CBS Newsletter
Summer 1995
pg. 1

Assuring Building Performance: Creating BLISS

Software tools will link to the BLISS infrastructure

Despite significant advances in building technology and tighter building codes, buildings consume one-third of all energy used in the U.S. at a cost of $200 billion/year. Half of this energy is wasted if one considers the cost-effective measures now achievable. Assuring the highest possible building performance (in health and productivity as well as energy) ought to be a national goal in an increasingly competitive world. Providing designers, builders, and operators with consistent information throughout the life cycle of a building opens opportunities for reaching performance potential. LBL recently initiated an internally funded project to explore these issues, with the goal of creating public-private partnerships to develop workable, cost-effective solutions to assuring building performance.

Commercial building performance consistently falls short of its potential, with costly results to people and institutions. Energy use in commercial buildings accounts for $85 billion per year, more than half of which could be saved if the experience of a few unique, carefully designed and operated buildings could be widely replicated. Occupant health and comfort also suffer in poorly ventilated and conditioned spaces, resulting in lost productivity and a growing incidence of lawsuits.

The goal of the LBL project is to develop and standardize an interoperable set of software tools to correct these problems. The tools will respond to the needs of each phase of a building's life cycle and will be linked by a shared informational infrastructure, the Building Life-cycle Information Support System. BLISS will serve as the backbone of a dynamic data archive for each building. Once the BLISS data archive is established, the marginal cost of supplying additional tools with building data should be small compared to current practice. Interoperable tools that share information should provide considerable efficiencies and cost savings throughout the building life cycle. The tools developed in this project will not be limited to commercial buildings, but because of the existing infrastructure of building operators, computer-assisted design and EMCS, large commercial buildings are the logical first target. The same principles can be applied across the spectrum to single-family residential buildings.

LBL's early effort will focus on three projects:

  1. BLISS,
  2. commissioning information tools (CITs), and
  3. performance evaluation and tracking tools (PETTs).

Building Life Cycle Information Support System

The goal of this effort is to create a software infrastructure that can be used to share information across disciplines and to link interoperable software tools throughout the building life cycle.

This project has three major elements:

  1. to specify the distributed systems software architecture,
  2. to build a life-cycle database, and
  3. to develop a mechanism to capture design intent.

The distributed systems architecture will describe how various building software components will communicate with each other. The building database schema will specify the structure and semantics of the database, providing a common vocabulary for the software components. The data structures will be able to accommodate both object-oriented building descriptions and extensive time-series data from performance tracking tools. BLISS will also be able to capture and represent design intent (goals, specifications, and decisions), a critical set of information that will be updated as the building design evolves. Data on design intent will provide information that is necessary later in the life cycle for successful building commissioning and operations.

Commissioning Information Tools

Commissioning is the process of inspecting and testing a building to ensure that it operates as intended. A cost-effective commissioning process will produce buildings that have lower operating costs while providing a healthier indoor environment that will increase productivity and user satisfaction.

The initial project goals are:

  1. to develop the conceptual design for a complete CIT, and
  2. to develop an operating software module for one building system that is ready for field testing.

The software will specify procedures for commissioning, monitoring guidelines, and electronic documentation requirements, along with methods to continue using this information in the operations phase of the building life cycle. The initial focus will be on developing a chiller commissioning module. A new building on the UC Berkeley campus will provide a living laboratory for developing and testing these new tools.

Performance Evaluation and Tracking Tools

The goal of this project is to develop information collection and interpretation systems that allow the building's performance to be continuously evaluated and tracked as part of normal building operation. The first-year effort to produce PETTs will have two elements. The first is development of information resources that describe how the building should perform. This will be accomplished through performance metrics and accessing and updating the design intent and commissioning results inherited from earlier life-cycle phases. The second element will capture how the building does perform, based on real-time data acquired from the building EMCS.


This program cannot succeed without involvement from building-sector partners-as financial sponsors for the next phase of work; as research collaborators; as sources of information where LBNL does not have experience or expertise; and, most importantly, as development partners for the tools and processes in this program. LBNL is actively seeking interested partners to expand this program.

Info icon
Overall Project:
Steve Selkowitz, (510) 486-5064
Max Sherman, (510) 486-4022
Steve Selkowitz, (510) 486-5064
Frank Olken, (510) 486-5891
Mary Ann Piette, (510) 486-6286
Max Sherman, (510) 486-4022

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