Getting Ready for STARS 2.0 – Resources & Questions Answered
In about a month, AASHE will finalize the release of STARS 2.0, the first major update to STARS since it was launched in January 2010. STARS 2.0 is meant to “facilitate more meaningful assessments of campus sustainability performance while remaining accessible and relevant to the diversity of higher education institutions” - STARS 2.0 Vision.
This blog aims to provide the campus community with everything they need to get ready for the upcoming release of STARS 2.0. Here’s a recap of some of the resources that are already out there:
- Learn about key 2.0 changes in the STARS 2013 Annual Review, including structural revisions, changes to credit weighting and scoring, new credits and credit revisions, changes in access, and new data accuracy measures.
- Access the STARS 2.0 Webpage to preview the STARS 2.0 Technical Manual, summary of changes, credit checklist, and public comment feedback.
- View a recording of the recent AASHE webinar, Everything You Need to Know About STARS 2.0, to learn more about what is changing with STARS and to hear Q&A from participants.
- Several workshops and sessions devoted to STARS will be offered at the AASHE 2013 Conference.
- Questions about STARS 2.0 can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org at any time for prompt response.
We’d also like to share answers to 2.0-related questions submitted through email and during the recent webinar. Hopefully this information and the resources listed above will help everyone prepare for the version 2.0 release.
What is Staying the Same
Before launching into changes, here’s a quick summary of what won’t change with STARS 2.0:
- Subscription timeframe – As with previous versions, subscriptions to the STARS Reporting Tool are for 12-months. Institutions may renew their subscriptions as often as needed to submit a report or take advantage of the full range of STARS benefits.
- Duration of valid ratings – STARS ratings will continue to be valid for three years.
- Eligibility requirements – STARS registration is available only to colleges and universities with a separate and distinct administration (e.g. president or chancellor). Organizations and K-12 schools are welcome to use the STARS Technical Manual as a guide.
- STARS Participation Benefits – All previous STARS Participant benefits will be available, including the ability to earn a STARS rating as well as enhanced Reporting Tool features such as automatic point calculation.
- STARS subscription fee – A one-year subscription to STARS will still be available to AASHE members for $900 and to non-members for $1,400. Keep your eyes open for STARS subscription discounts throughout the year.
When will STARS 2.0 become available?
Registration for STARS 2.0 will be launched before the AASHE 2013 Annual Conference (October 6). We will keep the community updated on the exact release date through AASHE Announcements, the AASHE Bulletin, and social media. In the meantime, institutions can begin getting familiar by reviewing the STARS 2.0 Technical Manual on the AASHE website.
Credit Weighting and Scoring
What are the key changes in scoring and weighting credits?
With the creation of the new Engagement category, STARS 2.0 includes four main categories instead of three. With this change, the total number of points available for STARS has been changed from 300 to 200. This important difference should be kept in mind when comparing point values between STARS 1.x and 2.0. In addition, category point values now vary in STARS 2.0; whereas each of the three main categories were weighted equally in previous versions.
How was relative weighting for categories, subcategories, and credits determined?
As with previous versions of STARS, the focus in allocating points was on the impact, not the difficulty, of earning a credit. A STARS credit weighting task force developed credit weighting and scoring recommendations for STARS 2.0. These recommendations were discussed by the STARS Steering Committee before final approval. Version 2.0 was approved to include absolute weighting based on credit point values (category-level weighting was discontinued). To finalize credit point values, a panel of AASHE staff and STARS Steering Committee members independently reviewed each credit based on degree of positive impact. Independent responses were then combined and members of the panel reviewed combined mean responses, standard deviations, and areas of consensus and divergence. When consensus on credit point values was reached within the panel, these values were incorporated into a draft of the STARS 2.0 Technical Manual. The STARS Steering Committee reviewed point totals and made a few final changes before STARS 2.0 was approved in July 2013.
Do you expect much variation to a school’s score (or ranking) simply by using STARS 2.0? Will 2.0 be more rigorous?
Because the relative weighting of the credits has not changed significantly, we are not expecting significant variation. However, some variation can be expected. One of the goals outlined in the STARS 2.0 vision was to “increase the technical rigor of STARS”. As a result, the criteria for some credits has changed, and some credits now have additional reporting requirements. These changes could impact scoring for some institutions. Because institutional characteristics differ widely, it is difficult to gauge whether STARS is more rigorous for all institutions.
Data Migration and Tracking
Once STARS 2.0 is released, are you required to submit under this version if you have a report in progress under a previous version?
To provide flexibility during the STARS 2.0 transition, institutions that are using STARS 1.2 at the time of release will have the option to migrate relevant data into 2.0 if they wish to do so. This involves performing a Version Migration. Institutions working in 1.x before the launch of 2.0 could either finish the submission under 1.x, or migrate to 2.0. Institutions that register for STARS following the release of STARS 2.0 will be required to register under Version 2.0 and submit under this or future versions.
Can we pull in data from previous reports into STARS 2.0 without having to start from scratch?
Yes, pulling data from previous reports into STARS 2.0 involves performing a Data Migration. This will auto-populate fields from any existing STARS report into the Version 2.0 report. New credits and fields with significant changes will not auto-populate and will need to be completed in order to gain full points. Fields in which significant change can be expected from year to year (e.g. performance year emissions) may not auto-populate.
Will a STARS data tracking tool be provided for us to capture and store data offline?
