Anaheim - Advances in technology have placed a greater emphasis on sustainable design and cost planning long before the construction phase of any green building project, Marn Heggen, of the firm Davis Langdon, told a group attending the Ecobuild America conference here in mid-May.
Heggen, a LEED Accredited Professional, emphasized that sustainable design is an involved process during her seminar, “Cost Effective Techniques of Green Building.”
“A year or two ago, building green meant putting bamboo flooring in your building,” she said. “Now, we're getting net-zero energy buildings.”
New construction projects can achieve one of four different overall ratings — basic certification, Silver, Gold or Platinum — under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.
Heggen said construction teams must include specific LEED goals in order to determine what level rating their project needs to achieve.
“A LEED checklist should be prepared at the start of the project and at every program stage that will highlight and focus the team on their individual efforts,” she said.
Heggen said team members should ask themselves what the cost and benefits are between two different rating levels, as well as the risks. She also suggested specifying design measures for meeting goals by asking questions such as, “If we are targeting 15% energy efficiency over benchmark, what design measures are we going to explore to achieve this?”
In addition, the process involves establishing team goals and expectations and determining the construction team's expertise, Heggen said.
She recommended building a design team by starting a LEED workshop and discussing and brainstorming the various design measures that the team wants to explore.
“It's amazing how much miscommunication there can be between designers and builders,” she said.
In addition to setting goals, the process involves establishing an integrated, or whole building, design with such practices as energy modeling, Heggen said.
She recommended that construction teams involved in green building use energy modeling as early as possible in the design process or hire an energy consultant if advanced energy modeling is necessary.
“Be proactive with other consultants whose expertise may be necessary and get them on board early,” Heggen said.
A final step in the process involves evaluating strategies with a cost model, Heggen said, adding that it is essential to align the project's budget with the program during the project's programming phase. Doing so will determine whether the construction team needs to reduce goals or increase the budget.
“Too often, projects move forward with a mismatch often due to wishful thinking,” she said.
Heggen added that proceeding with inadequate funding will lead to drastic reductions in the project's scope at later stages in the design process.
“It is in these cases that sustainable elements are most vulnerable to elimination as unaffordable expenses,” she said.
Heggen also recommended the construction team analyze energy-efficient measures to quantify energy and cost savings and conduct a life cycle cost analysis. Such an analysis is a financial tool for calculating the total cost of ownership over the useful life of a building, according to Heggen.
During her presentation, Heggen also outlined the results of a study conducted by her firm that compared the construction costs of buildings where LEED certification was the primary goal versus similar, non-LEED buildings. The study found that, in many cases, LEED buildings cost the same as non-LEED buildings, according to Heggen.
“Green is rapidly becoming the expected standard in buildings,” she said. “Build it green now, or retrofit it to green later.”