New standard sets clear definitions of energy audit levels

The new ANSI/ASHRAE/ACCA Standard 211-2018: Standard for Commercial Building Energy Audits replaces the 2011 guideline that promoted best practices for audits: Procedures for Commercial Building Energy Audits, Second Edition. When ASHRAE publishes guidelines or procedures, these are recommended best practices. When one of its committees develops a standard, it is typically written in codified language, with the intent that it can be adopted in codes and ordinances by reference.

Standard 211 maintains the three levels of audits that most engineers recognize from the previous publication: levels 1 through 3. However, the new standard establishes the minimal requirements for each level, seeking to eliminate any ambiguity. With many cities and municipalities enacting sustainability and energy efficiency ordinances requiring periodic audits, there was a need to set a more consistent approach tied to defined levels of intensity and detail.

Standard 211 was developed to serve building owners and managers in their development of defined scopes for soliciting auditing activities, as well as for governmental agencies requiring audits within their jurisdictions.

Under Standard 211:

  • A “qualified energy auditor” is defined, including the required experience and licensing (such as professional engineer) or certifications approved by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines for building energy auditors and energy managers, (such as Energy Management Professional or Certified Energy Manager).
  • Preliminary energy use analysis and benchmarking are considered part of a Level 1 audit, which is largely qualitative.
  • In a Level 2 audit, the energy savings must be reported as a percentage of the base case energy use of the primary fuel affected by the proposed measure.
  • There are three normative (required) annexes, A through C, including a compliance form, requirements to calculate energy savings and standard reporting forms (which are available at
  • There are also five informative annexes, D through H, that include recommended report outlines for each level of audit, recommended data exchange formats, recommendations for building energy model calibration, methods for risk analysis and assessment and related informative references.

With an increased emphasis on energy efficiency and sustainability in buildings, the industry has needed a defining standard for audits for a number of years. Now, it finally has one.

For more information regarding Standard 211 and Hanson’s energy auditing, energy roadmap and retro-commissioning services, please contact Robert Knoedler at