Most energy benchmarking tools provide static feedback on how one building compares to a larger set of loosely similar buildings, without providing information at the end-use level or on what can be done to reduce consumption, cost, or emissions. We utilize an “action-oriented benchmarking” approach, which extends whole-building energy benchmarking to include analysis of system and component energy use metrics and features. Action-oriented benchmarking thereby allows users to generate more meaningful metrics and to identify, screen, and prioritize potential efficiency improvements. This opportunity assessment process can then be used to inform and optimize a full-scale audit or commissioning process. We introduce a new web-based action-oriented benchmarking system and associated software tool—EnergyIQ. The benchmarking methods, visualizations, and user interface design are informed by an end-user needs assessment survey and best-practice guidelines from ASHRAE.

Relevant metrics are a central element of action-oriented benchmarking. Some users are motivated by traditional engineering metrics (e.g. energy per unit of floor area), while others find more meaning in metrics of cost or energy-related pollution released or avoided. User-defined filters such as location or building type can make the results more actionable. An action-oriented process must offer cross-sectional analyses (e.g. for static comparisons to other buildings) as well as longitudinal (for tracking performance over time). Overlays of targets are a natural method for helping to define targets and gauging progress.

Granularity of analysis is also integral to the action-inducing value. High-level metrics, e.g. at the whole-building level, may suffice for some users. However, in other cases more detailed metrics are essential. This is especially the case if benchmark outcomes are to be used to infer specific measures that could be taken. This is rarely done in existing benchmarking tools, although examples do exist, such as the correlation
of the type of air-handling systems with energy use in cleanroom benchmarking.

To maximize ease of use and minimize distribution costs, problems with version control, platform dependencies, and cost of maintenance and updates, the tool is built as a web-based application (as opposed to a disk-based implementation). The platform provides a web service allowing qualified third parties to develop customized user interfaces.