Three complementary approaches may be used in the evaluation of the performance of building control systems-simulation, emulation and field testing. In emulation a real-time simulation of the building and HVAC plant is connected to a real building energy management system (BEMS) via a hardware interface. Emulation has the advantage of allowing controlled, repeatable experiments whilst testing real devices that may contain proprietary algorithms. Building emulators have been developed by the authors in the context of lEA Annex 17, which is concerned with the use of simulation to evaluate the performance of BEMS. The paper discusses different approaches to the design of building emulators and describes the different architectures, hardware and software used by the authors. The problem of evaluating the overall performance of BEMS is discussed and results are presented that illustrate the use of emulators to investigate the influence of the tuning of local loop controls on building performance.