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Identifying Your Building's Mission and Beginning the High Performance Buildings Journey

January 26, 2012

In the previous posts in this series I've talked about how industry visionaries better align building life cycle performance with organizational objectives, and the five steps leaders should consider when developing a long-term approach to improving building performance.  

This week I will begin to further explore these factors in an effort to help you understand how to put the pieces together for your own organization. Let's begin with understanding what a building mission is and how it relates to the high performance buildings journey.

Identify each building’s mission:

From the perspective of the organizations that own, operate or occupy them, every building has a unique mission.

Real estate experts identify the mission of each of their buildings and work to create High Performance Buildings.  They have crisp answers to questions such as: Why does this building exist? Who does it support? What are the occupant’s objectives? 

The answers to these questions lay the groundwork for changing their facility strategies from cost and commodity focused to mission and life cycle focused.

Prepare to depart from convention when creating a High Performance Building. The time has come to abandon previously traditional, but predictably short-sighted practices such as the “run to fail” approach to maintenance or the once-typical laser focus on first cost at the expense of delivering on the building’s long-term mission.

Citing field research his organization conducted, Dave Hewitt, executive director of the New Building Institute, underscores the dangers of failing to be mission/life cycle focused when he says “the effects of operation and occupancy on energy use in buildings can negatively impact and, in some cases, overwhelm the efficiency designed and built into building systems." (White Salmon, Wash.)

A new way of thinking requires new standards and technologies

BREEAM (which served as the international standards basis for a generation of evaluation systems), Energy Star, LEED and emerging tools that support operational best practices drive users towards a life-cycle view for facilities.

These standards, along with other emerging data sources, such as that of the Federal Energy Management Program’s (FEMP) “Operations & Maintenance Best Practices Guide” (2010), pave the way to a healthier bottom line as well as a conscious departure from lagging practices like deferred maintenance.

In fact, FEMP suggests that “run-to-fail” practices result in facility operating costs that are as much as 66 percent greater than those deploying formal maintenance programs! 

I'll leave you with a few parting words from Hewitt:

“There are two primary areas of concern:  1) is someone paying attention to operational efficiency?  This is critical since research indicates that 20 percent of high performance buildings have significant operations-related problems that reduce intended efficiency; and 2) does the facilities manager or someone in a related role have access to the information and controls they need to really fine-tune the building from an operational perspective?”

Up next: Setting Operational Priorities, Understanding Tradeoffs and Measuring Against the Mission.