You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure

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By: Ari Hoffman, Manager, West, JLL Energy and Sustainability Solutions, San Francisco

In San Francisco, we sit at the nexus of the technological world, but we don’t always make good use of technological tools. Take submetering, for example. Quite simply, submetering is the practice of placing usage measurement meters (for electricity, water, gas, heat, etc.) in tenant spaces and specific equipment to measure consumption at a more granular level than just a public utility meter. Tenants can then be charged their actual utility consumption rather than a pro rata share based on the square footage of space they lease. Submetering helps building owners and their tenants analyze energy use to improve energy management, better forecasting of utility costs, and planning future operations and expansions.

Currently, about 15 percent of buildings in San Francisco have some form of submetering in place but it is largely optional in Bay Area commercial real estate markets. In some other global cities throughout North America, like New York and Chicago, for instance, submetering of electrical utilities is the norm, not elective and in many cities, it is required by building code. In New York, local statutes requiring submetering of tenant spaces have been on the books for at least six years. Seattle is also on the forefront of this trend. Submetering is being built into sustainable design for new buildings, especially when sustainability certifications such as LEED or Green Globes is desired.

Some of the many benefits of submetering include:

  • Delivers LEED certification points (when properly deployed in a building)
  • Enables effective energy management throughout building
  • Allows for highly effective Predictive Maintenance Programs
  • Assists in leak detection and resolution (water submetering)
  • Improves tenant relations – through submetering, tenants pay for utilities they actually use, rather than a pro rata share based on square footage.
  • Improved utility budget forecasting
  • Cost certainty – since tenants pay for tenant usage, the ownership portion of utilities is easily determined assisting effective utility management.
  • Submeters can be tied into building management networks to give landlords and tenants real time visibility into energy or water usage. Also, with more building systems moving to the cloud, accessibility to submetering information is 24/7.  In fact, tenants in the Empire State Building have a friendly competition among themselves to see who can have the lowest energy use per square foot.


With less than one sixth of the city’s buildings submetered, the trend clearly has a long way to go in San Francisco. Yet, with more tenants keen to monitor, track and effectively manager their energy usage, and with water availability a constant quandary in California generally, look for more buildings to feature submetering in the years ahead.

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