Data Needs to Achieve High Performance Buildings
Representative Hearing, July 18, 2011
Testimony from Cathy Turner, New Buildings Institute
New Buildings Institute (NBI) is a nonprofit organization working to improve the energy performance of commercial buildings. We work collaboratively with commercial building market players—governments, utilities, energy efficiency advocates and building professionals—to remove barriers to energy efficiency. Our activities include promoting advanced design practices, improved technologies, performance feedback mechanisms, and public policies and programs that improve energy efficiency.
NBI is a sponsor of this effort because of its critical importance to the core mission of our nonprofit organization.
To achieve deep energy savings, all parties – policymakers, program managers, designers, owners, tenants, and the real estate community –must all have access to data that shows the strategies that are working and areas needing improvement.
As part of our research, we have compiled a substantial internal database of high performance buildings. That dataset is used in our analyses of the actual performance levels achieved and in the development of tools to better interpret energy use data. We have also participated actively in the DASH (Database for Analyzing Sustainable and High Performance Buildings) efforts over the past several years, working with a broad community of interested parties to identify the contents and structure of a national data repository.
This testimony summarizes the highest priority data needs the we see for the objective of dramatic progress toward very low energy buildings. We also include some suggestions for the process and structure of developing a data repository, based on our internal experience and that of the DASH effort. Fuller descriptions can be found in our supporting document.
OBJECTIVES AND USES OF HIGH PERFORMANCE BUILDING DATA
We need timely feedback on the actual energy performance being achieved in today’s buildings. This is critical to tracking the energy use progress leading to net-zero energy buildings, defining our pathway and interim goals to move forward. In particular, we must:
1. Know the actual energy performance of buildings compliant with recent energy codes.
Initial baselines and subsequent calibration points of codes to energy performance are fundamental to effective energy code policies. While policymakers have set specific performance targets, most notably achieving net‐zero energy use in buildings by 2030, there is no way to tell how much progress our building stock is making toward that goal. Current energy code practice is based on estimated energy use of a theoretical sample of buildings that meet all code requirements. This is not the same as using actual, measured building energy use as a basis for determining progress toward energy policy goals in buildings.
2. Know the results that beyond-code programs are producing High performance buildings, from voluntary programs state stretch codes or LEED, should be providing guidance for tomorrows energy codes. However, anumber of recent studies have demonstrated that various components of new buildings do not perform as well as intended. Stated savings are often based on modeled building performance, which assumes that all systems, components, and operation work as designed. In reality, such perfection is rarely attained, much less maintained.
3. Provide the basis for benchmarking and interpreting energy use levels
a. Know building performance characteristics
A national repository of shared data should include important information on current building performance-related characteristics (relevant system types, ages, physical components, etc). That would enable extracting and communicating cross-cutting lessons from broad experience.
b. Separate whole building performance into the base building and occupant-driven components
For proper benchmarking, we must be able to split energy used by the tenants as a requirement of their basic business activity from energy used for conditioning and lighting the base building. Submetering plug loads and tenant energy use is important for tenant-specific feedback, which becomes essential as we move toward outcome-based codes and very low energy goals. At a minimum, tools for reasonably estimating that split are critical to benchmarking whole building energy, and a national data repository should contain the data needed to use such tools.
4. Enable the transition to a forward-looking rating scale with a fixed baseline.
This will support:
a. More meaningful tracking of performance levels over time. Many organizations and agencies have set aggressive performance improvement goals based on a year 2000 baseline. A national data collection strategy must support tracking progress toward policy goals on a consistent basis – not continuously changing the baseline by always looking at “% better than current code.”
b. Continued meaningful benchmarking, to identify progress as buildings move beyond the best 1% of all existing turn-of-the century building stock. In other words, we must be able to benchmark progress beyond a current Energy Star rating of 99.
GENERAL COMMENTS ON PROCESS AND ANTICIPATED DATA STRUCTURE
These comments are in the context of a usable national repository of data, to be fed by multiple information sources, maintained over time, and to be publicly accessible with appropriate protection of confidentiality.
5. Clear definitions of expected users and objectives will be essential as desired data is identified.
a. The intended use of information determines the amount and level of detail needed. Some objectives, such as accurately estimating the entire national energy use or the total savings achieved from a utility program, require rigorously sampled, statistically representative data.
However, other goals, such as the support for local jurisdictions with disclosure ordinances or the move to forward-looking benchmarking, can be even better served with a more easily collected set of good, credible examples.
6. Create a framework for efficient prioritization and staging.
b. Identify core data items needed for nearly all the desired uses, and provide consistent definitions to be used by all data contributors.
c. Create a framework that supports adding deeper sets of information for specific purposes as definition and data become available.
d.Create synergies with local and state disclosure ordinances.
The jurisdictions that have adopted disclosure ordinances represent a potentially great data resource. No individual jurisdiction is in a position to collect national data from other jurisdictions.
7. Use modern data technology to facilitate information gathering.
e. Anticipate ongoing updates, and possible multiple years of experience for a single building, as opposed to a periodic single survey
f. As one example, consider an approach that could simplify the challenge of recording data for recent construction and renovation.
i. Capture building information at the time of a building permit. Building data needed for calculating and benchmarking performance results should be readily available at this time: square footage, primary systems, and general occupancy characteristics.
ii. Establish a standardized protocol to accept data from utilities, and Set up automatic uploads of utility data to the confidential central repository for these buildings.
iii. Such an approach could be piloted in a single jurisdiction or utility program.
The best role of NIBS will emerge from the discussions begun today. Logical components could include defining and communicating the standards and definitions, hosting the repository, and spearheading the addition of information for targeted segments of the marketplace or types of information.
The above is just one more case evidencing then need for a BIM Framework:
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