Existing buildings are a key asset to the nation. However, they can become a drag on communities and the economy if they no longer meet the needs of today’s society. Meanwhile, the needs of society are shifting. Policymakers, building tenants and owners are placing increased emphasis on the performance of buildings, including sustainability, health and resilience. The existing building stock must be prepared to respond.
These are the findings and suggestions shared in the National Institute of Building Sciences Consultative Council’s 2018 report, Moving Forward: Findings and Recommendations from the Consultative Council. The report addresses ways to improve the performance of the nation’s existing building stock and outlines efforts undertaken to date and the challenges that still remain. The report is intended to be a starting point for a much broader dialogue across the building industry and with policymakers, and offers a number of recommendations to move forward.
There are over 5.6 million commercial buildings and 118 million housing units in the United States. The average age is 41.7 years old, but most are 15 years or older. The vast majority, both by number and square footage, are small (less than 50,000 square feet.)
When it comes to achieving high-performance buildings, existing buildings present a unique set of challenges. They are highly variable; no two are alike. There are limited opportunities for intervention to improve performance. Varying ownership models exist. Nearly 100,000 properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The electric grid infrastructure is in the process of transforming. In addition, policymakers and citizens have multiple high-performance goals for their communities.
The Council looked at ways to address these challenges, including:
- Financing and Incentives – While most building and home owners recognize the benefits that can happen when a building or home is upgraded, in almost every case, those changes require financing.
- Codes and Standards – In the U.S., a number of codes and standards developing organizations publish documents that specifically relate to existing buildings and the challenges discussed in the report.
- Materials and Waste – Existing buildings, both in their initial design and construction and in operations, have a significant influence on resource use.
- Workforce – To effectively execute retrofit measures and the ongoing operations and maintenance of existing buildings, the nation requires a workforce with the necessary skills and abilities.
- Information Resources and Market Drivers – Information is power. Improving the building stock and individual buildings requires information on their current status and a future state for which to strive.
The Consultative Council offers 11 recommendations in the report, including:
- Congress should pass long-term tax incentives that encourage investments in the retrofit of existing buildings and the establishment of an infrastructure to support such incentives.
- All building owners, including federal state and local governments, should identify opportunities to recognize personnel credentials to support achievement of their missions through both hiring practices and the process of procuring services.
- Federal agencies should support research aimed at identifying improvements to building codes and other criteria that can provide cost-effective approaches to enhanced building performance.
- Standards developers, with the support and expertise from federal agencies, should undertake standards development focused on the effective reuse of building products in recognition of their embodied energy.
The report was released during during the National Institute of Building Sciences Consultative Council’s Annual Meeting, held as part of Building Innovation 2019: The National Institute of Building Sciences Seventh Annual Conference and Expo. The Consultative Council brings together representatives from leading organizations that represent all aspects of design, construction, operation and regulation to examine important issues before the industry. Each year, the Council develops a Moving Forward Report to examine some of these challenges and offer findings and recommendations on how to overcome them. The summarized report becomes part of the Institute’s Annual Report, which goes to the U.S. President and Congress.