Ultimate Building Efficiency Requires Team Integration- Paula Melton

Ultimate Building Efficiency Requires Team Integration

“Systems efficiency” could be the next big thing in sustainable design, and integrated project delivery is how we’ll get there.

January 6, 2018

building efficiency
Going beyond zero

The report promotes integrated project delivery as a way to achieve the greatest energy efficiency.

Image: Alliance to Save Energy

How much more efficient can HVAC, lighting, and other building systems get?

Not much more while still remaining cost effective, according to a recent report from the Alliance to Save Energy(link is external) (ASE). In the face of these diminishing returns, claims the report, the best way to coax our buildings to save more energy is through systems efficiency. That means finding ways to integrate high-performing systems so that they perform even better as a whole. An example of systems efficiency is capturing heat from wastewater to pre-heat domestic hot water.

The report includes extensive recommendations for building professionals, policymakers, equipment manufacturers, and others.

To maximize the benefits of systems efficiency for a given project, design professionals have a central role to play, according to the report: advocating for and participating inintegrated project delivery (IPD). IPD is a contractual structure where key project members align their financial interests. This alignment demands an integrative approach whereby major players collaborate and resolve problems together, with the project owner as a central figure in the process. With IPD, architects, engineers, contractors, and facility management professionals might collaborate on how the architecture and the HVAC system can work together for greatest efficiency.

Other models, such as an integrative design process—where project team members collaborate throughout design and construction—may have a similar effect but do so without a formal multi-party legal structure. With integrative design, the owner may or may not be a key participant in the process.

“Integrated procurement models address fragmentation and process disconnects,” according to a statement from ASE. “The buildings sector is not currently structured to generate systems-focused building solutions.” Instead, with the design-bid-build contractual model still remaining dominant, systems are too often designed without interdisciplinary collaboration. The “non-linear” approach of IPD and other integration models—such as an integrative design process—can help, ASE says.

As part of an IPD or an integrative process, another tool that can promote systems efficiency is early energy modeling, according to the statement. That’s because different strategies can be tested in parallel at early stages of design to identify the most efficient solutions.

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