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Building Industry Reporting and Design for Sustainability (BIRDS) Building Code-Based Residential Database Technical Manual: Update



Joshua D. Kneifel, Eric G. O'Rear, David Webb, Anne Landfield Greig, Sangwon Suh


Building stakeholders need practical metrics, data, and tools to support decisions related to sustainable building designs, technologies, standards, and codes. The Engineering Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has addressed this high priority national need by extending its metrics and tools for sustainable building products, known as Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES), to whole buildings. Whole building sustainability metrics have been developed based on innovative extensions to life- cycle assessment (LCA) and life-cycle costing (LCC) approaches involving whole building energy simulations. The measurement system evaluates the sustainability of both the materials and the energy used by a building over time. It assesses the "carbon footprint" of buildings as well as 11 other environmental performance metrics, and integrates economic performance metrics to yield science based measures of the business case for investment choices in high-performance green buildings. Building Industry Reporting and Design for Sustainability (BIRDS) applies the new sustainability measurement system to an extensive whole building performance database NIST has compiled for this purpose. The updated BIRDS residential building database includes energy, environmental, and cost measurements for 9120 new residential buildings, covering 10 single family dwellings (5 one-story and 5 two-story of a various of conditioned floor area) in 228 cities across all U.S. states for study period lengths ranging from 1 year to 40 years. The sustainability performance of buildings designed to meet current state energy codes can be compared to their performance when meeting four alternative building energy standard editions to determine the impact of energy efficiency on sustainability performance. The impact of the building location and the investor's time horizon on sustainability performance (economic and environmental) can also be measured.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 1999
Report Number


Kneifel, J. , O'Rear, E. , Webb, D. , Landfield Greig, A. and Suh, S. (2018), Building Industry Reporting and Design for Sustainability (BIRDS) Building Code-Based Residential Database Technical Manual: Update, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online],, (Accessed May 22, 2024)


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Created July 18, 2018, Updated October 12, 2021