Building stakeholders need practical metrics, data, and tools to support decisions related to sustainable building designs, technologies, standards, and codes. The Applied Economics Office (AEO) of the Engineering Laboratory (EL) at 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 extensive whole building performance databases NIST has compiled for this purpose. BIRDS has been updated annually starting in 2014.

BIRDS v1.0 (2014) – Introduced the ASHRAE standard-based database for 11 commercial building prototypes

BIRDS v2.0 (2015) – Introduced the IECC-based database for 10 residential building prototypes

Both databases allow a user to compare the sustainability (energy, economic, and environmental) performance of a building prototype across different levels of energy efficiency designs based on industry consensus standard/code editions (ASHRAE 90.1 for commercial and non-low rise residential buildings and IECC for low-rise residential buildings). Additionally, a user can compare the sustainability performance of a building across cities or across different study periods up to 40 years. The environmental performance can be analyzed across custom, user-defined environmental preferences.

BIRDS v3.0 (2016) – Introduced the Incremental Energy Efficiency Measure-based database based on NIST’s Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF).

This database provided all the same features and capabilities as the residential database for comparisons across IECC editions, and added the ability to consider incremental building design options for sustainability analysis of user-selected energy efficiency measures (240 000 building component combinations in total) as well as downloading capabilities.

BIRDS v3.1 (2017) - Expanded the Incremental Energy Efficiency Measures database to include additional building construction options (480 000 building component combinations in total), indoor environmental quality metrics, and results graphing capabilities.

BIRDS v4.0 (2018) – Updated all 3 databases.

The ASHRAE standard-based database for commercial buildings was transitioned to use DOE’s Commercial Building Prototype Models developed by PNNL and current cost data. The IECC-based database for residential buildings was updated with current cost data. These standards/codes-based commercial and residential databases were merged into a single interface and will be updated on a 3-year cycle as new editions of ASHRAE 90.1 and IECC are released. The low-energy residential database was expanded to include gas-fired space and water heating building component options (960 000 building component combinations in total).

Future versions of BIRDS will incorporate new editions of standards and codes, update cost and LCIA data, and expand software capabilities based on stakeholder and user feedback and AEO’s research agenda.