As the Earth’s population continues to grow and we place more stress and burden on our planet’s resources, Architects and Designers have a responsibility to promote, design and implement sustainable solutions in our projects. Even when certifications like LEED or WELL Building Standard are not project drivers, providing environmentally friendly design options promotes improved health and well-being for end users with realized energy savings for the client.
Design Assistance Program
At EUA, we encourage and educate clients and staff to consider design and construction strategies that use natural resources in prudent and environmentally wise ways. A great tool we use for our projects is Focus on Energy’s Design Assistance Program. Providing incentives to qualifying clients, Focus on Energy is a statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy program, funded by participating Wisconsin utilities, that provides technical and financial support to energy efficient projects. Focus on Energy’s Design Assistance Program provides design professionals, builders, developers and building owners with energy-saving options for the design of new or renovated buildings. Additionally, the program offers incentives to design teams and building owners, which can be used to reduce the upfront cost of high efficiency measures that exceed Wisconsin building code requirements.
Taking a holistic approach, the Design Assistance Program uses a customized integrated design analysis of energy-saving options for buildings over 5,000 square feet. Additional basic requirements for the program include having a participating utility provider and meeting the program’s timing requirements, but, with many different programs available, there is rarely a reason not to utilize Focus on Energy on projects.
How Does It Work
With the client on board, the design team kicks off the Focus on Energy process – applying for the program, managing communications and deadlines, organizing meetings – ensuring building owners are engaged every step of the way. After consulting with the project team and looking at various systems, Focus on Energy presents three separate energy packages and building owners determine which package is the most suitable for their project. With energy modeling and design occurring simultaneously, design changes influenced by the program inform an integrated and collaborative process for all teams.
For a large-scale hospital project, participating in the Design Assistance program can have significant energy savings for the system by simply requiring LED lights, lighting control, occupancy sensors and other fundamental energy-saving solutions. This was the case for our client Edgerton Hospital.
Utilizing a financial incentive from Focus on Energy, the hospital installed a vertical bore geothermal system that uses the earth’s natural temperature to provide heating and air conditioning. Not only can using geothermal technology improve patient comfort, but the hospital saw a significant decrease in natural gas costs, going from a previous $14,000 natural gas bill per month to $450 per month. Other qualifying sustainable features include a high-performance envelope, southern exposure and views for maximum natural light, natural ventilation, waste water recovery, windows that open in patient rooms and sophisticated lighting controls throughout.
Investing in an energy efficient building and indoor environment – lighting, air quality, mechanical system – creates a more comfortable space, positively impacting occupant satisfaction, performance and ultimately costs. Between 2017 and 2018, our clients received incentives totaling over $657,000 from the Design Assistance Program and, although sustainable practices may not be the top priority on your next project, saving energy can save your organization money – who doesn’t want that?
Emily McNamara, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Senior Project Architect