Local Government Spotlight: San Francisco, California
Web-Based Survey for Completing and Verifying a Comprehensive Building Database
To increase the level of detail and accuracy of city-owned building portfolio data, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) developed a web-based survey to collect and verify building characteristics.
Goal: To increase the level of detail and accuracy of city-owned building portfolio data to assist city departments with compliance with the city's Existing Buildings Ordinance.
Barrier: Data are inaccurate, incomplete, or delayed.
Solution: Developed a web-based survey to collect and verify building characteristics and trained an existing network of climate liaisons on how to complete the survey.
Outcome: The accuracy of the city's building database improved to an estimated 95% of the portfolio.
The City of San Francisco, California, is the nation's 15th-largest city with approximately 880,000 people and a portfolio of more than 450 facilities and 45 million square feet. In 2011, the city passed the Existing Buildings Ordinance requiring nonresidential buildings (including city-owned buildings) to disclose energy performance annually. SFPUC, the publicly owned electric utility for the City and County of San Francisco, maintained an energy accounting database with energy use data for each facility. The city's Real Estate Division and Capital Planning Committee maintained a nearly comprehensive list of city buildings that included some building asset data, but the database often lacked key building characteristics required for benchmarking, such as square footage, occupancy, and equipment contributing to energy loads.
To fill the data gaps in the city's existing building and energy accounting databases, the city developed a web-based survey to collect and verify building characteristics. The survey complemented the SFPUC's database of utility bills and meter matchups and the corresponding building data maintained by the city's Real Estate Division and Capital Planning Committee.
The SFPUC displayed facility data in a web-based survey to be completed by staff from the 26 city departments that own their own buildings. To simplify and minimize the time required to fill out the survey, the survey was customized for each department and included only the facilities under its purview. The survey's data fields were prepopulated with all known information on each facility. The SFPUC supplied a list of meters servicing each facility for departments to correct meter matchups, if necessary.
For more information, see the survey example distributed to city departments.
SFPUC sent a request to each city department head and conducted a brief in-person training to instruct an existing network of climate liaisons on how to complete the survey. In addition to their typical roles in each department's annual climate reporting requirement, the climate liaisons completed the survey to verify existing information, supply missing data, and provide corrections and additional notes on meters and building characteristics. Nearly all climate liaisons participated in the survey, although it took approximately 3 months to receive all responses instead of an anticipated 30 days. Data submission through the survey was effective because it leveraged the ongoing Municipal Climate Action Plan process and built on strong relationships with the existing network of climate liaisons.
Data verified through this process included:
- Electric and natural gas vendor accounts
- Building square footage
- Number of building occupants
- Operating hours
- Year built (and renovated)
- Other facility characteristics required for benchmarking in ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager, depending on building type.
As a subsequent step, SFPUC staff further verified the quality of the data by investigating outlying energy use intensities and ENERGY STAR scores. This helped identify locations where reported square footage was inaccurate or energy data was incomplete.
The survey assisted San Francisco in significantly increasing the accuracy of the asset characteristics and meter matchups of the buildings tracked in the city's database. The accuracy of the city's building database improved to an estimated 95% of the portfolio.
|Asset and Meter Data||Before Survey||After Survey|
|Building Square Footage||Medium||High|
|Number of Computers||Low||High|
|Meter Numbers and Matches||Medium||High|
In addition, data submitted by departments uncovered billing errors and other information that improved department-level energy accounting. The survey also raised awareness of the city's benchmarking law, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR program among the city departments. In its second year of disclosure, San Francisco reported the energy consumption of 450 municipal facilities across 29 facility types, comprising more than 45 million square feet of building area.
- SFPUC (San Francisco Public Utilities Commission). 2012. 2011 Energy Benchmarking Report: San Francisco Municipal Buildings. San Francisco, CA: SFPUC.
- SFPUC. 2013. 2012 Energy Benchmarking Report: San Francisco Municipal Buildings. San Francisco, CA: SFPUC.
- San Francisco Department of the Environment. "City Department Climate Action Plans." City Government Climate Action. Accessed August 2020.
Note: The information in this case study is based on primary research conducted in 2013. Learn more about the guide's research and development.
To learn more about meter matching and creating a central energy database, see Step 3.