We offer the following recommendations in the hope that they will help step up the pace of high-performance building reconstruction in the U.S. and Canada. We consulted many experts for advice, but these recommendations are solely the responsibility of the editors of Building Design+Construction. We welcome your comments. Please send them to Robert Cassidy, Editorial Director: rcassidy@sgcmail.com.

May 11, 2012

7. State historic preservation offices and building code officials need to be more flexible in their interpretation of codes and standards, to enable “outcome-based” energy efficiency and whole-building design in reconstruction projects.

SHPOs are notorious for going by the book, especially regarding historic authenticity and aesthetics, but if more historic buildings are to be preserved, economic, environmental, and technological considerations have to be factored into the equation. SHPOs will have to be more open to compromises that improve energy and water efficiency in historic properties, especially as new, more economical technologies come on line.

Similarly, means have to be found, perhaps through performance- or outcome-based codes, for code officials to have more flexibility in borderline situations, such as scope of work questions. For example, how much renovation work should trigger a code-required energy upgrade? Fifty-one percent of gsf? Seventy-five percent? Or should code officials have greater discretion to determine if the renovation provides sufficient energy upgrading that no further work is required? These are tough calls, but if we are to create a climate that leads toward “the 99% solution,” these may be the kinds of judgments that code officials will have to make in the future.

At the same time, property owners and Building Teams will have to up the ante on their own skills in finding clever ways to introduce advanced technologies into historic projects without incurring the wrath of SHPOs or code enforcers.

8. Cities and counties should look to implement “aggregation initiatives,” such as Seattle’s 2030 District, for energy and water conservation in existing and renovated buildings.

The Seattle 2030 District (http://www.2030districts.org/seattle/) is a public-private collaborative working to create a high-performance building district in downtown Seattle, based on the Architecture 2030 Challenge for Planning (http://architecture2030.org/2030_challenge/2030_challenge_planning). The partnership is on its way to enrolling 88 million sf of existing buildings to provide innovative strategies that will assist property owners, managers, and tenants in meeting aggressive energy, water, and carbon reduction goals related to reconstruction and ongoing building operations.

Taking environmental upgrades to the district-wide level, rather than focusing on new, existing, or reconstructed buildings one at a time, is the necessary next step in a more volumetric approach to “the 99% solution.” Already, Cleveland has jumped on board and will be launching its own 2030 District this month (http://www.2030districts.org/cleveland/). The city of Milwaukee’s Milwaukee Energy Efficiency (http://www.smartenergypays.com/), or Me2, is using $60 million in ARRA funds to link up building owners with energy service contractors and private lenders. Upfront costs of improving energy efficiency will be paid back from savings in energy use.

Denver’s Living City Block (http://livingcityblock.org/) is another district-wide effort to reduce energy use, in this case a block and a half of Denver’s historic Lower Downtown district. The goal: cut energy use in “Lo Do” in half by 2013. The Living City Block has spread to the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Other cities and counties should be investigating these neighborhood-based models for sustainable building renovation as well.

9. The Appraisal Institute should lead efforts to educate the building valuation community on green commercial buildings, especially for high-performance renovations.

In our 2011 White Paper, we called for the appraisal community to develop model real estate appraisal standards for net-zero and other low-energy buildings. So, too, should the Appraisal Institute set its sights on developing standards for green renovations.

To its credit, the Appraisal Institute has been presenting education programs on the value of green commercial buildings, and it has begun to consider improved valuations for green-certified single-family homes5 (Information on these education programs is available at:
http://www.appraisalinstitute.org/education/prof_dev_programs.aspx). But the AI and the appraisal community in general need to give greater attention to the valuation of nonresidential green buildings—in particular, high-performance reconstructed commercial buildings—in order to create incentives for building owners to engage in renovations.

         
 

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