House Simulation Protocols

The Building America Analysis Spreadsheets are companions to the House Simulation Protocols, and assist with many of the calculations and look-up tables in the protocols document. Learn more.

Building America developed the House Simulation Protocols report to assist in the process of tracking progress toward multi-year, whole-building energy reduction research goals for new and existing homes, using a consistent reference point. These protocols also ensure the individual research projects are relevant to builder and retrofit contractor needs.

The steps involved in performance analysis include defining a reference building, measuring the actual performance of a house, and determining the energy savings. The report also describes analysis procedures that provide the basis for:

  • Calculating the whole-house energy savings of a post-retrofit or New Construction Test Home (NCTH) relative to three important base cases: the Building America Research Benchmark, Builder Standard Practice, and Regional Standard Practice
  • Using building simulation analysis to calculate annual energy savings based on side-by-side short-term field testing of a prototype house and reference house
    • The reference building for New Construction is the Building America Benchmark building which is consistent with a 2010 home that follows the latest codes and standards.
    • The reference building for existing homes is as consistent with the pre-retrofit house as possible. This document gives default values for any system of the home that cannot be measured.
  • Comparing analyses to field-test results.

The report is broken up into three sections, New Construction, Existing Homes, and Operating Conditions.

New Construction

To track progress toward aggressive multi-year, new construction, whole-house energy savings goals of 30% to 50%, Building America developed a Research Benchmark building in consultation with the Building America teams. This benchmark acts as a reference building for new construction test houses, and has recently been updated to be generally consistent with construction practices from 2010.

Existing Homes

In addition, Building America provides a set of guidelines for estimating the energy savings achieved by a package of retrofits or an extensive rehabilitation of an existing home. This report outlines a set of typical operating conditions that will be used for the purpose of using a building simulation model to compare energy use before and after a series of retrofits are completed.

Certain field test and audit methods are also described or referenced in this report. These tests help establish accurate building system performance characteristics that are needed for a meaningful simulation of whole-house energy use. Several sets of default efficiency values have also been developed for certain older appliances that cannot be easily tested and for which published specifications are not readily available.

Note: Before Building America research team members implement retrofit measures on an existing home, health and safety concerns must be addressed in accordance with the Building America Retrofit Participation Requirements and Release document.

Operating Conditions

The operating conditions listed in the report give detailed definitions and use profiles for all end-use categories. These operating conditions apply to all simulations conducted for official Building America reporting purposes, including the analysis of both new homes and retrofits of existing homes, unless otherwise specified.