What is High-Performance Building?

The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) defines high performance building this way: “High performance building means a building that integrates and optimizes all major high-performance building attributes, including energy efficiency, durability, life-cycle performance, and occupant productivity.”

“From our perspective, green certainly focuses on one aspect of building performance,” says Ryan Colker, a presidential advisor for the NIBS. “We look at high performance more broadly to include green and sustainable building, but also to look at the other things we want buildings to deliver. It’s not a singular focus but a more broad look at how buildings help owners and the communities in which they sit.”

The NIBS breaks this definition down into eight subcategories homes should address in order to be considered high performing.

  1. sustainability,
  2. cost-effectiveness,
  3. productivity,
  4. safety and security,
  5. aesthetics,
  6. accessibility,
  7. historic preservation and
  8. functionality.

Colker gives examples to explain why these considerations matter and how they relate to green home building. “If you were to build the most sustainable house, but you don’t pay enough attention to safety and security aspects, and there’s a natural disaster and the house is destroyed, you end up putting all those resources into a landfill, or you have to think about other ways to dispose of those materials,” he says.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how "green" a building is if it isn’t durable enough to last for generations.

Colker gives an additional scenario to explain why a home’s functionality is so important. Building a home that’s highly energy-efficient can lead to lower utility bills, greater comfort and fewer carbon emissions. But here’s something people don’t often think about: “If your home is super-insulated and you have a freak snow storm that knocks out power, being able to maintain a habitable environment in a home without electricity could be an additional benefit,” he says.

High performance buildings helps home owners and commercial owners stay safe, comfortable and healthy in over the long haul.  Now isn't that better peace of mind?