence halls have Building Energy Benchmark Grades posted at their entrances. These signs are part of New York City’s new benchmarking laws, which require eligible buildings across the city to measure and report their energy and water consumption annually for transparency. All buildings eligible for the program receive an energy efficiency score equivalent to the Energy Star Rating calculated using the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) online benchmarking tool, which compares building energy performance to similar buildings across the United States.

About Energy Efficiency Benchmarking 

Off-campus undergraduate residence halls comprised of 50,000 gross square feet or more, and tax lots that have two or more buildings that exceed 100,000 gross square feet combined are required to measure and report building energy and water usage annually as part of the City’s sustainability legislation. The building’s energy consumption is based on aggregate data from the base building, (i.e., elevators, hallways, lighting, heating, laundry appliances, etc.) as well as individual units and commercial spaces. On-campus residence halls are exempt from this legislation.

Data is submitted using the EPA’s Energy Star benchmarking tool, Energy Star Portfolio Manager. The benchmarking tool compares building energy performance to similar buildings across the United States in terms of size, use, climate and other characteristics. Each building then receives a score that can range from 1 (lowest score/high energy user) to 100 (highest score/low energy user), which are then translated into letter grades to provide a quick snapshot of how the building is performing compared to the national average.

Understanding the Energy Benchmark Grades

The EPA’s Energy Star Rating is designed such that a score of 50 represents median energy performance among comparable buildings. Buildings with higher scores receive higher letter ratings, which indicates that they are more energy-efficient compared to peer buildings across the country. Buildings that are ranked with the EPA’s benchmarking system will receive a letter grade of A, B, C, or D, depending on the number score.

An F rating is not an indication of poor energy performance. Contested submissions – submissions that do not meet benchmarking data standards – automatically receive an F; however, several of those ratings have already been dismissed and the University is working to resolve the remainder with the NYC Department of Buildings. Regardless of the dismissal, the University is required to post F ratings.

Similarly, buildings that are not eligible for grading may receive an N rating. This indicates that there were not enough comparable buildings based on the usage type across the country to create a national benchmark, or a building’s energy usage could not be isolated due to shared systems across buildings.

Columbia Housing’s Commitment to Sustainability

Columbia Housing's comprehensive recycling program, sustainable operational procedures, and groups like the EcoReps contribute to overall campus sustainability and to the University’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2050 or sooner. Learn more about Columbia Housing’s sustainable operations.