Step 2: Meet with your team and set a goal

Designing an energy-efficient building is a team effort. Schedule a kick-off meeting with the following people:

Architect

Architects are responsible for demonstrating that their designs meet building owners' energy goals, as well as functional and aesthetic requirements. Because energy efficiency no longer depends solely on efficient mechanical and lighting systems, architects can consider a variety of energy-efficient strategies — such as bioclimatic design, passive heating and cooling, daylighting strategies, and renewable sources — to reduce the energy demands of commercial buildings.

Engineer

A team of engineers can turn designs into comfortable, efficient environments and deliver systems that operate at only the necessary capacity.

Construction manager

A good construction manager will understand that energy efficiency is a priority. He or she will diligently oversee the construction process and take steps to ensure that your project is built according to your specifications.

Commissioning expert

The commissioning expert will participate in early meetings to understand the energy performance goals and design intent of the building. Once constructed, the commissioning expert will ensure that the building is operating as intended.

Future tenant

A representative from the future tenant can help bridge the gap between the design team and the individuals who will later occupy the building. This in turn can help ensure that occupants use building systems properly and efficiently. Tenants can also provide valuable perspectives on occupant needs and space use.

Once you have a team assembled, it’s time to set a goal. Choose from two types of goals:

  1. Percentage better than median

You can specify a percentage better than the national median for any building. For example, Architecture 2030 calls for all new buildings built in the United States to reduce fossil fuel energy use associated with CO2 emissions by more than 50 percent of the national median. It’s up to you to decide whether to meet or exceed that challenge!

  1. 1 – 100 ENERGY STAR score

Certain types of buildings are eligible to receive a 1-100 ENERGY STAR score, which ranks a building’s projected energy use relative to similar buildings nationwide. The score normalizes for weather, building characteristics, and business activity, giving you the most realistic picture of your building’s relative energy performance available. A score of 50 indicates typical (or median) energy performance. A score of 75 or higher is required to achieve Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR recognition. Once built, these buildings will use, on average, 35 percent less energy than comparable buildings nationwide.

What about percentage better than code?

Many design professionals set a goal to achieve energy performance at a certain percentage above the building code for their projects. This approach has significant limitations because it typically doesn’t give you an idea of the whole building energy use you will see in your bills. That is, most codes only cover certain energy uses in a building, so they don’t give you the whole picture. While computer models can’t always predict the exact energy use of the building after it’s open, setting a target based on the whole building and some expectation of how it will be used gives you a realistic target for which to strive.

Moreover, codes are based on a reference building, not real-world examples of how occupants actually use energy in buildings. This fictional comparison doesn’t give you anything you can use to evaluate your success once your building is in use.  Likewise, it doesn’t tell you how your building is likely to compare against similar buildings nationwide.