The Technical Basis of Building Performance Standards

Paper / March 19, 2021 / Codes And Policy

As leading cities and states seek to meet their aggressive climate, energy, and decarbonization goals, they are turning increasingly to mandatory policies that require improved energy and emissions performance across their existing building stock. The most comprehensive of these policies is the building performance standard (BPS), in which performance thresholds are set that building owners must meet at a specified time or when a triggering event occurs. A BPS can address a range of emissions, energy and grid-related goals. This paper examines technical approaches used to set the key metrics for both buildings and fuels in performance standard legislation. Some of these metrics include emissions levels per square foot, energy use per square foot, and pounds of greenhouse gases per kilowatt-hour consumed.


The paper will consider how standards for existing buildings, including ASHRAE Standard 100 and ASHRAE Standard 105, are being referenced in setting these parameters. The methodology and level of these metrics in a BPS directly impacts which actions will be taken by building owners to meet its technical requirements. Nuanced relationships between metrics, compliance periods, and equipment replacement cycles can greatly influence the degree to which a BPS is aligned with a jurisdiction’s climate policy goals The paper also analyzes and explains how performance levels in standards for new construction, including ASHRAE Standard 90.1 and ASHRAE Standard 189.1, relate to the metrics and performance levels of BPS – with an eye to ensuring that newly constructed buildings will be positioned to meet a proposed BPS. Following concluding summaries on the technical issues involved in BPS standard-setting, the paper provides a range of recommendations for data collection, analysis of building stock data, and scenario planning in the preparation of BPS language