Protocols for Performance Measurement Offered by Leading Building Groups

It has long been realized in the building industry that you can’t manage what you don’t measure when it comes to building performance. But even if you measure, what ensures that those measurements are appropriate and meaningful?

“Although many buildings claim to be green or high performance, it’s rare that evidence or data is presented to verify these claims,” said Jeff Haberl. “If claims of high performance are to be credible, it is essential that a common set of measurements be used and that the results be reported against meaningful and consistent benchmarks. Reliable and reproducible protocols are also needed to give usable feedback to designers and operators when measured performance does not match design intent and expectations.”

A new book from three building industry associations provides a standardized set of protocols over a range of accuracies and costs that can be applied consistently to the assessment of building performance. Published by ASHRAE and developed in collaboration with the Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers (CIBSE) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Performance Measurement Protocols for Commercial Buildings identifies what to measure, how to measure it and how often it is to be measured for inclusion in buildings’ operation and maintenance plan.

“In an energy conscious world, those who measure and manage the energy use and performance of their buildings will be at an increasing advantage over business as usual energy managers,” Haberl, who chaired the committee that wrote the book, said. Because energy efficiency should not compromise the services provided in the building, the protocols cover indoor environmental quality measures as well as energy and water use.

“The collaboration of CIBSE with ASHRAE and USGBC on this project demonstrates the importance of international engineering collaboration to deliver measurably green buildings, not just green promises,” said Hywel Davies, technical director of CIBSE and vice chair of the committee.

Protocols are developed at three levels for each of six performance categories: energy, water, thermal comfort, indoor air quality, lighting, and acoustics.

The three specification levels are:

  • basic, which outlines simple, low-cost measures that provide an initial insight into performance at the annual, whole building level;
  • intermediate, which provides additional data on the building performance, typically at a monthly frequency and major system level; and
  • advanced, which offers a more detailed and comprehensive analysis for those building owners or managers wishing to gain deeper insights into the performance of a building, typically at a daily or weekly frequency at the system or equipment level.

The cost of Performance Measurement Protocols for Commercial Buildings is $89 ($75 ASHRAE members) from the ASHRAE bookstore. (A pdf of the 1/20/09 draft is available for free; send an e-mail to with the words “Performance Protocols Draft” in the subject line.)