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How Outcome Based Compliance Can Ensure Efficient Operations

Today's tip about outcome-based compliance.

Imagine this: You've worked with your A/E team for several years on the design and construction of your new corporate headquarters, and now instead of bidding farewell to your design team as the building opens, you work closely with them over the next 12 months to carefully tune and optimize the building to be as energy efficient as everyone in the initial design charrette had hoped. No more relying on energy models as the absolute predictor of performance. At the end of that year, you hit your targets! You throw a huge party and your CEO gives a speech congratulating the facility management team on a job well done.

Sound great?

If you're not familiar with outcome-based compliance, what it means is that after a building opens, you would spend a year measuring your energy data. And after that performance period, if you hit your specified target of energy use, you're in compliance. If you don't, you’re not.

Now there's a giant swath of details inherent in that process, many of which need to be worked out, but at the end of the day, the idea of the outcome-based method is to solve a problem that's been plaguing the building industry since time immemorial: How do you link design intent with operational efficiency?

Of course, there will be no one solution that solves that problem — rating systems, incentives from utilities and jurisdictions, and yes, outcome-based compliance, all have a role to play. But many in the industry think outcome-based compliance can move the needle farther and at a greater pace than any other strategy so far.

Outcome-based compliance would be a third option to the traditional prescriptive or performance methods. Prescriptive works well for smaller buildings as designers only need to comply with certain strategies, like a particular reflectance for the roof or glazing method windows. Performance (which is kind of a misnomer) works well for larger buildings. It is based on an energy model, and thus the total building energy use (but there's no requirement for actual data once the building is in operation - i.e., actual performance data — to be in compliance).

So the outcome-based compliance method is a true measure of how that building is actually performing. It could be a huge benefit for facility managers for a number of reasons, most notably, it reduces the chances a design team finishes a building, opens and commissions it, and then hands it’s often to the FM, saying "Good luck!" The design team likely will be involved through the performance period helping the FM tune and optimize the building. Additionally, though this may be a blessing and a curse, FMs will have a much greater responsibility and much greater clout in the design phase — as designers will rely on more on FM expertise on what works in operations and what doesn't.

This is all really just the beginning — it'll be awhile before outcome-based codes are the norm. But chances are they will be.


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