If you are following the myriad of problems associated with benchmarking energy consumption in buildings, you might be interested in reviewing the recently released U.S. Green Building Council - Chicago Chapter's report titled Regional Green Building Case Study Project: A Post-occupancy Study of LEED Projects in Illinois. The report analyzes the post-occupancy performance and costs and benefits of 25 LEED projects in Illinois. One of the report's conclusions and recommendations hits the nail on the head about the limitations associated with building benchmarking today. The report concluded that a "building's best benchmark is its own performance ... since every building is unique in its use, occupancy, operations, maintenance and systems ... other benchmarks, such as comparisons to other buildings (LEED and non-LEED, including CBECS and Energy Star) or any modeled predictions are temporal or limited in use ... more research is needed in the following areas to support building performance initiatives: standardized metrics, data collection protocols ... appropriate benchmarks."
We must as an industry demand that benchmarking data be statistically relevant and accurate. To rely on data with significant deficiencies just because "it is the best available today" will do more harm than good. To "force" buildings into a specific use category may be tempting, but it will likely only result in questionable conclusions and certainly add to the confusion that already exists in the market today. There is too much at stake to demand any less.
FYI: A standardized data collection protocol for building energy consumption information is currently being developed by ASTM. If you are interested in participating in this effort, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-238-1841.