Sustainability can sometimes be a dirty word in the built environment. For some, it elicits negativity with thoughts of over-budget projects and difficult checklist requirements. However, high performance building design (HPBD) can maximize every dollar of a capital budget and help an organization better compete. The business case for HPBD is compelling. It offers organizations a competitive advantage: a human-centered and outcome-based approach to design which can maximize financial investment, attract, and retain talent, and accomplish organizational mission. How? It examines ALL resources to develop, design, operate and maintain a capital asset. This includes budget, system performance, maintenance staff input, and mission capability to name a few. HPBD is not just sustainable, it is simply smart design. A correctly positioned asset will positively elevate everyone who touches or is touched by the place.
Our team recently shared a webinar which revealed an integrated approach to HPBD. The process begins well in advance of any specific project, especially in a campus environment. The following are a few key takeaways :
Start with Why + Storytelling
The foundation of HPBD begins with identifying your “why,” or the compelling reason why this approach and philosophy matters to you and your organization. What does high performance mean to you and why is it important? This is the story that inspires, that speaks to the mind AND appeals to the heart. Words are powerful. It might sound simplistic but writing out your narrative on why the built environment and this HPBD approach matters, is critical. Note: this storytelling happens before data collection. Compelling stories engage advocates and drive action, and can be reinforced by adding data that has context. In summary, HPBD begins with storytelling. Your first job is to inspire people about why the built environment matters and how it links to your campus mission and philosophy. Then share your narrative to identify champions.
Identify Clear Goals + Financial Impact
Once you create and share your vision (made memorable via story), identify clear goals and how you can assess their financial impact. This helps build the “table of contents” for your business case. The first consideration in creating goals is making sure they move beyond “table stake” requirements. A performance mindset (unlike conventional check-the-box) is more holistic. It takes a broader view and evaluates each campus, building and space to see if its use and performance metrics align with your vision (drivers). Second, the process of creating goals should be collaborative. Co-creating goals with a diverse group of individuals, including the people maintaining a campus and facilities, is important. It helps generate early buy-in, engages advocates, and ensures you are not missing critical elements.
Align the Right Tools – Smart Data Collection
A clear data picture demonstrates the short and long-term financial impact of your goals and how they impact your “why” narrative and story. Data collection should begin with the end in mind by answering the question: which data is most helpful in uncovering current state and achieving these goals? Often, where people get stuck is identifying and aligning the right tools and how to best use align them to capture a clear picture. There are a few critical methods for data collection that help with planning, analysis, and decision-making (all tasks which occur well before design) to deliver a triple bottom line-result. These include campus and space planning, lifecycle cost analysis, energy auditing and retro commissioning.
- Campus & Space Planning – Keeping an active masterplan allows you to measure your buildings against your established space and performance criteria, including your strategic plan.. A cadence of every 2-5 years ensures you don’t miss opportunities to leverage the assets you already have. Examine class loads (utilization rates) and use evidence-based design to determine quantity (too much vs too little space types), quality (user surveys – who loves what) and even criteria for healthy buildings/spaces. It could be utilization is low because of functionality issues in the room itself or that the space is in the wrong place on campus. Don’t just focus on data but also on the feelings and perceptions of the users, guests, and maintainers of the space.
- Lifecycle Cost Analysis – allows you to measure the performance of your existing buildings over their entire life. Too often, first costs are the focus. By focusing on lifecycle cost you open the lens on making good decisions on acquiring, owning, repurposing, or disposing of your buildings or building systems. It helps ensure any project dollars spent are impacting your long-term goals. Looking at lifecycle cost together with a business case for repositioning a building, space or system within your portfolio unlocks a powerful lens to help determine a go/ no-go decision.
- Energy Auditing – helps you understand your energy usage, ways to use energy better, addresses safety concerns and saves significant dollars by correcting energy drains or identifying energy conservation opportunities. Bottom line, you’ll learn how much improvements will cost, and how much they will save. Cost-effective investments to improve building performance – whether it’s low-energy LED lighting or building retrofits to pick up efficiencies, improve insulation, or smart ways to tune or upgrade heating and cooling equipment, can make a significant impact on freeing up money for attaining additional goals.
- Retro commissioning – answers the question: are your buildings operating as intended? This is one of the most underutilized tools to pick up efficiencies with what you already have. This data will help uncover gaps like simultaneous heating and cooling, air balance issues, hydronic balancing issues, and necessary control sequence modifications.
In summary, aligning the right tools helps create the “data picture” to support your story and helps you influence decisions and dollars. It is the foundation for educated planning and successful budget requests.
Position Budget Requests for Success
Plant and Facility Managers can create strong budget requests by reserving dollars to define target projects; this includes examining and gathering data on how buildings and physical plants are currently performing. With this understanding, managers can defend spending for the upcoming calendar year and carve out operational dollars for other buckets. A multi-year runway of iterative planning, active stakeholder involvement and budgeting helps prepare for:
- Comprehensive master planning
- State approvals
- Project-specific needs
- Strengthening your campus for today and continuously repositioning your campus for the future
Additional consideration: early knowledge of budget surpluses is highly valuable as those surpluses can be put towards planning goals.
Focus on Original HBPD Goals – throughout Design + Construction
Your original “why” narrative and data story need to remain front and center throughout design and construction. One way to do this is finding architectural, engineering, contractor and other partners that advocate for you. Integrate them in early assessments, and they can help you make informed decisions based on what was uncovered. HBPD is no different than any other project. Using your original “why” and project goals as decision-making drivers throughout the lifecycle of design and construction projects is vitally important to ensure you are meeting your original goals. For instance, project drivers help insulate from value engineering “slashing.” It also ensures project integrity: as project managers or design partners change – purpose and goals do not. Keep storytelling and sharing your HPBD narrative. The projects you are leading are reframing your organization’s future.
If you'd like to learn more about delivering a truly high performance building and ensuring that your project team and consultants are spending your money wisely, check out our recent webinar on High Performance Design as part of the APPA webinar series on behalf of EUA.