and reduced absenteeism can dwarf savings from reduced energy use.In 1998, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) began working with the commercial buildings industry to develop a 20-year plan for research and development of energy-efficient commercial buildings. More than 250 people from 150 building organizations worked together to create a technology roadmap report which recommends strategies for making commercial buildings more energy-efficient. The overall goal of the DOE’s High-Performance Buildings Program is better buildings that save energy and provide a quality, comfortable environment for workers. The program targets the building community, especially building owners, engineers and architects. Building professionals are encouraged to submit plans for new commercial buildings to be a part of the High-Performance Building program. To participate, you must start very early in the design phase—before any other work is done—and must anticipate a 70% or more energy cost-reduction.
The DOE High-Performance Buildings Program
Although there’s no concrete definition of a high-performance building, InterNACHI defines it as a building with energy, economic and environmental performance that is substantially better than standard practice. It’s energy-efficient, so it saves money and natural resources. It’s a healthy place to live and work for its occupants, and has relatively low impact on the environment. All this is achieved through a process called whole-building design.
Whole-building commercial design considers all building components during the design phase. It integrates all the sub-systems and parts of the building to work together. Because all the pieces must fit together, it is essential that the design team be fully integrated from the beginning of the process. The building design team can include architects, engineers, building occupants and owners, and specialists in areas such as indoor air quality, materials, and energy use.
What are the benefits of whole-building design?
Benefits of whole-building design include:
- reduced energy use by 50% or more;
- reduced maintenance and capital costs;
- reduced environmental impact;
- increased occupant comfort and health; and
- increased employee productivity.
Employee productivity and business profitability are linked. Recent studies have shown an increase in employee productivity when buildings are designed with occupants in mind—natural light, comfortable temperatures, and a quiet work environment being their most important issues. Research suggests that a well-designed workplace can increase employee productivity by 20%. Furthermore, studies also show that a pleasant indoor building environment helps attract desirable tenants for building owners, increasing the number of potential renters for a building.
How much does it cost?
There is a growing interest today on the part of commercial building owners, facilities managers, architects, engineers, and builders to design and construct the best possible building for the allotted budget. Depending on the aggressiveness of the design, experience has shown that it costs no more than 10% more to build high-performance buildings. Some high-performance buildings cost less to construct. Sometimes, additional costs can be procured using cost-benefit ratios and life-cycle costing. The added cost (if any) of system investment each year is compared to the cost of fuel saved each year. Total energy costs are, on average, about 50% less than those for conventionally designed buildings. In many cases, the right-sizing of mechanical systems through passive solar design offsets the costs for additional windows and controls.Design Approach: Frequently Asked Questions
1. Will the building look unusual?
Many owners want to make a statement with whole-building design and sustainable features. Many other owners, however, are creating these buildings at little or no additional cost that appear no different from conventional designs.
Energy-efficiency does figure prominently in our designs, but there are many other aspects to design. The whole-building concept looks to integrating all disciplines to meet a set of goals for a building.
Many of the early adopters were municipalities and government agencies that recognized the opportunities for life-cycle cost savings. Anyone can benefit from whole-building design.
Yes. Corporations, universities, and government agencies are demonstrating that whole-building design can provide better working environments and cost less to operate. Students, employees, and non-profit community groups are all demanding and campaigning for the adoption of low-energy buildings.
Not necessarily. Some prescriptive requirements, such as use of photovoltaics, may initially drive project costs somewhat higher, but several owners have published data demonstrating their success in procuring green buildings for less than the cost of a conventional building. Look around for incentives. These include incentives from local utility companies tied to energy-efficiency, grants for renewable energy installations, and various tax rebate programs.
Most projects have achieved good performance using conventional building systems. In many instances, it is the effective integration of conventional systems, rather than the use of a new technology, that conserves resources and improves environmental quality. New technologies are used only after careful consultation with owners and the design team.
Whole-building projects are demonstrating that it’s not hard. For example, the fact that very few commercial buildings employ natural ventilation does not mean that it cannot effectively deliver satisfactory comfort year-round in many climates. In many circumstances, the techniques were used extensively before widespread use of air conditioning.
Removing highly toxic chemicals from a product or designing a fixture to use less water does NOT mean that the product will be less effective or have a shorter life.Design Guidelines
Because all commercial building components must work together successfully long after project completion, it is essential that sufficient time be set aside in the beginning of a project for design team development, goal-setting, and project-planning. A sustainable building can only be accomplished when everyone (the building owner, future occupants, design team) have the same energy and environmental goals for the project from the start. In short, everyone who is affected by this building in a decision-making position should be involved at the project’s beginning. Ultimately, the building owner is responsible for setting the goals and their implementation. It is the design team’s responsibility to translate goals and budget for the project into measurable benchmarks for design, construction, and operations so the project will be successful.Design
Traditionally, commercial building design choices are based on budget and/or time considerations. Single-building components are added or deleted to meet time or budget constraints without evaluating their impact on total building performance. Yet, basic design goals, such as minimizing energy consumption or maximizing daylight, cannot be done without understanding the impact of interrelations between the parts of the building, including window-glazing systems, the thermal envelope, mechanical system-integration, orientation, and floor-plate proportions. High-performance building design must ensure complete integration to achieve optimal building performance. These interrelations are very complex. As a result, computerized simulation studies are necessary to properly account for interrelationships. Water and resource conservation, along with recycled, reusable and non-toxic, sustainable materials should also be considered in the design stage.
Building construction is an act of creation than begins long before the first shovel pierces the ground. It begins with a statement of design intent, followed by creation of a performance program. Once these are approved, the process concludes with drawings and specifications, and then, finally, building commissioning during occupancy. Although simplified, below are some general guidelines: