When our work is done, the building’s work begins.
Each building has its own life cycle, typically following these stages: design, construction, operation, demolition, and waste treatment. Each stage in the cycle impacts the next. As a design + build firm, our main focus is on the design and construction stages.
The Design + Build model we’ve adopted at O’Brien and Open Concept Architecture gives us an opportunity to look ahead. The way we do it, construction and design impact each other. If we look ahead even further to the building operation stage, we can have a positive impact on the building’s owners and occupants well beyond construction. All stages in the building life cycle can inform each other.
Building life cycle analysis (LCA) is a way to estimate the impact of our design and construction over the building’s entire lifetime. LCA tells us how well a building will perform. How much energy will it use in a typical year? How much will that energy cost? What impact will the building have on the people in it and the world around it? How often will mechanical systems need to be replaced?
An LCA will help us determine which design options are most cost-effective in the long term. A more efficient building may save time, energy, and money, even if the up-front construction cost is higher. A reliable way to estimate a building’s performance in the future is the key to helping our clients make smarter decisions.
The Path Forward
We are in the early stages of developing our LCA capabilities. Our aim is to reliably tell our clients which designs will benefit them the most over their building’s lifetime. Our 3D building models give us a head start. LCA tools take information that we store in Revit models to calculate the energy generated and used by the building.
Autodesk’s Insight program shows us how we can improve building performance. It analyzes the model’s energy efficiency, taking into account its shape, building materials, sunlight, and the local climate. Different building geometries, materials, and features affect the model differently, and Insight shows us what kind of impact those changes may have.
We have some work to do before our building performance analysis process is fully ready to offer as a service. There are plenty of tools available, and plenty of opportunity for these efforts to strengthen our existing range of services. We’ve made some great progress this past month, and we’re excited to see what we learn next.