Green trends in architecture and EPC
The effects of the pandemic in construction have been varied.
While many projects have experienced pauses or cancellations, sustainable design and construction firms are experiencing a more fundamental shift in market dynamics and the approach needed for moving forward.
Cohesive approach to managing environmental impact and human health
While sustainable buildings help mitigate our impact on the environment, projects that increase resource efficiency can also contribute to positive financial outcomes. As we understand more about COVID-19, there’s also a growing recognition that the built environment can mitigate the health and well-being risks posed by pandemics and other emergencies. Besides health outcomes, there’s a business element to new design practices as well. By helping workers and their communities stay healthy, employers also gain benefits to their bottom line, which has led to an increase in market interest. For example, by ensuring employees stay healthy, productivity and morale can be retained, turnover can be reduced, and insurance costs kept in check. Further, legal firms and insurance companies have also started to actively account for liability. For example, starting in March 2020, several meat processing plants have reported large outbreaks that resulted in a number of lawsuits. As such, besides the obvious legal and humanitarian risks, firms may need to deal with the public backlash against poor mitigation measures.
That said, there are still challenges to balancing the possible trade-offs between promoting sustainability while mitigating the risks posed by health emergencies, as these goals may run counter to each other.
A number of approaches to mitigating the environmental impact and health risks are being implemented, such as:
- Chilled beam systems in place of higher MERV HVAC systems
- 100% outside air with no recirculation
- Displacement ventilation to reduce room turbulence
- 40-60% relative humidity
- Geothermal heat exchange to improve HVAC efficiency
Growing standards for varying purposes.
One interesting trend in construction and design has been the growth of various standards in the industry. LEED continues to be the leading standard for sustainability; however, the demand for LEED certification has been gradually decreasing. The demand for standard certifications has become more nuanced as some firms are pursuing their own sustainability and health standards, and in the case of the Living Building Challenge, even standards for beauty and equity.
The Living Building Challenge is the ultimate green building standard for any building type around the world. Its goal is to create living buildings that incorporate regenerative design solutions to actively improve the local environment, rather than simply reducing harm.
“[More than 30 large general contractors] are collaborating
to … talk with manufacturers about healthier materials,
creating metrics and standards for carbon reduction, waste
diversion, water use reduction, and wellness on the job sites.”
– Jennifer Taranto, STO
With more involvement, contractors have become thought partners and are helping to further the sustainability vision for other stakeholders.
Governments taking a stand for sustainability.
Increasingly state and local governments have become more active in setting ambitious sustainability goals for firms. According to ULI’s Greenprint Performance Report (Volume 10), more than 31 cities have set energy benchmarks for buildings, including those for energy usage and carbon emissions.
Combining design, construction, and intelligent buildings.
While the industry and governments continue to further push the standards and building practices, there’s a role that technology will play in sustainability and resilience as well. Even in a LEED-certified building, sustainability can’t be achieved if IoT sensors and a level of data analysis aren’t incorporated to monitor and respond to energy usage. In the same building, pandemic mitigation measures can’t prevent an outbreak if there’s no way to monitor and reinforce employees’ adherence to social distancing protocols.
As the bars for sustainability and resiliency are raised higher, there will be an accelerated demand for building management systems, IoT, and artificial intelligence led platforms.
How can Kelly® Engineering help?
Kelly Engineering is an award-winning specialist in sourcing superior engineering talent and offers a full range of flexible, efficient talent solutions. As a true strategic partner, we enable your success. Sustainable building design and construction is a core specialty for Kelly Engineering. With 55 years of experience in sourcing engineering talent, we can help you find the right talent across civil engineers, mechanical engineers, industrial engineers, and engineering technologist roles, all while helping you drive profitable growth, sustainability, and innovative design.
We can also provide multiple solutions in this space:
FORE: Facilities & Operations Resiliency Engineering Solution
FORE is an outcome-based resilience engineering and consultancy solution from Kelly Engineering. With FORE, you’ll access the expertise of Kelly engineers, who work to improve your operational resilience, quickly and safely. Keep your business running as FORE engineers evaluate facilities, identify best practices in line with government guidelines, and create a comprehensive plan to implement change within your operations. FORE engineers also tap into our talent pool of specialized consultants to exceed the needs of any customer. Together, we’ll ensure a resilient workplace and safe workforce.
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
We provide tailored and scalable managed solutions that drive efficiencies, control costs, and minimize risk through our deep industry and talent expertise, so that you can focus on strategic and innovative initiatives that move your business forward.
Helpful info for green design firms.
We believe in sharing insightful information. Below you’ll find tips from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) to help your firm mitigate the legal risk of green design:
1. Recognize that your goal is for the project to achieve LEED or other green certification, but stress that you cannot assure, warrant, or guarantee such certification. Getting certified will be subject to the processes of outside organizations such as the USGBC, as well as the performance of the contractor, the client, and other parties to the project.
2. State in your client contract that you cannot warrant or guarantee that the project will achieve specific benefits, such as a given level of energy efficiency, lowered life-cycle and maintenance costs, or any credits, incentives, or grants offered by municipalities, government organizations, or other public or private groups.
3. Establish a reasonable standard of care by noting in your contract that you will perform your services in a manner consistent with the degree of care and skill ordinarily exercised by members of the same profession currently practicing under similar circumstances at the same time and in a similar locale. Be careful to avoid touting yourself as a “green expert” in any of your company documents, including your contract and marketing materials.
4. Acknowledge in your contract that in your quest to deliver a project that qualifies for LEED or other certification requested by the client, you may need to specify relatively new or untested products, technologies, materials, and systems. Be clear that these state-of-the-art resources may be of higher cost than traditional materials. Also, note that the client assumes all risk for
inadequate performance of new or inadequately tested materials they have recommended or approved.
5. State in your client contract that you are not responsible for project delays caused by others (such as reviews of the project by certification agencies), and that your schedule will be adjusted accordingly if such project delays occur.
6. Refer to the building owner’s and occupants’ responsibility for providing regularly scheduled maintenance of the facility and its mechanical systems. Identify which party is responsible for which element of the building and include the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule as an addendum to your contract with the client.
Be sure your attorney checks the laws in your state or province regarding contract provisions that transfer liabilities to your client or limit their ability to seek redress from you. You should also review the contractor’s contract with the client, as well as any agreements between the client and any LEED consultant or other certification body. Plan to address any concerns you have regarding contractual liabilities that increase your exposure.
ENR, The Top 100 Green Design Firms and Contractors, August 31, 2020
ACEC Private Industry Brief, Commercial & Residential Real Estate, Fall 2019
Everest Group, Engineering R&D in 2020: Who Will Move My Cheese?
American Council of Engineering Companies, The Last Word, July 1st, 2019
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