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ASHRAE Building EQ: An Intelligent Energy Measurement System. Professional content

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By Will - August 10th, 2009

ASHRAE Building Energy QuotientIf you are one of the gazillion readers of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, then you know that IQ doesn't predict performance. As with any test issued at a singular moment in a given life to measure a particular trait, the IQ test is riddled with imperfections and limitations.  Despite the transparent short-comings of such measurements, we find them helpful, and we turn to them repeatedly, to gauge our expectations, hedge our bets, and customize (for better and worse) our investments. This applies to buildings as well as brains.

There are currently a couple of energy efficiency IQ tests available for buildings - the well-established Energy Star program from DOE, and the Green Building Council's LEED rating system. The newcomer to the field is ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, which has developed a report card for buildings based upon their energy use.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the other measuring sticks and ASHRAE's Building Energy Quotient program is this: ASHRAE aims to "move the nation's building stock toward net zero energy use."  In other words, ASHRAE wants to play a role in creating a stable of geniuses, in building form. And how will it achieve this? By testing buildings twice. First to measure intention, (how much energy the building is designed to use) and second, to measure actual energy use.

Which brings us back to Outliers, and ultimately, the big hope for energy efficiency as embodied in ASHRAE's Building EQ program (now in pilot form). Genius buildings are not simply born. Just as those with a high EQ (or LEED certified) or renewable energy potential can falter, genius buildings can be made, with the help of energy-savvy occupants and energy saving appliances and tools.

ASHRAE is just getting underway, but like most true success stories, Building EQ comes from an excellent family background.  Though few of us are capable of reciting it's initials, ASHRAE is a venerable institution in the building industry, and could well become a household name among those who believe they can make a difference in efficiency.


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