In isolation, benchmarking can inspire action but provides no practical guidance. With sponsorship from the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is building the next generation of energy benchmarking methods to address this problem. EnergyIQ—the first "action-oriented" benchmarking tool for non-residential buildings—bridges this gap by providing a standardized opportunity assessment based on benchmarking results, along with decision-support information to help refine action plans.

EnergyIQ represents a major advancement beyond (and supersedes) LBNL's widely-used CalArch tool, providing a deeper (and complementary) level of analysis compared to more generalized whole-buildings tools such as the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. EnergyIQ benchmarks energy use, costs, and features for dozens of building types and provides a carbon-emissions calculation for the energy consumed in the building, an important part of any businesses' overall "carbon footprint".

Action-oriented benchmarking is particularly useful for opportunity-assessment purposes, improving on simplified benchmarking processes and helping lay the groundwork for investment-grade audits and professional engineering calculations, as suggested in the following diagram.

In developing EnergyIQ, we surveyed potential users representing about half a billion square feet of non-residential building floor area. We also incorporated best-practices recommended for energy benchmarking and tool design published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

Through EnergyIQ's interface, users can browse charts and tables dynamically generated from our databases until they find a peer group and one or more metrics and views that they wish to compare to their own building. A key feature of the tool is that it minimizes the time and data required from the user by tailoring input data requirements to the desired output. The tool tips provide context-sensitive suggestions on how to use the tool.  This infographic illustrates the tool's functionality and abilities.

EnergyIQ offers a wide array of benchmark metrics, with visual as well as tabular display. These include energy, costs, greenhouse-gas emissions, and a large array of characteristics (e.g. building components or operational strategies). The tool supports cross-sectional benchmarking for comparing the user's building to its peers at one point in time, as well as longitudinal benchmarking for tracking the performance of an individual building or enterprise portfolio over time.

Based on user inputs, the tool generates a list of opportunities and recommended actions. Users can then explore the "ACT" decision support module and related links for helpful information on how to refine action plans, create design-intent documentation, and implement improvements. This includes information on best practices, links to other energy analysis tools, and more.

A variety of databases are available within EnergyIQ from which users can specify peer groups for comparison. Using the tool, this data can be visually browsed and used as a backdrop against which to view a variety of energy benchmarking metrics for the user’s own building. Users can save their project information and return at a later date to continue their exploration. The initial database is the California Commercial End-Use Survey (CEUS), which provides details on energy use and characteristics for about 2800 buildings and 62 building types. CEUS is likely the most thorough survey of its kind ever conducted. National data from the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)--5,215 buildings and 51 building types--are also incorporated, allowing benchmarking across the country.

As a service to users, the tool enables users to import their buildings data from EPA's Portfolio Manger.

EnergyIQ utilizes a licensable web service https://developers.buildingsapi.lbl.gov based on the LBNL Action-Oriented Benchmarking System. Through this system, third-party tool developers can tap the data and methods of EnergyIQ for implementation on their own web sites or embedded in energy management systems.