From what I’m hearing as I venture out into the hustings, reconstruction projects are what’s keeping a lot of architects, engineers, contractors, and developers off the unemployment line. With the flow of new construction practically at a standstill, AEC firms are scrambling for reconstruction projects. 

January 03, 2012

That’s the main reason why we’ll be putting a much greater emphasis on reconstruction in the pages of Building Design+Construction this year, starting with this issue, our newly designed one. It’s where the money is, at least until the economy starts picking up and new construction kicks back in (don’t hold your breath).

The data seems to be supporting this strategy. Last month, the U.S. Green Building Council reported that LEED-certified existing buildings are outpacing their new construction counterparts.

New construction was the bread and butter of LEED projects for the USGBC’s first decade, but that started to shift sometime in 2008. In 2009, LEED-EB:O&M projects for the first time surpassed those certified under LEED-NC on an annual basis in volume and square footage, a trend that has continued for the last two years.

This is a welcome trend, because the real problem with the 40% of energy use that comes from buildings is derived from existing buildings. While it’s great to see the latest new LEED Platinum or zero-energy building come online, the country would be a lot better off if we could just achieve modest (20-25%) improvements in tens of thousands—even millions—of existing buildings and homes.

That’s something we’ve been preaching editorially and in our annual White Papers for years. Whether it’s LEED-EB:O&M, or LEED-CI (for commercial interior improvements), or simply an energy audit followed up by modest upgrades to lighting and HVAC systems, incremental improvements in great volume can have a powerful effect on energy savings and a concomitant reduction in greenhouse gases (don’t worry, I wouldn’t dare mention climate change).

Further evidence comes from the White House, where President Obama has pledged to find $2 billion from federal agencies to pay for upgrades to government buildings, as part of the Better Buildings, Better Plants initiative.

Supposedly he’s also received another $2 billion in pledges from CEOs, mayors, labor leaders, and university presidents to upgrade 300 manufacturing plants and 1.6 billion sf of commercial and industrial property. We’ll see.

So, look for articles like the case studies of reconstructed buildings starting on page 34 and technical articles on reconstruction like the one starting on page 40 in every issue this year.

Look, too, for our 9th annual White Paper on Green Building in the May issue. We’ll be devoting some 40,000 words to a discussion of why and how “High-Performance Reconstructed Buildings” are different from new structures.

We’ll be looking at issues like how building codes affect reconstruction. Whether historic preservation and green building can co-exist. What technologies and building systems need special consideration in reconstruction projects.

We’ll also offer an “Action Plan” listing specific recommendations for government entities, AEC professionals, and environmentalists to enact.

If you have a topic or suggestion for the White Paper, or for any subjects we should be covering in The Year of Reconstruction, let me know.

You can write me at: I look forward to hearing from you! BD+C


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