Posted by: nedpelger | March 11, 2009

The Great Opportunity to Save Energy in Buildings

As WC Fields was fond of saying, “It’s time to take the bull by the tail and face the situation.” Buildings have a terrible record for efficient use of energy. The design and construction process for mechanical and electrical systems doesn’t work…well, it does work, but it works to get the lowest first cost and to avoid litigation.

We should be striving to provide systems that cost less to operate and maintain, as well as cost less to install and work well. We need to be looking at life cycle costs, not just what happens in the one year warranty period.

Why are we in this situation? For one, mechanical and electrical (MEP) consulting engineers can’t keep up with all the new technologies. Most of them use the simple design approach they learned when starting in the business and that approach doesn’t handle the complexity of current MEP options.

Also, the goals for building energy use are vague because measurement and reporting has never been focused upon. Search for good standards on how much energy a certain type of building should use and you’ll not find much decent information. This lack of standards for building energy use means no one quite knows what to measure or where the benchmark is.

This disappointing state of affairs presents opportunity. If you are involved in that aspect of the business, you should be learning more about this topic. I guarantee the situation will change dramatically in the next few years. It’s good to be aware of coming trends and position yourself accordingly. If you want to read more about Performance Based Design and Construction, go to and read the interview with Tom Hartman.

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