A Word About Green Building Performance

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Professionals provide certifiable buildings in accordance with green building codes or green rating systems, and the specific requirements of the client. Prior to occupancy, the project has been verified by a third party to have been designed and built in accordance with the above requirements. However, the client must be informed that performance not only depends on their awareness of the strategies incorporated to provide a certain level of performance, but also to the fact that performance will begin to degrade the day they take occupancy, if not the day the components were installed. Oversight, monitoring and maintenance are essential to the continued performance of any green project. It is important that the client, owner or tenant understand what is expected of their ownership or occupancy responsibilities in order to maintain building performance. Additionally, an important responsibility of the professional is that of educating their clients as to realistic expectations of performance achievement.

Two examples were posted in the family section to help explain the responsibilities that must be assumed by the owner/user:

Some consumers express disappointment with the performance of their green home. For those who have new homes that were or are being built to conform to some level of sustainability, they need to understand that only the vehicle is being provided to them. The owner of a new car must not only learn how to operate their new car, but also understand the importance of scheduled routine maintenance to the continued performance of their vehicle. As an example, take two families living next door to each other. One, the Jane family includes the mother, father and two teenage girls. Next door lives the John family with mother, father and two teenage boys. Each family buys an automobile. Identical automobiles – same make, model, power train and accessories. The Jane family drives responsibly, managing their daily trips and usage miles, obeying speed limits and having scheduled maintenance performed as recommended. On the other hand, there is John and his two teenage boys. Jumping in the car at every whim, total disregard for speed limits and changes the oil and spark plugs only when the car fails to start. Guess which family achieves the performance and reliability they expected when they purchased their brand new automobile? This same analogy applies to a sustainable building – that sustainable building is as well constructed and finely tuned as an automobile.

A sustainable home is greater than the sum of its pieces. While each of the individual pieces have meaning on their own, it’s when taken together – working in unison – where the meaning changes. High performance buildings depend on these pieces being coordinated as a whole. For example, your sustainable home may use energy conservation measures designed to meet a certain performance level to save energy based on agreed to material and color selections. Change the colors from light to dark and flooring from carpet to ceramic and you’ve changed the original parameters. And, occasionally, these seemingly innocent changes are made too late, as the equipment had been installed. Now the dark colors reflect less light and absorb more of the sun’s energy and the ceramic tile acts as a heat sink. More artificial lighting is required, possibly additional cooling needed and certainly more electricity. A sustainable design and construction team are aware of the design and parts that must be applied before they begin the project. However, given the fact that not only was the new home designed and built to specific parameters, the home will begin to degrade the day the keys are turned over. The homeowner needs to be aware of their responsibilities to ensure continued high performance. And this requires an education about their home and its design and construction parameters (e.g., energy and water conservation measures, indoor air quality equipment and operation). A green lifestyle may require a change in lifestyle. Learning the importance of how to use water and energy to maintaining the sustainable products and equipment are all fundamentally important.

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