While we often focus on that ways in which high-performance buildings equate to energy savings and “green” buildings, the impacts are much more widespread.
Such buildings offer other positive benefits to building owners, communities and the economy. They enhance work lifestyles, reduce operating/maintenance costs and focus in the longterm on the building lifecycle, according to the whitepaper, “The Drive for High-Performance Buildings,” by French firm Legrand.
Buildings provide vital functions in our social and economic lives. If you look beyond the fact that they offer shelter and protection, you’ll see that they also drive demand for design and construction services, along with building materials.
The need for such services and products supports millions of jobs, in turn supporting our economy. Historically, price and convenience were the primary driving factors behind building design and construction. But as energy prices rose, people became better informed about the consequences of energy inefficiency.
In its whitepaper, Legrand offers a timeline of events that influenced the focus on high-performance buildings.
The change toward energy efficiency began in the 1970s because of the US energy crisis. In the 1980s building energy codes were introduced. But in the 1990s the focus began to shift away from evaluating just energy efficiency, and instead there was some consideration around making buildings “green” and “sustainable.”
In the 2000s Congress defined “high-performance buildings,” as buildings designed and built in the context of larger human, environmental, and economic concerns, using high-performance building standards. And now, in the 2010s, building performance rating systems are more strictly regulated.
High-performance building operations take a holistic approach, according to Legrand. Everything from energy and water consumption to lighting is accounted for – the ultimate goal is sustainability and optimum performance over the lifetime of the building.
Legrand identifies seven key factors behind the move toward high-performance buildings:
- Market and Economic Influences: Investors and building owners want to improve inefficiencies to minimize risk and improve the value of their buildings.
- Security and Natural Disasters: Buildings may face either man-made or natural threats, including terrorism or flooding, and they need to be constructed to handle extreme conditions.
- Energy Security and Climate Change: Commercial buildings are among the largest energy consumers, and facilities managers are under increasing pressure to conserve energy in their buildings.
- Social Equity: America’s aging population and the Americans with Disabilities Act drives building owners to consider accessibility in their building designs.
- Changes in Building Design and Management: Modeling tools and other information tools, such as building information modeling, offer the ability to simulate and manage building performance.
- Information Technology: The Internet, and other technologies, are changing how people work and creating a unique demand for communications, embedded intelligence and the interoperability between products and systems.
- Codes and Standards: New building codes and standards set the stage for market expectations, and drive the higher levels expected in building performance.