Research Study Evaluates Performance of DLR Group Green School Design
DLR Group recently collaborated with the Institute for the Built Environment (IBE) at Colorado State University for a research study to evaluate the performance of our green school design. When we began developing the study I was very excited about the opportunity to assess the impact of our school design, and specifically the performance of facilities we have recently designed with a sustainable focus.
We wanted to look at performance, both building operational performance and the effectiveness of education delivery. The IBE Team at Colorado State did a great job of collecting cost and utility data and comparing the schools’ performance to national and regional benchmarks. In addition, teachers and maintenance staff at each school were questioned to identify common perceptions and observations about the building’s role in educational delivery.
Evaluating the actual performance of a school post-construction and occupancy is vital. It’s the only way to determine if the intended design actually has been delivered to the client, and in school design I believe the ultimate client is the community. Without post-occupancy evaluation, it is impossible to know if a building is performing – both operationally and programmatically – as designed and if the public is in fact receiving a valuable return on its investment.
Personally, I also gained some valuable insights and new appreciation for the challenges this kind of research program poses for our K-12 education clients. What sounds easy, collecting cost and utility data, can be a challenge for our clients. To source and gather that kind of information is a time and resource commitment for organizations that are often challenged by a lack of time and resources. We need to make it easier to evaluate building performance. We need to make it automatic, second nature.
So what is the solution? Perhaps the best course of action is to ensure post-occupancy evaluation of building operations and program performance are part of the standard design services architects provide schools districts. If audits are the most effective way – the only way – to weigh performance, let’s do it.
Today, with digital tools, it’s possible for DLR Group engineers and energy experts to monitor the energy use and operational performance of a building in real time. Using web-based energy management tools, members of the design team can log in and watch a building operate, discover aberrations, and offer solutions to facility managers to improve performance. The cost savings through reduced energy use can often offset the cost of the digital monitoring.
Taking this next step requires a commitment by design teams and school districts that building optimization and enhanced education delivery is in the best long-term interests of students, administration, and the community.
I believe it’s then just a short step to forging a culture of energy management and appreciation with students. To make the building a teaching tool, to illustrate the tangible impacts that energy efficiency and high performance learning environments can have to affect real behavior change with students, and ultimately entire communities We learned a lot in developing, executing, and finalizing the study.
I am excited to share the findings of our green schools research study at the upcoming National School Boards Association Conference in New Orleans. Rod Oathout and I, along with Stephanie Barr from the Institute of the Built Environment will share our key learnings at 1:30 P.M., on Sunday, April 6 in Room 254 of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Click here to learn more and see who from DLR Group will be at NSBA