Reveal, a program run by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), aims to make commercial buildings’ energy use more transparent and therefore broaden people’s access to information in the corporate sphere. By labeling a particular building’s electricity consumption, Reveal targets an invisible and oft-hidden component of physical structures. The Reveal label brings forward numerics and data in an easily accessible manner so that a building becomes imprinted–quite literally–with its own energy footprint.

Reveal does not designate any renewable energy requirement. Instead, the immediate goal is transparency, with the understanding that labeling keeps a building’s energy use in the forefront of employees’, executives’, consumers’, and citizens’ minds alike. Following on such transparency, many companies and owners may voluntarily choose to invest in renewable energy and thereby improve their Reveal label. Reveal, therefore, is a vital ingredient of the renewable energy economy, a stepping-stone to forthright and honest business relations that millions of citizens desire.

Beyond a building’s energy use, a Reveal label also designates the building type, location, local climate region, and square footage. In addition, it denotes a building’s energy use as compared to an average building of its type, plus the building’s renewable energy production as a percentage of its total energy use. Going above and beyond mere numbers, the Reveal label marks a building’s place in its local environment as well as in the energy economy as a whole.

Make no mistake–Reveal carries the potential to transform the urban environment. By imagining a city in which all buildings display their energy use, Reveal shapes a future where the grid is smart, energy sources are renewable, and builders committed to reducing their footprint.

We sat down with Brendan Cook, manager of the Reveal program at the ILFI, to find out about how the label works.

Question: What is the purpose of Reveal?
Brendan Cook: Reveal is a transparency label for buildings. It is meant to share buildings’ energy consumption with the world.

Q: Why make a building-specific energy tool?
BC: The Reveal label will educate stakeholders about your building’s performance, boosting its visibility, transparency and sustainability profile. More and more, buildings’ energy use is as much a part of their profile as the design and location.  Be a leader! Reveal is a simple, easy tool to communicate your building’s energy efficiency profile.

Q: Can you explain what an EUI means?
BC: An EUI (Energy Use Intensity) is a metric designed to measure and compare energy efficiency by looking at the amount of energy used (in kBtu) per square foot per year (kBtu/ft2/year).  To get this figure, you need your total building energy use for one year and the size of the project in square feet.

Q: What is the potential for the Reveal program?
BC: There are three main reasons to pursue Reveal:

  1. It’s an excellent marketing tool and an ILFI-verified program.
  2. Understanding EUI drives change and highlights your project’s efficiency.
  3. It’s affordable!

Cities, companies and nonprofits are all looking for benchmarking programs for energy efficiency. The potential for Reveal to grow is huge!

Q: How many Reveal labels are there?
BC: There are 29 as of our launch.

Q: What are the largest projects you’re working on?
BC: The Edith Green Wendall Wyatt Federal Building, Vestas America HQ, and all ILFI-Certified NZEB/Energy Petal and LBC Projects.

Q: Can you share an inspiring anecdote about a company that recently applied for a Reveal label?
BC: Here’s an account from Glumac, one of our Reveal partners:

With a mission to deliver “Green Buildings that Work™,” Glumac happily agreed to partner with ILFI to help test out its new REVEAL label for energy efficient building performance.

Glumac actively tracks post-occupancy building energy and water use data from its projects and analyzes it to inform new designs. The firm believes the REVEAL label aligns with its design philosophy. Justin Di Palo of Glumac explains, “As an engineer and energy analyst, measurement and verification are my feedback loop. Without real data on building performance, it’s nearly impossible to calibrate and optimize our design and modeling processes, strategies, and techniques.” The firm finds the REVEAL label especially important in providing a third-party verification of its projects’ building performance. “Having a third party review our results and help provide a sole source to define the actual building EUIs adds tremendous credibility to the results and claims we market for our past projects,” says Mitch Dec, Senior Energy Analyst at Glumac.

The firm has submitted two high performing buildings, including the Vestas North American Headquarters and the GSA Edith Green Wendell Wyatt administration building. The owners are proud of their buildings’ accomplishments including a deep renovation of an existing building and LEED Platinum certification. The GSA building in particular boasts an on-going Energy Star score of 99. They see the extra marketing benefit that the REVEAL label brings.

Q: What have been the most impressive results of Reveal so far?
BC: The ease of understanding and recognition that it’s a useful market tool with excellent design.



Photo: Vestas Headquarters, Courtesy of Glumac


Written By

Gabe Dunsmith

Gabriel Dunsmith was born and raised in the mountains of Southern Appalachia. Outside of Trim Tab, his writing has been published in The Guardian, Earth Island Journal and Boilerplate Magazine. He is a graduate of Vassar College and now lives in Seattle.