By: David Hancock
We talk about building performance all the time: how a design works or doesn’t, how the building will perform in an earthquake or severe weather, how light shelves manage daylight, and whether a shading system works to provide occupant comfort. To date, however, the discussion about building performance has focused primarily on energy use. But as the notion of environmental sustainability has been extended to include social and financial sustainability (the triple bottom line), building performance concerns have broadened to include measures of program efficacy, occupant comfort, financial return, durability and other concerns.
Sustainability grew out of concern for atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) and their effect on climate change. The most direct measure of a building’s GHG generation is its energy use. This has become the single operating metric for building performance.
Our view of architecture is evolving. In the Beaux Arts tradition, building designs were illustrated as fixed (usually black-and-white) objects often unrelated to context. Today’s architects see buildings as dynamic processes rather than static objects, almost as organisms. We see buildings as having useful life spans. They have daily and weekly cycles; they change and require maintenance during their long lives; they require the input of energy and produce waste products; their systems need to be controlled; they have a nervous system of sorts (even more so with so-called “smart buildings”). And they exist and operate in relation to the environment.
The danger of focusing on building energy is that we may fail to exert equal effort in designing for higher levels of performance in a building’s other systems. As you will see, there are many possible metrics for building performance. This article sets out to explore building performance by discussing the numerous components that go into assessing how a building meets the needs of its various users... Continue to the rest of the article....