“Much more AFTER”

Tools for maintenance & performance documentation

By Elsebeth Terkelsen, Architect MAA, Aarhus School of Architecture and Olav Kirchhoff, Development Consultant, Association of Social Housing Organisations, BL, Denmark

The life of a building AFTER it is designed, needs to be an important focus area in the design process. But it is often forgotten. Architects and designers need to be addressed and made aware of their responsibility of including design of technical installations, accessibility of the technical installations, position of meters etc. in retrofitting and new building projects. Designers and architects should become much more aware and acquainted with the technologies for operation and maintenance of buildings in order to develop retrofitting and low energy buildings in our future society. The social housing organisations and the building owners should at the same time be better at demanding design of the management and operation of the buildings – new build or retrofitting.

Inspiration from USA

The project has inspiration from USA concerning two central elements in the methodological framework of the project:

  • Retro-Commissioning and
  • Evaluation, Verification and Measurement concepts.

The retro commissioning (RCx) is defined as the “systematic process for improving an existing building’s performance by identifying and implementing relatively low cost operational and maintenance improvements, helping to ensure that the building’s performance meets owner expectations”. See also article on “Successful retro-commissioning process in Lystrup”.

The methods for evaluating, measuring and verifying the pilot sites in the project are also developed on behalf of American experiences. AFTER uses the IPMVP (International Performance and Measurement Verification Protocol) as common basis to elaborate its own testing protocol. IPMVP has been launched in 1995 by the US Department of Energy (“North American Energy Measurement and Verification Protocol”). Its aim was to provide a general tool to quantify and assess energy savings created by ESCOs (Energy Saving Companies).

New tools

In the AFTER project we have developed a methodological framework and tested a set of “tools” to identify problems, possible improvements and optimizations concerning management and operation of new low energy and energy renovated buildings

The methodological framework of the project has been developed in cooperation between the scientific partners and the social housing organisations, associations, and the tenants’ organisations in the project.

As a result, the AFTER project has created a number of tools, which can help social housing organisations or private house owners to optimize their buildings’ performance.


When working with performance documentation it is extremely important to develop a set of definitions to be able to describe and compare the results.

The Handbook is a common platform with definitions. The Handbook gives the specification of the perimeter, metering units, nature and specific remarks to help the common understanding.

A big, but also well-known challenge has been to calculate the square meters as the basis for finding the right and comparable data for the energy consumption and the economy of the energy savings. The way we calculate areas in the different European countries is very different. But the Handbook gives an overview of the different calculation methods and points out the one to use to compare energy saving and economic results in the context.

An important element has also been the definition of baseline and metering period, and the Heating Degree Days.

You can access the hanbook here

Fact sheets

In 84 fact sheets we are describing all the energy saving measures that have been listed in the AFTER project. The fact sheets can be defined as a “catalogue of good ideas” for optimizing the buildings’ energy performance.

The social housing organisations and scientific experts have developed the fact sheets in cooperation. The focus is not only on the technical or managing issues, but also the experiences and tips for others, interested in implementing the energy saving measures.


An important, new element in the operation and management of social housing might be the Retro-Commisioning. It can be described as a building check in twelve steps and is the background for preparing a Master List of Deficiencies and suggestions for energy saving measures, improvements and optimizations.

The Retro-Commisioning (RCx) focuses on offices and industry buildings. In the AFTER project, we focus on the social housing sector, and the conditions in this sector. The results show that important elements in RCx and in revealing the problems in the buildings are

  • Registration of the energy use – big variations over the year(s) show, if action is needed. It might be technical and / or dependant on tenants’ behaviour or awareness.
  • Registration of tenants’ complaints can indicate that there are some technical problems in the building that need to be solved.
  • Interview with the caretaker might reveal bigger problems in the building.
  • A structured method with questions and documentation – like the RCx – helps the process.

In Lystrup (Danemark), for instance, the interview with the tenants and the caretaker revealed some construction failures, resulting in problems with the indoor climate, the temperature in the rooms and the comfort for the tenants. Fortunately the failure was discovered before the end of the guarantee and could be improved without costs for the owner.

A closer description of the twelve steps and the RCx process is integrated in the description of the methodology and can be found here

Common Evaluation Protocol or “M&V Plan”

A very important element in AFTER is the performance documentation. The Common Evaluation Protocol, or – as it came to be called in the project – the M&V Plan, describes the process to collect the different data necessary to evaluate the energy performance, the economical performance and the social performance, the necessary indicators, how to measure, by what means (meters), baseline and reporting periods.

The M&V Plan consists of all the practical information for measurement & verification of an energy saving measure. It follows the general structure of the IPMVP (International Performance and Measurement Verification Protocol), simplifying some of its aspects. Its main objective is to illustrate a process of assessment that can be adapted to every type of intervention in the housing stock.


The most important conclusion from developing and testing the tools in the AFTER project has been experiencing the importance and necessity of checking the building performance after finishing the new low energy building or the retrofitting. It was of course the thesis of the AFTER project that we could expect findings to improve the energy performance. But the lack of tools and formalized processes to measure and verify the performance was surprising. We generally had a big challenge in finding data.

The use of the tools has also revealed the importance of focussing on the design of the technical installations. Designers and architects should become much more aware and acquainted with the technologies for operation and maintenance of buildings to make it easier to see and control the installations for heating, water, ventilation etc. Dataloggers could be an integrated part of the building – strategically located e.g. to measure the use of hot and cold water, both for the information of the tenants, living there, and for the social housing company.

The social housing organisations and the building owners should at the same time be much better at demanding design of the management and operation of the buildings – new build and retrofitting.

Finally the surprises in construction and dimensioning of installations, lacking of setup of automatics, dysfunctional parts that were not known earlier, and – very important – the very few cases, where the measurement and verification of the operation and maintenance of the building was included in the management and operation of the buildings, calls for much more “AFTER”.

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