The STARS Reporting Tool is the primary tool for capturing and storing data for any institution that participates in STARS. In addition, STARS Participants can capture and store data from submitted STARS reports in an Excel and/or PDF export (The Excel export is a new feature that recently became available). STARS Participants will also be able to capture and store provisional data (e.g. STARS data snapshots) through a PDF export. Both of these features are available to institutions with Full Access to the STARS Reporting Tool.
Addressing Institutional Diversity
Will institution type be reflected in STARS 2.0 scoring?
As with previous versions, institution type has no impact on scoring in STARS 2.0 (The new Institutional Characteristics section that requests data on institution type is not scored). However, two baseline credits in STARS 2.0 (OP 1: GHG Emissions Reduction and OP 8: Building Energy Consumption) include performance thresholds based on UEI-adjusted floor area, accounting for significant differences in energy use intensity (EUI) between types of building space. For these credits, institution type may have an indirect impact.
Does STARS 2.0 still allow institutions to opt-out of credits that are not applicable to them? Is this different at all for 2.0?
STARS 2.0 still includes an applicability rule that varies credit by credit, and there are no significant changes in applicability with the new version. If a credit with an applicability rule does not apply to an institution, selecting “Not Applicable” will remove the credit from both the numerator and denominator in scoring. For example, if an institution identified two points as Not Applicable in STARS, the denominator for that institution would be 198 instead of 200.
Does STARS 2.0 require a particular year as a baseline for resource use changes?
Under STARS 2.0, an institution may use any year starting from 1990 as its baseline year, provided that the institution has adopted that timeframe as part of its sustainability plans or policies or in the context of other reporting obligations.
Does the baseline year need to be the same for all credits with baselines?
The baseline year does not need to be the same for all credits with baselines, though keeping a consistent baseline year for all credits is a recommended best practice. Institutions that use a consistent baseline across all credits will see a reduction in the amount of data they are required to enter.
How were standard thresholds determined in baseline credits?
Thresholds in STARS 2.0 baseline credits were largely determined based on existing STARS data. AASHE staff analyzed data for all institutions and also filtered results by institution type. Based on the existing data, thresholds were set at the top decile of performance for four baseline credits.
Using STARS Data
What tools do you recommend for partnering with or benchmarking against other STARS institutions?
Institutions can compare their sustainability performance with other institutions through the STARS data displays. STARS data displays include filters that promote benchmarking, allowing website users to view data for institutions based on certain characteristics. For more information, see our Using STARS Data page.
Will there be any significant changes in the STARS Data Displays with the launch of STARS 2.0?
Significant changes in the STARS Data Displays are not expected with the release of STARS 2.0. However, AASHE will be re-evaluating STARS data displays following its launch. We continuously collect input on data display enhancements and new features and welcome your feedback.
STARS Data Accuracy
Which credits and/or fields in STARS are most error-prone? Is there anything that AASHE is doing with STARS 2.0 to help avoid common errors?
Errors can be found as a result of miscalculations, data entry mistakes, data inconsistencies, or misinterpretation of credit criteria and/or definitions. Errors have been identified most commonly for those credits that include quantitative ratio data, and have been most common in the OP category. STARS 2.0 aims to promote data accuracy through various angles:
- Several quantitative fields that were historically prone to errors have been included in the Institutional Characteristics section. Auto-population for some of these fields will help avoid data inconsistencies.
- The STARS Reporting Tool will include warnings that will be issued when data outliers are entered for certain credits.
- The STARS 2.0 Technical Manual includes a refined Standards & Terms section to avoid misinterpretation of definitions.
If I believe there is erroneous data in an institution's STARS Report, how do I report it? Can I do so anonymously?
No significant changes have been made to the STARS Data Accuracy process for 2.0. If an individual or organization believes that erroneous data have been submitted, the STARS Data Accuracy Inquiry Form will bring the potential error to the attention of the STARS Liaison at that institution. Individuals submitting inquiries have the option to remain anonymous to the institution receiving the inquiry. The trade-off is that AASHE staff can't follow up with anonymous inquirers to explain the resolution.
Can the 2.0 Reporting Tool be integrated with existing systems?
AASHE currently shares STARS data with two organizations: The Princeton Review and Sierra. We are open to collaborating with other organizations in the future. The STARS API is a tool that allows for integration between STARS and existing systems. For more information, visit the API Documentation page.
Will third-party organizations (Princeton Review, Sierra) utilize STARS 1.x or 2.0?
Third-party organizations that are currently accessing STARS data will transition to using 2.0 data as it becomes available.
How is access to sustainability reporting enhanced through STARS 2.0?
Revised levels of access will be released with the launch of STARS 2.0 to encourage campus sustainability reporting worldwide. Institutions wishing to earn a STARS rating or take advantage of other benefits will gain Full Access to STARS by purchasing a STARS subscription. The Campus Sustainability Data Collector will be replaced with STARS Basic Access, applicable to those institutions that do not seek a STARS rating but wish to report and share sustainability data. Following the release of STARS 2.0, institutions beyond the U.S. and Canada will be able to fully participate in STARS.
We received several questions and requests for more information on the differences between Full and Basic access to STARS. This topic will be discussed more fully in a follow-up blog, to be released next week. Stay tuned for more!
We always welcome feedback to continuously improve STARS. The best mechanism to provide input and suggestions is to email email@example.com. Thanks in advance for your feedback!
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