A to Z of Smart Buildings


Posted by The Comfy Team on July 5, 2016

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are used across industries to help set, measure, and improve upon processes and unique business units or objectives. Think of KPIs as components of a report card—using a variety of defined metrics and measuring performance in distinct areas. Managing and improving building performance covers a range and variety of resources, systems, processes, and people, each of which have their own KPIs.

Many standards and certification programs exist in the commercial building space, such as LEED, EnergyStar, Green Globes, and the WELL Building Standard. All heavily researched and developed, these standards offer a multitude of ways to quantify, track, and evaluate a piece of a building's performance—from energy efficiency and construction materials to occupant wellness and market value—and are generally geared toward a specific purpose or audience. Additional rating systems like NZEB and Living Building Challenge incorporate key components of these larger building and sustainability standards, but are tailored to national priorities and requirements, or extended to incorporate broader evolving topics and initiatives, such as net zero energy, biomimicry, and living and restorative buildings.


A number of national and international standards and building certification programs have emerged in the last couple decades. Here are a few of the most common.

LEED: When LEED was created in the late 1990s, it focused on creating incentives for building owners and operators to make new construction projects more environmentally sustainable. As such, it had a strong emphasis on sourcing and materials used in construction. LEED is expanding and evolving today to measure additional factors, like indoor environmental quality, water use efficiency, and connectivity with the smart grid.

These factors are incorporated into 5 rating systems:
BD+C: building design and construction
ID+C: interior design and construction
O+M: building operations and maintenance
ND: neighborhood development
H: homes

Each LEED rating system hosts specific required criteria that a project must fulfill in order to receive points toward certification. LEED is considered the most widely used green building rating system in the world, certifying over 1.85 million square feet of construction space daily. Projections estimate that LEED-certified buildings will directly contribute $29.8 billion to the US GDP by 2018. Learn more at www.usgbc.org/leed.

EnergyStar: ENERGY STAR was created in 1992 by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a voluntary labeling program. Designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it quickly was applied to major appliances, office equipment, lighting, home electronics, as well as residential and commercial buildings. ENERGY STAR has been a driving force behind widespread innovation and adoption of green technology, partnering with over 18,000 private and public sector organizations and saving both consumers and businesses $24 billion in 2012 alone. Learn more at www.energystar.gov.

Green Globes: Created by a division of JLL, the ECD Energy & Environment Canada, Green Globes was developed in the UK in the 1980s. Structured as an online questionnaire-based self-assessment, Green Globes is conducted in-house with a project manager and design team. Based primarily on ASHRAE and the ANSI/GBI 01-2010, Green Globes looks at construction drawings, energy modeling, life cycle analytics, records of meetings, and any green plans like storm-water management, landscaping, or commissioning. Following a review of all major certification systems, as required by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) recommended Green Globes and LEED as the two certification options for federal government construction project. Learn more at www.greenglobes.com.

WELL Building Standard: WELL is an evidence-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring the performance of buildings features and how they impact occupant health and well-being. A study at CBRE’s Global HQ in LA revealed that, with WELL-certified spaces, 83% of people feel more productive, 92% say they experienced a positive effect on their health, and 93% report being able to collaborate more easily with others. Administered by the International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI), WELL is third-party certified by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) and requires detailed documentation—annotated project documents, drawings, and letters of assurance—as well as a series of onsite performance tests known as Performance Verification. Nearly 200 projects encompassing more than 35 million square feet have registered or certified through WELL. Learn more at: www.wellcertified.com.

Historically, each standard focused on static and specific components of building performance, such as construction materials and equipment. More and more, building performance is being measured using dynamic factors to account for continued operations and constant improvements. It is important to monitor a building's performance dynamically and holistically, in order to measure the factors and qualities that make a building desirable, functional, and optimized over time.

The following is a collection of building KPIs that demonstrate a full picture of building performance. Keep in mind, these key results and KPIs are likely covered by a variety of certifications and standards, so this is merely a collection to demonstrate the breadth and depth of building KPIs.

Key Result AreasKey Performance IndicatorsExample KPI Metrics
Human Experience Indoor Environmental Quality ppm VOC and CO2
Comfort % occupant satisfaction with lighting, thermal comfort & acoustics
Flexible Workspaces % occupant satisfaction with privacy & collaboration spaces
Sustainability Building Materials tons of sustainably harvested/refurbished construction materials
Resource Consumption gallons of water, kWhs, Btus consumed, especially during peak demand hours
Resource Production % resources consumed that are generated from renewable sources
Operational Efficiency Safety preparedness for disasters
Operational Efficiency response time to work orders
Diagnostic Maintenance cost/hour of downtime
Desirability of Building Amenities availability of technology-enabled services
Location Walk Score®
Neighbors occupancy rate

While there are a number of great building standards that focus on pieces of the whole, building performance can, and should, be measured holistically and dynamically. The movement toward dynamic building KPIs is timely and relevant, shifting alongside new investments in technology. The growth of automation and software tools that allow for occupant feedback is providing greater visibility into building performance. With this user data, building owners and operators can create better long-term strategies and continue to improve performance.

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