Hpac 1190 Maxvis Istock Web

Move to Commercial-Building Performance Outcomes Outlined in Report

May 18, 2015
The report summarizes the results of the Getting to Outcome-Based Performance Summit, a gathering of building-industry leaders held in Seattle in 2014.

A report examining opportunities, barriers, and next steps associated with the commercial-building industry’s transition from design-phase estimates of energy use based on models to measurements of performance outcomes based on actual energy use is available from the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) and the New Buildings Institute (NBI).

The report, “Getting to Outcome-Based Performance,” summarizes the results of the Getting to Outcome-Based Performance Summit, a gathering of building-industry leaders held in Seattle during the summer of 2014.

“In the past 15 years, we have seen significant advances in the way buildings are being designed to achieve high-performance goals,” NIBS Presidential Advisor Ryan Colker said. “To ensure we’re seeing the benefits of those goals, we don’t want to rely on energy-savings predictions. Actual, measured outcomes matter. The industry needs to use a holistic approach that puts the focus on real performance outcomes in order to achieve the energy-efficiency goals expected over the life of a building.”

This transition, which will involve a number of audiences, including designers, owners, real-estate and finance professionals, lawyers, building operators, occupants, and policymakers, will take some time. The summit, sponsored by The American Institute of Architects, the Illuminating Engineering Society, the International Association of Lighting Designers, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, NIBS, and NBI, was the first step in laying out a comprehensive approach.

The push for performance outcomes comes in response to an increasing number of policy goals targeting better building efficiency as a means to cut energy use and associated greenhouse-gas emissions. Buildings account for 39 percent of carbon emissions in the United States and are a major contributor to climate change worldwide.

“As design features become more energy-efficient, the proportion of building energy use associated with operations increases,” NBI Technical Director Mark Frankel said. “This means the role of building operators must be elevated and more focus placed on occupant behaviors, especially related to growing plug loads. Better feedback mechanisms are needed to help design teams understand how their past projects are being used in order to improve energy models for future projects.”

Summit participants were charged with delving into these issues and developing strategies to address them. They covered implications for performance outcomes on a range of topics from policy considerations related to energy codes to benchmarking and disclosure to determining who among the various parties is responsible for meeting specific performance goals. Collectively, the group identified recommended actions and needs, including:

  • Compiling a collection of tools and resources for policymakers and industry, including case studies of projects and programs focused on outcomes, tools explaining benefits of approaches and best practices for adoption, and a guide written in plain language laying out the business case and risks.
  • Developing a method of gathering and storing building-level data that allows for study and analysis of the data. This effort, accompanied by advancements in energy modeling, will help drive better understanding of the gap between predicted and actual performance.
  • Conducting pilot projects to test concept components and expand the set of case studies.

The team working to transition the industry to performance outcomes reached a major milestone with the adoption of an outcome-based compliance pathway in the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) last fall. That provision, supported by NIBS, NBI, and others, will allow owners to demonstrate code compliance by providing utility bills verifying energy-use targets are being met. The finalized 2015 IgCC, which local jurisdictions can review and adopt, is scheduled to be released in June.

“The next step will be getting others in the building industry to begin preparing for outcome performance as the new norm,” Colker said.

To read the full report, click here.