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Most buildings that will be in existence in 2030 are already here today. So an average 22 percent savings across around 75 billion square feet in the United States ends up being a lot of cost, energy and emissions avoidance. No doubt the biggest opportunity is in existing buildings. But what about the new buildings we are designing and putting into service? Why wait until the operations phase of a building to begin? Why not tie the design and construction teams to building performance? The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) released a guide in 2004 detailing a possible model to this approach. According to RMI:
So what about the potential reward or associated risk for failure to meet performance goals? The report goes on to say that "the incentive can be viewed as the net present value of the energy savings over a fixed time period, usually in the neighborhood of five years. Similarly, the penalty can be viewed as the net present value of the increased energy cost over that same time period."
The contract aspect of this model may be why it isn't implemented more frequently. That and determining the value of the incentive/penalty is found through an energy model, which, by definition, is not a predictor of how a building will actually perform. But over time as firms work within this construct, acceptable ranges of values should become more easily calculated.
Additionally, an owner should contract with the commissioning authority through design and construction and into the first five years of operation at a minimum. This preserves the high performance items paid for during design and construction and provides continuity across all major phases of a building's life. A building will achieve maximum success with a staff that was present during the building's early history — a staff with the wisdom gained only through being present. Each building is unique in regard to where it has been and where it is going operationally and the more institutionalized this knowledge, the better.
Buildings are tremendously complex, and even the simplest of them requires a highly trained team of professionals to design, construct and eventually operate. But if we can make the design and construction process more deliberate and inclusive while further improving the standard by which we manage and operate buildings, we will be able to meet the goals of the 2030 Commitment, maintain that level of performance and begin to reach for the brass ring of restorative and regenerative buildings.
No amount of remote monitoring, dashboards or other "technology" can solve this problem. Having access to and then monitoring data is important and should not be overlooked, but the only real solution is a new standard of care that includes a model of persistence that only an ongoing commissioning program can provide.
Jamie Qualk, LEED AP BD+C, is vice president of SSRCx and team leader for Sustainable Solutions Group. SSRCx is a division of Smith Seckman Reid engineering design and facility consulting firm. He lectures in the Civil Engineering department of Vanderbilt University regarding sustainability and construction and also at Lipscomb University in the Institute for Sustainable Practice. You can follow him on Twitter @Jamie_Qualk or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three Steps to an Ongoing Commissioning Plan
A comprehensive ongoing commissioning program can include the following elements:
1. Initial assessment phase including — less time intensive, less potential for savings
2. Comprehensive assessment and implementation phase that requires high level owner involvement — more time intensive, higher potential for savings
3. Persistence or ongoing phase — recurring commitment, required to maintain savings
— Jamie Qualk
U.S. Green Building Council
IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIR
Tie Design and Construction Teams To Building Performance