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BIRDS --- Overview

BIRDS - Building Industry Reporting and Design for Sustainablility - allows users to compare the sustainability
performance of a building type as the energy efficiency design of that building type is increased.

In BIRDS, sustainability preformance includes:

  • operating energy use
  • life-cycle environmental performance of the building's materials, construction, and use
  • life-cycle cost performance

In BIRDS, sustainability performance can change with...

  • level of energy efficiency
  • location
  • building prototype
  • time horizon

Steps to getting answers to your sustainability questions.

  1. Begin by telling BIRDS about the kind of building your interested in.
  2. See how different aspects of sustainability for your building changes as its energy efficiency changes.
  3. Gain an interactive view of how sustainability performance changes as other key settings like
    location and time horizon change.

Access an introductory tutorial, documentation, and FAQ at the top right corner of the page.

Step 1: Select Your Building

Select the building prototype you want to evaluate.

My Building Prototype

Floor Ht.(ft):
Window %:

Step 2: Select Your Comparisons

Which building settings would you like to compare side-by-side?

Your baseline settings will be used for the reference building in all comparisons.

  • Baseline Values are the values used to define the initial datapoint (baseline).
  • State, City is the location for which the user is primarily interested.
  • The Standard is the ASHRAE 90.1 Standard edition for which the user wants to base the comparisons.
  • Study Period is the study period length, or investment time horizon, for which the user wants to analyze the building.

Image source: The Department of Energy (DOE) Building Energy Codes Program (BECP)


Alternative Locations are the State, City alternatives that the user wants to compare to the baseline location.


Alternative Energy Standards are the alternative ASHRAE standard editions for which the user wants to compare to the baseline standard edition.

ASHRAE 90.1 - 1999
ASHRAE 90.1 - 2001
ASHRAE 90.1 - 2004
ASHRAE 90.1 - 2007
Low Energy Case

Alternative Study Periods are the alternative study periods for which to compare the baseline study period results.

1 year
5 years
10 years
15 years
20 years
25 years
30 years
35 years
40 years

Step 3: Select Your Environmental Preferences

What are the most important environmental issues to you?

  • Global Warming = Increase global climate change
  • Acidification = Increase in the acidity level in water and soil
  • HH_cancer = Increase in cancer related human health risks
  • HH_Respiratory = Increase in respiratory human health risks from human health particulate or 'criteria air pollutants'
  • HH_Noncancer = Increase in non-cancer human health risks
  • Ozone Depletion = Reduction in the stratospheric ozone level
  • Eutrophication = Addition of mineral nutrients to the soil or water
  • Smog = Increase in ground level ozone
  • Ecotoxicity = Increase in toxic substances in an ecosystem
  • Embodied Energy = Source energy consumed
  • Land Use = Amount of land consumed
  • Water Consumption = Amount of potable water consumed

For further explanation of the impact categories and their potential impacts, click on the Documentation Button on the BIRDS - Overview tab.

BIRDS includes 12 environmental impact categories for which the user can analyze the environmental performance of a building. BIRDS also allows a user to report a single, weighted average Environmental Impact Score (EIS). In order to calculate the EIS the user must define their preferences, or "weight set," regarding the relative importance of each environmental impact. The user can select one of the pre-defined weight sets or create their own weight set.

  • BEES Stakeholder Panel - Weights developed at NIST in 2006 by a stakeholder panel of academics, federal officials, and industry using a multi-attribute Decision Analysis Method called Analytical Hierarchy Process as defined in ASTM Standard E1765-11
  • Carbon Footprint Only - Assumes that the user is only concerned with the carbon footprint of the building.
  • EPA Science Advisory Board - Weights developed by EPA's Science Advisory Board in 2000 based on 4 criteria: (1) spatial scale of the impact, (2) severity of the hazard, (3) degree of exposure, and (4) penalty of being wrong
  • Equal Weights - Assumes that all environmental impact categories are weighted equally.
  • For further explanation of the pre-defined weighting approaches, click on the Documentation Button on the BIRDS - Overview tab.

The user's environmental preferences for which to base the Environmental Impact Score (EIS) calculation across the baseline and alternatives.

Note: If the user creates a custom weighting approach, it will be added to the potential weighting approaches available for the baseline weighting approach.

Alternative Weighting Approach are weighting approaches for which to compare to the baseline weighting approach

BEES Stakeholder Panel
Carbon Footprint Only
EPA Advisory Board
Equal Weights

Allows the user to define their own weighting approach based on their environmental preferences.

Note: If the user creates a custom weighting approach, it will be added to the potential weighting approaches available for the baseline weighting approach.

Step 4: View Results