Question Of The Week: What Is A High Performance Building?

high performance buildingWhat is a high performance building? And what comprises an effective roadmap to creating and maintaining such an entity?

In 2005, U.S. Congress defined a high performance building for the first time, explaining it as “a building that integrates and optimizes all major High Performance Building attributes, including energy efficiency, durability, life-cycle performance, and occupant productivity.” Congress further clarified the definition in 2007.

From the National Institute of Building Science High Performance Building Council website:
Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007

TITLE IV – Energy Savings in Buildings and Industry
SEC. 401. Definitions.
(12) HIGH-PERFORMANCE BUILDING- The term ‘high-performance building’ means a building that integrates and optimizes on a life cycle basis all major high performance attributes, including energy conservation, environment, safety, security, durability, accessibility, cost-benefit, productivity, sustainability, functionality, and operational considerations.

In both iterations, and currently, the pursuit of high performance buildings encompasses a multiple attributes, related to construction, facility management, and other stakeholder types. This multi-faceted approach is not unfamiliar to facility executives, yet that doesn’t make it any less challenging, if the creating and maintaining holistic, high performance buildings is a goal.

In June 2016, Legrand, a global provider of electrical and digital building infrastructure solutions, released its third in a series of white papers examining high performance buildings. This most recent document highlights the growing range of performance attributes buildings are expected to achieve and observes that significant gaps remain in the influential “mechanisms” that shape this landscape.

According to Legrand’s research, for today’s buildings to be considered “high performance,” they must optimize across multiple attributes, including not only energy efficiency and sustainability, but also productivity, security and functionality, and they must do so cost-effectively throughout their lifetimes.Yet, as Legrand’s research shows, the building performance mechanisms available in the market today do not comprehensively address or incentivize all of these attributes.

While a significant evolution, there remains a gap between the full aspiration for what constitutes a “high performance” building and the performance considerations that are reflected in the range of building performance mechanisms1 on the market today, most of which are still heavily weighted toward sustainability and energy efficiency. There are encouraging signs that influential organizations in the building community see, and are acting upon, an opportunity to bring more coherence to what can be a complex environment for the building owner.

“Our latest white paper shares all of the current trends taking place in High Performance Building construction,” said Susan Rochford, V.P of Energy Efficiency, Sustainability & Public Policy for Legrand, North & Central America. “We published it to encourage dialogue within the building community about the path to achieving the full potential of high performance buildings, ultimately leading to the development of effective solutions that will meet the unique needs of all stakeholders in the industry.”

Utilizing a classification system presented in its second white paper on this topic, Legrand compared several performance mechanisms on how comprehensively they address the full scope of high performance building attributes. In particular, Legrand assessed the degree to which each mechanism addresses these attributes: (1) sustainable, (2) healthy and productive, (3) safe and secure, (4) functional/operational, and (5) cost-effective.

The resulting charts (shown below) can be a useful reference for facility management professionals. These charts reflect the degree of alignment as either: addressed (dark blue), partially addressed (medium blue), minimally addressed (light blue), or not addressed (gray).

  • Complete Perspective: The mechanism’s provisions address every aspect of this attribute.
  • Partial Perspective: The mechanism’s provisions partially address many aspects of this attribute. There is limited opportunity to expand the scope.
  • Minimal Perspective: This mechanism’s provisions minimally address some aspects of this attribute. There is great opportunity to expand the scope.
  • Not Addressed: The mechanism does not currently have requirements to fulfill this attribute. There is total opportunity to expand the scope.
high performance building
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With high performance acknowledged by the industry overall as an all encompassing term, it would seem all facility management stakeholders are pursuing this goal. Do you define it as such? And where are you finding it challenging to “connect the dots”? Please share your experiences or questions in the Comments section below.