What I Learned at the GBI/Green Globes User Summit

Green Globes Summit

Industry meetings are a wonderful way to become familiar with and immersed in the organization’s mission. There are also presentations to increase awareness of new products and research.  These are 4 of my takeaways from the Green Building Initiative User Summit held Atlanta this year.

  1. Everything is Iterative

Iterations and revisions lead to better solutions.  The more we consider a challenge the more detail we add to the solution. That is what we mean by iterative solutions.

With each step towards a building design or efficiency strategy, we add detail.  Areas of consideration include:

  1. Building design aesthetic
  2. Technical drawing production
  3. Energy analysis
  4. Budgets
  5. Value propositions

Each iteration makes the decision clearer and helps to understand the building idea on a granular level.  Greater understanding and detail results in greater success.

  1. Leverage and The Payback Myth

Even for the home owner, success in real estate depends on debt and leverage. No one buys their home for cash, nor does an investment group buy an office or apartment building for cash.  They put money down and borrow the rest.  So why are decisions on building performance based on the “payback period?”  The better metric is cash flow.

The process of certifying a building is a commitment to a better performing building. The cost of the certification is a one-time expense which can be paid for over the life of ownership and the mortgage.  Consider the following simplified case: If a building upgrade costs $1,000 and saves $400 per year the quick analysis is that it will take 2.5 years to pay for itself. However, most investments are paid as part of the project financing, not in cash.  Therefore, the correct analysis is based on cash flow.

Saving $40/year means we save 33.33 per month. If that improvement adds 24.00 to the monthly debt, then the monthly savings (cash flow improvement) is $6.67 per month. Extending that over the life of a 30-year mortgage will result in a $12,000 savings for the $1,000 investment starting on day one.

  1. Value Engineering and Cove.tool

Value Engineering is often used as code for “cut the budget”.  Looking for the highest value, one must compare operating and capital costs.  There is a great tool on the market, Cove.tool (www.covetool.com).  It can be used as a plug in to AutoCAD and REVIT.  It can be used very early in a project, starting with very fundamental decisions such as orientation and building shape. As the project progresses, more detail is added. All along the way, on demand, the cost/benefit of decisions can be quantified relative to building performance.  The program comes with baseline estimated costs which can be updated with actual in-market information.

Cove.Tool is just getting started and has a very promising future.

  1. Energy Model Accuracy

While I have been a lifelong promoter of energy conservation, I was still skeptical of the Energy Model.  I have long been a full believer in the science and always wanted more information about relative vs. predicted performance.  The User Summit included a presentation by Chris Baker, AIA, PE, BEMP, BEAP, LEED AP BD&C and Dana Kose, LEED Fellow, GGP of Willdan (www.willdan.com) comparing projected to actual energy consumption. Rushing to the bottom line, the actual averaged better performance than projected. This is attributed to a greater awareness on the part of users.  Awareness is what changes behaviors and is the single greatest tool of the conservation movement.

I have attended 3 GBI User Summits, and each has exposed me to new thoughts and considerations.   I bring those new thoughts back to JLA so we can best support and advance your projects priorities and agendas.

-John W. Lister, Principal