No. 16 . 30 August 2000 
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Commercial High-Performance Buildings

by Michael J. Crosbie, Ph.D., R.A.

If you wanted to target a single building type in the United States to reduce energy consumption and promote sustainable design and construction, commercial buildings would be a good (if not the best) place to start. Commercial buildings today have become the preeminent workplace, and their load on our energy consumption is substantial. There is a growing interest today on the part of building owners, facilities managers, architects, engineers, and others in the construction industry to design and construct commercial structures to get the most out of the least.

What Are High-Performance Buildings?

In a nutshell, a high-performance commercial building is energy efficient, has low short-term and long-term life-cycle costs, is healthy for its occupants, and has a relatively low impact on the environment. In terms of real-estate economics, a high-performance commercial building can help attract desirable tenants. These principles of whole-building design and construction can be applied to commercial buildings of any size.

High-performance building design is an all-inclusive philosophy, and such buildings are often the products of a team approach to the design of the building and its various systems. This design team should include not only the architects, engineers, occupants and owners, but also, from the project start, specialists in indoor air quality, materials, energy, costs, etc.

This design process also takes into consideration the interaction of the whole building structure and systems, and its context. In the past, research into isolated building components did not take into account how individual systems affect other systems. For example, a building that uses extensive daylighting techniques will reduce the amount of heat given off by lighting fixtures, thus allowing a smaller air conditioning system to be used. This whole-building philosophy considers site, energy, materials, indoor air quality, acoustics, natural resources, and how they are all interrelated.

One way to balance these many issues is to use a comprehensive building rating system such as the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. The building receives a LEED score based on these issues. (LEED was further described in ArchitectureWeek's "Greening" a Profession.)  



  • New Concepts Create Niagara Falls High School
  • Commercial High-Performance Buildings
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  • Two Bauhaus Buildings: A Paradigm Shift
  • Greening a Profession
  • Big Ideas Behind Not So Big Houses
  • Mockbee Southern Genius

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