Introduction to CoBE

Why it’s important

Welcome to the Co-Benefits of the Built Environment (CoBE) tool. This tool will be useful to anyone who works with energy and buildings, wants to better understand the impact of their energy consumption, and is interested in reducing that impact. This tool may be particularly useful to building owners, operators, and investors, especially those in locations where buildings will be affected by climate policies in the near future. 

The CoBE tool can be used to assess current building performance, as well as for future planning. The tool provides a footprint of building portfolios— consisting of the portfolio’s emissions (greenhouse gas and air pollutants), climate impacts, and public health impacts of building energy use— while benchmarking emission intensities against climate policies. 

What it does

The CoBE tool calculates the greenhouse gas emissions, air pollutant emissions, climate impacts, and public health impacts of building energy use, and allows users to compare their emissions to climate policies. Users simply collect building energy use data and enter it into the tool, along with some basic information on their buildings. After entering data, the CoBE tool can be used for footprint analysis, or for evaluating interventions. In both cases, the CoBE tool provides estimates of reductions in greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, along with the consequent climate and public health impacts. To evaluate interventions, users can enter new energy use data representing energy use under different scenarios, and the CoBE tool will calculate a new footprint for a building with the relevant interventions. The users then can compare the impacts of any intervention scenario with their initial business-as-usual scenario.

How to enter data

There are two ways to enter data into the CoBE tool. The user can either enter building information manually or upload a spreadsheet with a list of buildings. See our walkthrough for information on how to enter data. See our growing list of case studies for information on how we used the tool to conduct what-if scenarios.

How it works

The CoBE tool combines energy use, greenhouse gas, and air pollutant emission data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). CoBE then estimates the health impacts of emissions using a peer-reviewed model that provides the total impacts of air pollution emissions for sources in each county in the contiguous 48 states of the U.S. and Washington D.C. Our paper presenting the detailed methods behind the CoBE tool is posted here.