Highperformance Buildings

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Many people have begun using the term "high-performance buildings" instead of "green buildings" or "sustainable buildings" because they want to emphasize what is gained from these projects, not what is given up.68 High-performance also appeals to Americans; we want everything turbo-charged and super-sized. A high-performance building is one in which energy and water efficiencies are high, indoor air quality is high, recycling rates are high, etc. This is a much easier concept to explain to most executives than a green building, which still sounds vaguely like a tree-hugger term. In my view, high-performance buildings are those that save at least 50% of the energy use of a standard building, compared with a database called the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Database, last updated in 2003.69 (The next survey will be conducted in 2007.) The table below shows an example of the information that's available from this database.

From this table, you can see that the energy-use intensity of buildings varies by primary activity; it also varies by date constructed (though not as much as you might think), geographic location (heating/cooling climate), height (stories), operating hours and public/private ownership type.

Average Energy Consumption of Buildings

Principal

Energy Consumption

Building

(thousands of BTU

Activity

per sq.ft. per year)

Office

93

Public Assembly

94

Education

83

Health Care (inpatient)

249

Health Care (outpatient)

95

Food Sales (grocery store)

200

Food Service

258

Lodging

100

Retail (non-mall)

74

There are so many factors entering into building energy use that engineers have to employ elaborate computer models just to compare a highperformance building with a standard or typical building. Next time you plan to have a building constructed or renovated, insist that designers deliver a high-performance building!

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