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High-performance Building Standards

Summary

High-performance or “green” building standards are a set of procedures that promote best sustainability practices in building design and construction. Standards typically center around sustainable materials, resource efficiencies, and reducing waste, pollution, or other environmental impacts. One institution’s standards are created by adopting similar standards created by organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council, which promotes the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. There are other local and national standards organizations such as the Living Building Challenge or Zero Net Energy Building that support the development of green buildings. Once established, an institution’s staff and partners align around their chosen standards for all future construction projects, thereby systematizing greener practices. 

Benefits

  • Shifts focus from low first-cost construction practices to long-term cost effective operation.
  • Provides faculty, staff, and students with health, functional, world-class facilities. 
  • Better buildings can improve mood, productivity, promote health and provide an inspiring place for all building users.

Challenges

  • Energy savings alone can have long payback periods to cover extra capital needed to meet green standards.
  • Only fit for new construction projects and buildings with large renovations planned – typically a small percentage of the overall campus.
  • Certification processes adds complexity to design and build process and is an additional cost

Impacts

Greenhouse Gas Impact
Large
Economic Impact
Neutral
Feasibility
Difficult
Timeline
2-5 years
Maintenance
Low / None
Publicity
Wow, amazing project!

Greenhouse Gas Impact

Commercial buildings built to green standards can have over a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions.

Economic Impact

Green building practices have a large initial cost but will garner savings over the life of the building from reduced operations and maintenance, as well as improved productivity from a better working environment.

Feasibility

Additional time and money needed for construction projects needs to overcome “value engineering” and “first-cost bias.”

Timeline

Time from implementation of policy and standards to design and then construction of buildings can take several years.

Maintenance

Buildings built to green standards, such as LEED, typically cost 20% less to operate than standard commercial buildings

Publicity

Important in the architecture, design and construction world. Very visible project, thoughtful architecture draws attention. Examples/images of green buildings.