Monday, August 31, 2009


The "green building" movement has been evolving for over a decade now, and has produced a multitude of ways of measuring the design of building efficiency. This can be confusing, since there is no unifying legislation, and there are different standards for pubic buildings, institutional buildings, K-12 structures and residences. In addition, there's a cacophony of standards in Europe, inasmuch as they more effective than US standards because they start with a fundamentally passive approach and build energy systems into that. This is known as Net Zero design; examples here from US Dept. of Energy.

What has not happened consistently is the monitoring of performance, as this article points out, and there's still much disagreement about how this should be carried out by facilities managers in order to make sure that the building is performing as desired. This is also opening vast new grounds for liability for professionals, since one-off design can be highly engineered but not tested, like products, in a "reality check" field testing process against benchmarks, much like the ISO 9000 standards for the technology field. Some firms are taking control of this process by involving the owners, and limiting liability to their fees for the "green" certification, as well making the contractor responsible for any deviations from design or specifications, and the owner's process of commissioning the building after construction is complete. The owner's responsibility continues thereafter, with the possibility of incremental improvements to a higher certification.

There's a move afoot to bring these standards and guidelines into compliance via the international code, ICC, so that with today's global building practice, there's a way to effectively design and build structures that actually perform without having to wade through layers of regulation and conflicting codes that produce "camels" for buildings. Until then, building performance will continue to fall short of the desired design goals in spite of everyone's best efforts. There needs to be a systemic approach to construction, as well as conservation strategies in power generation, fuels production and water conservation.