What began as a discussion nearly a decade ago is on the cusp of becoming a global online resource to compare performance among buildings, adding a significant step toward improving design, construction, and operation on a mass-market scale.

Scheduled for a milestone “alpha” test period this summer, the Database for Analyzing Sustainable and High Performance Buildings (DASH) has been evolving since 2004 as a storehouse of occupied-building performance information that relates a variety of metrics--energy and water use, ventilation rates, indoor air quality, and maintenance costs among them--to occupant satisfaction and productivity.

The ultimate goal is to evolve thinking beyond a building’s designed or presumed performance into meaningful real-world and life-cycle performance measures. “A LEED-certified building isn’t a great building if it is not performing for its occupant or owner,” says Aurora Sharrard, vice president of innovation for the Green Building Alliance (GBA) in Pittsburgh, where the conversation about DASH began. “We want to provide access to a building’s entire life-cycle and operational portfolio so others can benchmark their buildings,” either those already in use or on the boards.

As DASH makes its way through alpha and beta testing, among other refinements (all dependent on outside funding), it will eventually become a subscriber-based platform that is financially self-sustaining and encourages users to input a wealth of data about their projects. “You’ll only be able to compare the data you have in common with other buildings,” says Sharrard, noting that building information would be either regulated or anonymous. “The more information you input, the better and more meaningful the comparisons.”

That being said, users also have to know what their numbers are … and how to get them. Sharrard says DASH will give subscribers the standards and tools for how they should collect their inputs. “They’ll be able to share what they have and be consistent with others.”

The collaborative spirit of DASH comes not only from its evolution, facilitated by the GBA among “the top thinkers in building performance information,” says Sharrard, as well as organizations including NIST, the New Buildings Institute, ASHRAE, and BOMA, but also the alliance’s legacy. “It’s better to be collaborative than competitive,” she says.

The GBA’s other programs include the Knowledge Network, which Sharrard describes as the umbrella under which the alliance’s 20 years of experience, wisdom, and reputation as the go-to regional green building resource resides.

“It’s a combination of online resources, printed material, and personal interaction,” she says, noting that efforts to bring more of the resources online for easy (and free) access won’t preclude one-to-one connections. “Sometimes it’s the interaction between people that helps convince somebody to try or not try something. After all, buildings are about people first.”