Performance Targets Helped GSA Ensure Expedited Bid Process Didn't Sacrifice Energy Efficiency
According to Thomas, GSA needed to use an expedited design/build delivery method to secure the ARRA funding, but decided to let the teams bidding for the project decide how they’d be able to meet the performance targets. “This was challenging,” says Charles Chaloeicheep, an associate with Built Ecology, the high-performance buildings consultant on the project. “We had to develop an energy model early in the process, and our bid was ranked on our projected performance. The first thing we actually did was a tenant plug load study.” That plug load study would become critical later as the team began measuring and verifying performance, and helpe ensure that the expedited bid process would not sacrifice energy efficiency targets.
In total, the design time for the project – a comprehensive integrated design process – was a mere 18 weeks, and ground was broken in July 2010.
“This was our first project for GSA where specific targets were part of the contract,” says Stine. “How exactly it would be implemented wasn’t defined. That allowed us to bring ideas to the table about how we could do that.” Still, as with even the most efficiently designed buildings, there are factors out of the designers’ control – most notably weather, plug loads, and occupant behavior.
“We don’t want to promise something and then not hit the target,” says Chaloeicheep. “Right now in the industry, people are getting away with that.”
You’ve no doubt heard examples of buildings designed to be efficient, but that use more energy than the model, or in some cases, more than even than a traditional or code-minimum building. That was a situation the entire project team wanted desperately to avoid – especially with taxpayers footing the bill for this building. But how would it work to hold designers, contractors, and engineers responsible – about $300,000 worth of responsibility – for the building’s energy performance?
“Before we started the M&V process, we developed a plan which spelled out responsibilities for energy end uses, assumptions we’d made in the model, and how we’d correct problems,” says Chaloeicheep. Essentially, the main thrust of this plan was a sophisticated metering system in which those responsible for doing the M&V during the first year of operations (and then, of course, forever) could decipher each energy load – HVAC, lighting, plug loads, etc. Then, each load was given a budget. “There’s lots of individual metering,” says Thomas. “I’d suggest this on every project. If there are anomalies, we can isolate them and troubleshoot the operational issues. But it was also very important and useful for accounting energy usage in the one-year M&V period.”
Indeed, the project team and GSA had to agree on which loads would be part of the “performance retainer” and which wouldn’t – as one example, it only seemed fair that plug loads or hours of operation beyond an agreed-upon baseline wouldn’t be counted against the energy budget for the contract. “This is the Army Corps of Engineers,” says Stine, “so they could go into emergency mode if there’s a flood or other disaster, and be operating 24/7. But through the metering process, we could determine when you’re not operating in our defined parameters. If we see spikes in metering data during weekends or after hours, that would raise a red flag.”
The project team consulted with GSA and USACE to define targets. “We worked with the Corps of Engineers to prescribe the parameters of their plug loads,” says Thomas. “That way we could normalize the data.”