While energy audits are vital to ensuring energy efficient buildings, ASHRAE says the audit industry has been largely unstructured. Work products that are labeled energy audits vary greatly in scope, rigor, and quality.

A proposed standard from ASHRAE and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) would aim to bring order to the energy audit industry.

ASHRAE/ACCA Standard 211P, Standard for Commercial Building Energy Audits, is open for public comment until Jan. 4, 2016. To comment or learn more, visit www.ashrae.org/publicreviews.

Standard 211P will establish consistent practices for conducting and reporting energy audits for commercial buildings.

“The standard has the potential to make a huge impact on completing energy saving projects in existing buildings,” said Jim Kelsey, chair of the Standard 211P Committee. “Currently there is no standard that defines what constitutes an energy audit. Most practitioners in the energy audit industry are trying to do the right thing for their clients by finding projects and quantifying energy and cost savings in energy audits. However, without a consistent standard, we have seen the quality and approach to energy auditing vary widely throughout the industry. Without standardization, it’s been the Wild West out there — anyone who carries a clipboard and a camera can call themselves an energy auditor and their report an energy audit. What we hope to accomplish with this standard is to set appropriate minimum criteria for what approaches are expected, what information should be in an audit, and how that information is communicated to the end client.”

The standard will define the procedures required to perform Energy Audits Levels 1, 2 and 3; provide a common scope of work for these audit levels for use by building owners and others; establish standardized industry practices; and establish minimum reporting requirements for the results.

“One new area that I’m excited about in the standard is electronic data exchange for audit results,” Kelsey said. “In this version, we’ve adopted standardized reporting formats that are consistent with new tools to make it easy to transmit results to cities and agencies. This approach has several benefits to the energy world. First, consistent reporting enables energy auditors to streamline their processes. Currently, it is common for different customers to require different reporting formats which leads to a lot of customization for each job. Secondly, standard formats allow us to convert audit results to common data formats (such as BuildingSync XML). This makes it easier for cities, for example, to import audit results to a common database, rather than each agency requiring auditors to manually enter their results in the city’s platform.

ASHRAE first addressed audits in 2004 with its publication Procedures for Commercial Building Energy Audits (1st Ed), which introduced the concept of ASHRAE Energy Audit Levels 1, 2, and 3 as a shorthand for designating the depth of an energy audit. That concept is now commonly used in the commercial building sector. In 2011, a second edition, which added guidelines for best practices in energy audits, was published.

These books have been widely adopted, cited by rating programs and in cities like New York and San Francisco where local ordinances require energy audits for certain buildings.

“However, the books were written as guides, not in code-enforceable, standard language,” Kelsey said. “With the new standard, we will hone the clarity of those audit level definitions and make enforcement clearer, and potentially broaden the adoption of the ASHRAE audit levels.”