“Architects date buildings, but building operators…..we marry them.” This paraphrased quote came from a New Orleanian facilities manager and accurately reflects the need for more substantial post occupancy engagement from the architectural profession. The status quo solicits little follow-up from architects after the building is built, which represents a huge missed opportunity to learn about the successes or failures of our design efforts and to verify energy performance. EDR has been conducting long term engagement on projects since 2006, and continues to look for ways to enhance the breadth and depth of our engagement efforts.
Long Term Engagement
The following matrix represents the projects EDR has engaged with in post-occupancy activities. In the center of each thumbnail, EDR has calculated the projects’ actual Energy Use Index (kBtu/sf-yr) from collected utility bills. The upper right hand number represents the national or regional benchmark for comparison. Green-tinted projects indicate that substantial post occupancy engagement beyond energy benchmarking has taken place such as energy audits, temperature monitoring, and submetering, etc.
(units in EUI = kBtu/sf-yr)
Enhancing Post Occupancy Efforts
With our Director of Building Performance and Sustainability, Sustainability Enabler, and sustainability champions in each design team, we strive to execute the following types of post occupancy efforts on all EDR our projects:
- Energy Benchmarking - If we as architects are truly concerned with saving our clients money through energy efficiency, and if we aspire to be environmental stewards by reducing emissions, then understanding how our buildings actually perform is mandatory. To form the most comprehensive picture of energy performance, we document energy benchmarks and simulated performance throughout the design process, and we also collect utility bills as part of long term engagement. These comparisons between our design intent and actual performance provide the feedback loop needed to produce high performance outcomes for our clients.
- Building Manuals - Like any piece of sophisticated machinery, buildings need manuals too. However, they need manuals that go beyond merely documentation and address how to operate the building in the most efficient manner possible. Much of the discrepancy between modeled and observed energy performance can be attributed to the variability of how buildings are occupied and operated. We have observed on one of our multifamily projects, 930 Poydras, that energy usage by tenants can vary by a factor of 2 for similarly sized apartment units. This variability underscores the need for architects to take a leadership position on coordinating building operation manuals and occupant guides. These types of documents and training strategies go a long way in educating the building’s inhabitants about behavioral strategies that lead to realized and persistent savings.
- Post Occupancy Evaluations - Our notion of “high performance” goes beyond how buildings use energy and spans into how interior environments affect occupant comfort, satisfaction, and productivity. According to the Center for the Built Environment, over 90% of the total operating cost of commercial office buildings is attributed to the cost of employee salaries. Thus, how can we ensure how designs perform without collecting qualitative data (occupant comfort surveys) and relating this to monitored environmental variables (temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, overall energy use, etc.)? In 2012 EDR purchased a variety of logging equipment and have used it widely to instrument a variety of buildings and gain insight into the dynamic between energy and occupant comfort.