Sustainability , Existing Buildings , and High Performance Performance Building Management

By now, it should be apparent that construction costs for a high performance building are not significantly high than “traditional” construction.   True, documentation associated with LEED can increase costs, however, LEED is not required, or even recommended for everyone.  

That said, what about existing buildings?  What project provide the highest return on investment? 

Typcially the highest ROI for sustainability initiatives can be achieved through;

1. better utilization of space (occupancy, space type, time …)

2. modification of user behaviors

3. automation (lighting and water controls, HVAC, energy management system(s), occupancy sensors)

4. HVAC (automation, retro-fit)

5. exterior shell improvements (window films, windows, weather sealing)

6. Lighting (high/higher efficiency lighting)

7. Power filtering and power distrbution systems 

via www.4clicks.com

Renovating Existing Buildings is the Key to Sustainability

90% of Construction dollars spent go toward maintaining / operating existing buildings, vs. new construction.  With that said, contractors, engineers, owners, architects, and policy makers should clearly focus Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings.  By 2030, a milestone date for many sustainability initiatives, 75-85% of all current buildings will still be standing.  Investing $170B in energy retrofits would yield 25%-30%+ in energy savings, a 15% ROI ! (McKingsley Report and others).

LEED Platinum, Gold, and Silver for  new construction is a great tool for awareness building / marketing, but will do little to reduce GHG, carbon foot print, and energy usage.

The new ASHRAE Standard 189.1, Standard for the design of High-Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings,  is a good start.  This provides for a 15 percent higher efficiency than the previous Standard 90.1.

What’s coming? Standard 90.1-2010, set for release this summer, is a potential minimum compliance standard, a 30 percent reduction in energy over 90.1-2004.

Attaining the above is NOT DIFFICULT, but rather a straightforward implementation of  practical, cost-effective, off-the-shelf technologies.

It will,however, be critical for large building portfolio owners to have insight into current physical conditions of their buildings (FCI – see http://www.fciworks.com) to be able to properly allocate reinvestment dollars between energy and operational needs.

Operational efficiency is CRITICAL, as buildings typically deteriorate in performance by as much as 30 percent in the first three to four years.  Simply renovating to “green” will not be of value in itself if not coincident with better building operations, maintenance, and associated capital planning processes and metrics.  In many cases owners can save 20% in energy just by improving operational and maintenance practices.

Lastly, ROI for many of the above programs can be less than a year.