When it comes to designing or renovating buildings, exceeding code requirements for energy efficiency can pay for itself – sometimes. But the uncertainty of whether the extra performance advantage is worth it can discourage any additional upfront investment in sustainability.
A new tool from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) could make the tradeoffs between long-term savings and upfront costs a little clearer.
Dubbed BIRDS (for Building Industry Reporting and Design for Sustainability), the new software gauges energy usage and materials sustainability, judges a dozen indicators of environmental performance (including carbon footprints), and determines costs over nine investment horizons. Users can assess their building’s estimated operating energy use against five building industry standards – four successive version of ASHRAE 90.1, as well as the 2009 ASHRAE standard for high-performance green buildings. This lets viewers easily determine whether the cost savings from exceeding code requirements are substantial enough to justify an investment in energy upgrades.
It can be used with NIST’s other popular tool, BEES (Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability), which measures the economic and environmental impacts of a wide range of building products.
The current version of BIRDS covers 11 building prototypes, NIST notes. Future versions will include energy retrofits for existing commercial buildings, as well as additional flexibility that lets users further customize the analysis to fit their specific needs.