The need for considering sustainability in the early stages of the building design process cannot be overestimated. The cost-effectiveness and success of any sustainable design depends largely on making key decisions related to sustainability within the conceptual stage.
Green building software, such as that offered by Sefaira, is the perfect solution for allowing architects and engineers to facilitate the sustainable design process. This type of interactive modeling software offers quantitative feedback on the environmental performance of different design decisions, making it easy to select strategies that provide the best possible outcome for the bottom line and for the project’s green goals. It also makes communicating which solutions are best suited to the project more concrete than ever.
But perhaps more importantly, early-stage sustainability analysis allows for the use of innovative techniques and designs that would not be financially feasible if incorporated later in the design process. The US DOE explores this subject in a report called The Economic Benefits of Sustainable Design in which they discuss a building designed with a standard HVAC system with a base cost of $2.4 million. Early-stage design modeling and sustainability analysis highlights the lifecycle costs of the current design, and potential energy savings annually when energy saving features are incorporated instead.
For instance, changes in the design of the building, including lowering overall lighting intensity, adding lighting controls, re-orienting the building, and adding skylights, may add $38,000 to the cost, but combined, these features could easily reduce lighting energy consumption by over 48%. This would result in annual energy costs of nearly $2,900, resulting in a payback of 8.7 years for the extra initial investment. However, had these concepts been incorporated much later in the design process, the up-front investment would have been much higher, extending the ROI significantly.
The report suggests several key considerations that impact project costs if not explored during the conceptual stage:
- Orientation of the building and lighting designs
- Selection of the site
- Reuse of existing structures and materials
- Overall size of the project
- Envelope considerations, including windows, insulation, wall thickness, and roofing
- Mechanical systems required, including air conditioners, water heaters, ductwork, and economizers
Any green building project will benefit from early-stage sustainability considerations and analysis, and Sefaira can help. Ask us how.