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Guaranteed Energy Performance

July 24, 2014 - Energy Efficiency

Today's tip is about guaranteeing energy performance.

There are very few guarantees in life, and even fewer in the facilities industry. But try this one on for size: A design team guaranteeing, and staking a portion of their fee on, a particular energy performance after the first year a new building is open.

If you're a facility manager, you'd think such a guarantee should be the rule rather than the exception. It only makes sense that if a designer promises a level of performance, and a building winds up using much more energy than that promised level, the designers should be held accountable.

Designers see things quite differently. Why should they be responsible for how a building is operated after they design it to be high-performance, and commission it? If it doesn't perform, it must be either the occupants' fault, or the FM's, right?

This is, of course, a vast oversimplification — but the basic question remains: How does the industry bridge the gap between a building designed to be high-performance and a building operated as efficiently as they were designed? It's the $64,000 question in new construction these days.

One answer comes via a contract structure worked out between the General Services Administration (GSA) and a designer for a new Army Corps of Engineers headquarters building in Seattle. The designer and contractor each staked 0.5 percent of their contract that the building would hit a particular performance target after its first year in operation. And it did! It worked!

You can read more about this building and the details of its unique contracting structure in the June issue of Building Operating Management magazine. Needless to say, there are a few caveats.

Even so, all involved with the project say they strongly believe that this type of contracting structure is an idea whose time has come. Both the designer and the owner say they think this isn’t just a "showcase" project — that this type of agreement can be repeatable and can work throughout the industry


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