Today, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) introduced a Web-based tool to help project teams determine whether it pays to exceed code requirements for energy efficiency by analyzing energy, environmental, and cost-performance data. Called Building Industry Reporting and Design for Sustainability (BIRDS), the tool evaluates commercial and multifamily projects across 12 environmental impact categories including embodied energy, land use, and ozone depletion.

BIRDS joins NIST’s online Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) tool, which monitors building products' economic and environmental impact. NIST is positioning BIRDS as an alternative to the use of either whole-building life-cycle assessments (LCAs) or individual BEES reports for each of the many products specified for a project. BIRDS uses what NIST calls a hybrid LCA to assess a building's energy performance, combining top-down environmental input-output data and bottom-up process-based data.

The goal of the database is for users to determine whether going beyond state or local energy codes, which set minimum requirements for efficiency, could deliver energy savings that exceed the initial investment in energy upgrades. Users can reference BIRDS to assess their project's energy consumption based on the ASHRAE 90.1 standard for high-performance green buildings through the 2009 version.

A NIST press release reports that forthcoming updates to the tool will add building types including more residential options, incorporate energy retrofits for existing homes and commercial buildings, and allow for additional customization.