Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.




Barbara C. Lippiatt, Jennifer Helgeson


Building stakeholders need compelling metrics, tools, data, and case studies supporting major investments in sustainable building technologies. Proponents of green building widely claim these buildings to be cost-effective, but often these claims are based on incomplete, anecdotal evidence that is difficult to reproduce and defend. The claims suffer from two main weaknesses: (1) buildings upon which claims are based are not necessarily green in a science-based, life-cycle assessment (LCA) sense and (2) their measures of cost-effectiveness often are not based on standard methods for measuring economic worth. Yet the building industry demands compelling metrics to justify sustainable building designs. The problem is hard to solve because, until now, neither methods nor robust data supporting defensible business cases were available. The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Building and Fire Research Laboratory is beginning to address these needs by developing rigorous metrics and tools for assessing the life-cycle economic and environmental performance of buildings. Economic performance is measured using standard life-cycle costing methods. Environmental performance is measured using LCA methods that assess the carbon footprint of tall buildings as well as 11 other sustainability metrics including fossil fuel depletion, smog, water use, habitat alteration, indoor air quality, and human health. Carbon-efficiency ratios and other eco-efficiency metrics are established to yield science-based measures of the relative worth, or business case, for green buildings.  The approach is illustrated through a realistic tall building case study.  Finally, the paper describes NIST activities and future plans in this area.
Proceedings Title
Proceedings of the World Sustainable Buildings Conference 08, Melbourne, Australia
Conference Dates
September 21-25, 2008
Conference Location
Melbourne, 1, AS


BEES, green building, hybrid life cycle assessment, life-cycle costing, buildings


Lippiatt, B. and Helgeson, J. (2008), NIST BusiBEES METRICS AND TOOLS FOR GREEN BUILDINGS, Proceedings of the World Sustainable Buildings Conference 08, Melbourne, Australia, Melbourne, 1, AS, [online], (Accessed December 4, 2023)
Created October 30, 2008, Updated October 12, 2021