This data story provides context to the Better Buildings Challenge Properties dataset.
The Better Buildings Challenge Properties dataset provides transparency and accessibility to those wishing to examine building energy performance over time and compare buildings across this 127-building portfolio.

Better Buildings Challenge

The Better Buildings Challenge, an initiative started by the U.S. Department of Energy, is open to private companies, universities, school districts, and state and local governments aiming to reduce their overall energy usage. In support of the City of Norfolk’s Climate Action Plan, the City Council adopted a resolution in 2022 to reduce energy consumption by 20% by the year 2032 in select 127 buildings within Norfolk's building portfolio. 

Overview of Dataset

The dataset shows details of the City of Norfolk's progress in the Better Buildings Challenge, a voluntary program established to reduce energy consumption at the organizational level. It utilizes data from 2019 as the baseline year and provides metrics through the present. Included in the data are the name, location, type, square footage, year built, and energy cost of the 127 properties that participate in the Challenge. Most importantly, the data includes Source Energy Use, the total amount of raw fuel (electricity and natural gas) that is required to operate a property, measured in kBtu. Total change of Source Energy Use and Source EUI (Energy Use Intensity) are represented. Source EUI is Source Energy Use divided by the property's Gross Floor Area and is the primary measure Norfolk uses to track its performance in the Better Buildings Challenge.

How this Data is Collected

This data is collected by the Environmental Sustainability Team, which is a division within the Department of General Services. One of the team’s functions is to discover and promote new ways for the City of Norfolk to reduce energy consumption. The division tracks and manages the majority of the City’s utility bills which come from Dominion Energy, Virginia Natural Gas, and Hampton Roads Utility Billing System (water).
Data from 2019 was selected to establish a baseline year. After each month of billing, energy data is exported from energy tracking systems, EnergyCAP to EnergySTAR, where the data is compared with the rest of the year and the previous years since 2019. The dataset is updated monthly.

How this Data Informs Decisions 

Compiling and analyzing energy use and associated cost informs decisions in a variety of ways. Understanding the data can help justify adjustments and upgrades to HVAC and lighting equipment at locations that use the most energy. Identifying locations which use the least amount of energy can create guidelines to replication at similar properties. The date can also be used in grant applications associated with energy use reduction goals.

In the fall of 2023, City of Norfolk employees engaged in the Watts Going Down, Norfolk campaign, supported by a grant from Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance and the Department of General Services Environmental Sustainability division. An educational video was shared with employees and followed up with in-person outreach at several City office locations. 
The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness about energy consumption in the workplace and to learn from employees what efficiency opportunities may exist in their office. With this campaign in mind, the Environmental Sustainability team hopes to keep city employees engaged and ultimately lower the City of Norfolk's total energy usage through habit changes and system upgrades.

Visualizing the Data

The interactive dashboard below allows you to explore the data yourself! Hover over the bubbles on the map to see source energy use by year from 2019 to present. You can also click on any of bars on the charts to filter the report.

By using this dashboard, Norfolk can track energy use per square foot for each property and property type. It also lets Norfolk see which properties are increasing or decreasing energy usage per square foot over time.

Why this Data Matters

The transparency of this data allows anyone to view the energy use of buildings they may frequent around the City of Norfolk. The national median source energy usage shows how the City of Norfolk compares to similar properties around the country that participate in the Better Buildings Challenge. Understanding this dataset provides insight into the bigger picture goals and strategies of the Environmental Sustainability team and the City of Norfolk.