Using BIRDS to Save on Energy Costs at Your Facility

November 18, 2014


Using BIRDS to Save on Energy Costs at Your Facility

Over the past year, we’ve featured a number of posts that offer new ways for facilities managers to lower energy costs at their buildings, from ASHRAE’s bEQ program to using Smart Grid technology.

Saving energy remains vitally important. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates 40 percent of the nation’s energy consumption comes from residential and commercial buildings, amounting to an astronomical 40 quadrillion BTUs in 2013.

The latest tool recently unveiled by the National Institute of Standards and Technology — Building Industry Reporting and Design for Sustainability (BIRDS) — provides more guidance to building professionals in some 200 U.S. cities.

BIRDS offers access to the NIST database and new software tools to determine if it makes sense for facilities managers to exceed code requirements for energy efficiency by calculating estimated future carbon emissions, kilowatt usage and expected costs, based on different building prototypes (including offices, high schools and retail stores).

The integrated metrics provided by BIRDS evaluates many facets of environmental performance, including a building’s carbon footprints, materials sustainability and energy use, and calculates costs based on nine investment horizons.

Moreover, the new BIRDS tool complements NIST’s existing Building for Environmental and Economic Stability (BEES), a tool that enables users to estimate the environmental and economic impact of building products, from floor coverings to concrete.

What makes BIRDS so unique, according to NIST: It combines a pair of life-cycle assessment (LCA) strategies¬† — bottom-up process-based data and top-down environmental input-output data — to more accurately assess environmental impacts.

The real goal of BIRDS: Simplifying life-cycle costing and LCAs to make them more readily available as easy-to-use, hands-on tools so that laymen can design different kinds of buildings.

“Buildings are complex systems, and how they perform is not simply the sum of their many parts,” said NIST economist Joshua Kneifel who led the development of the tool.

“With BIRDS, anyone can measure and compare operating energy use through detailed simulations, materials use through innovative life-cycle inventories, and building costs over time.”

Another real advantage offered by BIRDS: The ability to evaluate buildings based on five increasingly more stringent versions of energy standards, including those issued by ASHRAE.

Program updates will feature more variety in the types of commercial buildings to better encompass the 5 million different commercial structures in America, as well as new homes and energy retrofitting too.

Look for more suggestions about energy efficient tools by subscribing to our Facebook and Twitter feeds that are frequently updated each week.

For assistance with energy cost savings at your facility, contact Vanguard Resources.