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High-performance building stunted by lack of integrated design, says green building guru Jerry Yudelson

High-performance building stunted by lack of integrated design, says green building guru Jerry Yudelson

Lynne Simnick | July 31, 2012

The development of low-energy buildings is stunted, asserts sustainable building guru Jerry Yudelson, and he has a provocative explanation for his view. “Most engineers and architects know how to deliver low-energy buildings, but don’t do it because they don’t use or follow integrated design processes, or because they are not effective advocates for high-performance goals,” Yudelson writes.

“Don’t ever believe that budget or schedule is the reason projects don’t achieve high-performance goals,” he continues. “(The alternative and far less charitable explanation would be that they really don’t know how to do it, and are unwilling or unable to learn, or even worse, that they don’t think it’s important.)”


While most green buildings actually do deliver predicted energy savings (or better), the building team and owners don’t set the bar high enough, Yudelson says. “The larger problem is that the expected savings (typically 25% to 35%) really don’t do the trick of moving us toward meeting the 2030 Challenge goals.” What’s holding things back? “We’re aiming too low because we allow clients to set artificially low “paybacks” such as three years, instead of 7 to 10, which would be reasonable in a time of very low interest rates,” he says.

Designers can counteract this resistance by spending more time trying to secure owner’s commitment to performance results, Yudelson says. The building owner is the prime person driving high-performance success, and a holistic approach to design is critical to achieving a high-performance building, he concludes.


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