Embarking on a new building project?
Chances are good the phrase ‘building performance’ will come up pretty soon. Sometimes, the concept takes a back seat to big picture goals of the owner or developer. The design and program of a building, construction timeline, and budget can all be all dominant considerations. But prioritizing building performance early in the design phase may ultimately lead to a more successful and cost-efficient endeavor. Project teams stand to learn more what performance really means and why it should be a key part of their work.
So, what exactly is building performance? The truth is, definitions and perceptions can vary. There is a common misconception that performance is related only to energy use and consumption. Even if that were accurate, many stakeholders hesitate at the thought of prioritizing energy efficiency, believing it involves larger expenses and more complexity. While energy modeling is the most widely-used method of measuring building performance, there are additional defining features of a high performing building beyond efficiency.
Performance factors you may not typically think about include safety, durability, health, and comfort. In many cases, these elements go hand in hand. A high performing building should be able to protect its users from drastic climate changes and other external threats. It should also incorporate materials and construction methods that will last for the foreseeable future, ensuring the integrity of the structure persists.
Perhaps the most important aspects of performance are occupant health and comfort. These two things are often overlooked early in design but neglecting them is a mistake. Building owners need to understand and accept the human element of performance, working with collaborators to achieve standards that keep people at the center of the project. A building is a complex system, and while physical elements that make it up—the envelope, HVAC systems, materials, and controls—are critical for performance, none of them really matter if they’re not working together to serve those who will live, work, and thrive within the building’s walls. Comfort and health must remain at the forefront of decision making throughout the entire lifecycle of a building.
The first step to achieving high performance, in many cases, is simply setting goals. Architects and clients need to communicate clearly and effectively from the start, discussing the biggest priorities up front. Performance objectives will usually differ depending not only on the client’s wishes, but also on the type of building.