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 tool 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 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 BIRDS database includes energy, environmental, and cost measurements for 12 540 new commercial and non low-rise residential buildings, covering 11 building prototypes in 228 cities across all U.S. states for 9 study period lengths. 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 can also be measured.
The new idea is to address building sustainability measurement in a holistic, integrated manner that considers complex interactions among building materials, energy technologies, and systems across dimensions of performance, scale, and time. The energy, environment, and cost data in BIRDS measure building operating energy use through detailed energy simulations, building materials use through innovative life-cycle material inventories, and building costs over time.