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How industry visionaries better align building life cycle performance with organizational objectives

January 10, 2012

When it comes to improving building performance, it's easy to focus on short-term objectives and gains, and to gloss over the long-term effects of the path taken or not. A common short-sighted approach is to focus on individual component efficiency (chillers, air handlers, etc.) without understanding system implications of how these pieces integrate efficiently, or how investments in efficiency upgrades ultimately support the overall organizational mission.

The system deconstruction effect – sometimes referred to as “cherry picking” or “low hanging fruit” – has been the norm when it comes to using “simple economics” such as simple payback to guide decision-making within an organization. This can lead to situations in which partial or incomplete actions are viewed as solutions to performance improvement.

That's why, when it comes to getting our organizations to implement an efficiency and performance improvement program, going beyond the “simple” numbers to capture the longer term view of asset preservation and the economic vision of the c-suite executives and business decision makers is a critical element.

The role of the visionary
Within the building industry, visionaries are taking a life-cycle view to align a building’s mission, embracing the role of facility operations and improved profitability while reducing life cycle costs – all with a harmonious, intra-system approach to operational efficiencies.

These are concepts that get business leaders excited. Improving efficiency and long-term profitability while sustainably reducing costs? That's the best of both worlds for leaders who have taken the time to understand the value of long term asset planning over first-cost, simple economics.

In the new era of energy cost volatility, there has never been a better time to explore a high performance buildings approach.

In the current economy, building owners and operators are simultaneously feeling continuous economic pressures while experiencing heightened social and environmental awareness of their buildings’ impact on the community, occupants and organizations they serve.

"We need to ensure that we have metrics which span all stages of a building’s life, creating great and productive spaces in which we work,” says Martin Townsend, director, Building Research Establishment (United Kingdom). “Ensuring, as we do, that the impact of every building in its construction and use is as efficient as it can be, by turning the data of performance into knowledge for facilities managers to do their jobs – and for occupants – so they can see the impact of their decisions.”

But as technologies and our understanding of building life-cycle dynamics evolve, it is clear that the desired outcomes need to expand well beyond “simple payback” energy economics of years past.

At first glance, one could conclude that these seemingly opposing factors put upward pressure on cost structures. However, visionaries managing these situations continue to develop and test innovative practices to serve building stakeholders more efficiently, reliably and responsibly while achieving goals to decrease overall costs.

Up Next: Part 2 - The 5 key Steps to Adopting a High Performance Buildings Approach