The story may be familiar. A proposed project has grand sustainability goals, green certifications and possibly even net zero energy use.
But cost overruns steadily whittle away the goals, with each design phase cutting back on the savings and certification targets, ending in the dreaded “value engineering” (VE) process. The final product scrapes across the finish line with something along the lines of “designed and built with sustainability in mind.”
The initial aggressive sustainability and energy conservation goals for proposed commercial projects are to be expected, given steadily growing interest in sustainable building practices, writes David Heinicke, a building performance engineer, for the U.S. Green Building Council. The 2015 GRESB Report found that 88 percent of the property companies and private equity real estate funds surveyed in North America have some type of sustainability policy. High-performance buildings frequently receive higher rental incomes, occupancy rates and reduced financing costs.
But a disconnect exists between the owner’s vision and reality. Sustainability is added on as a poorly defined goal that is only partially integrated into the building design, leaving it vulnerable to cost-cutting if the project is over budget.
The VE process can be the worst offender, because teams typically do not have time to fully assess the impacts of a cost-cutting measure on the rest of the design.
Integrated project delivery, or IPD, offers an alternate approach to maintaining project goals within the initial budget. The process brings all participants, including the owner, operators, designers and contractors, together early in the process to work out a vision and a budget as a single team, rather than the more typical linear handoff from owner to design team to contractor and then back to the owner.
The benefits of the IPD method is that energy conservation, water conservation or indoor air quality measures can be fully integrated into the building design and formed early on, rather than simply added as alternates. Sustainability goals that are not cost-effective or feasible within the project budget are eliminated right away, preventing time wasted assessing measures and design features that were never going to happen.
The best part about IPD is that facilities operators, energy modelers and commissioning agents can discuss big ideas and past experiences with the owner and architect before anything gets designed, to clarify everyone’s vision and prevent costly design changes.
IPD is slowly being adopted. Its methods can put sustainability on even footing with other project goals, allowing it to be weighed fairly against other measures when the budget is worked out.