Report: high performance: making the buildings-energy equation sustainable

Monday, March 13, 2017

Practices, Paths and Technologies to Achieve Transformative Building and Energy Innovation

Skyscapers looking up in to the sun



Buildings-Energy Transformation is Possible Now

Transformation of the building-energy equation at an affordable price is possible today. It is not prohibitively expensive. It is overdue. It does, however, require change on multiple levels within industries long viewed as static.

The pace of change across American industry belies the idea that building sector resistance to change is irreversible. Rapid change as the norm is axiomatic in 21st Century management. Building industry practices are more likely the result of an information deficit than of things inherent in the building marketplace: even knowledgeable building professionals are frequently concerned that technologies are not on the shelf, not up to the task, too expensive for large scale market uptake, and linked to a vision for buildings that is at least a generation away.

Opportunity exists. The goal of this report is to provide a brief on what is possible, one that engages stakeholders and market actors to take seriously the prospect that building-energy transformation – not just improvement, but economic growth driving market transformation – can begin now.

The formula for change is not linear. Transformation will not result from doing better what is already being done. Rather, it requires new thinking – a new approach to buildings and energy, both separate and linked. The hallmark of building-energy transformation is that it must be based on systems viewed holistically. And though the basic formula can be stated simply, it has far-reaching implications for buildings in relation to energy, beginning at conception and carrying through to their retirement. Indeed, the life of the building needs to be crafted into the building at “birth.” That means first and foremost a shift in thinking about the role of building design.

Building transformation requires shifting from component specification to integrated design. That shift has vast consequences. To be effective, integrated design requires a new orientation toward building delivery, maintenance, and improvement over the life of the building. It implies new categories of thinking, new operations, and new standards. 

What building transformation delivers is high performance in energy productivity, life quality, and economic impact. Buildings cannot genuinely be sustainable without transformative performance on energy, life quality, and economy. And the proposition outlined here is that they can deliver on all three: building transformation can revolutionize what we get from energy, the quality of life it provides, and the economic growth it drives.

Deep transformation will begin when the marketplace is persuaded. This report is being presented to help make that happen.