In Focus

Chip Henderson, AIA, CEM, LEED Faculty
December 2, 2012
In Focus

As long as we concentrate on what we recognize, we’re stuck on what we know. The AEC industry (Architecture, Engineering, & Construction) competes in a marketplace characterized by cyclical economic changes. As construction economic conditions improve, the tendency is to return to a comfort zone which is normally a business-as-usual or "I've been doing it this way for twenty years" approach. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on one’s vision of the future, societal objectives are continuously redefined.  Based on this awareness, AEC and developer organizations urgently need to acquire the flexibility and willingness to adapt to changing circumstances in a real and meaningful way.

The green building movement is a perfect example. It’s here, it’s needed, it’s not going away, and it’s changing. Every project has a vision for building performance, which may simply mean code-compliant or some variation of green-wishing. However, more and more project teams are embracing ‘verifiable’ performance. Whether in terms of; energy, water, or indoor air quality, the new matrix of true building performance will be demonstrated with ‘disclosure and transparency’.  Achieving real energy efficiency, reducing the cost of operations and maintenance and adding long term building value are consistently listed as the top three green objectives in today’s marketplace.  Current business practices based on superficial green marketing or green features added during the last stages of construction will not satisfy expectations going forward. As real performance numbers (dollars, kWh, and gallons) are benchmarked and disclosed with transparency of information, the professionalism and integrity of the project teams, including the building owner, will become obvious.

Adapting means clearing away experiences and practices – no matter how reassuring or successful in the past – to adopt new behaviors and explore creative solutions. We expect our homes and buildings to be energy and water efficiency, durable and low maintenance, sensitive to the environment, and especially safe and healthy, but how do you know if these expectations are being met? Answer:  performance will be verified, measured and reported. Defining and disclosing expected versus actual performance and properly managing expectations regarding the benefits of improved performance can be accomplished with a little leadership from the AEC industry.

“It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see” - Henry David Thoreau