This past March, I facilitated a panel discussion at the 2012 Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (, which had the theme, “Can energy-conscious design include a one-year guarantee from the designer and the builder?” The panel consisted of Bob Biggio, vice president of facilities and support services, Boston Medical Center; Paul Hanbury P.E., MEP department manager, DPS Biometics; Bill Aalerud, project executive, Columbia Construction, Inc.; and Jim Listen, P.E., Suffolk Construction, Inc., along with participants sitting in on this open forum. My goal was to discuss the practicality of changing the warranty phase to the performance phase.

I chose the topic based on my own experience as an HVAC design engineer who has used energy software in the past to determine design engineering capacities, identify the choice of optimum HVAC systems for the application, and to project the annual operating cost for the building. My past experience also included being responsible for technical services for an O&M outsource company where one of my responsibilities was to monitor our 24 million sq ft of building energy usage in the northeast.

Based on this experience, I’ve always believed that the annual building energy consumption could be estimated and the building could be built and operated to meet this goal. We discussed this belief knowing most design engineers will not commit to such a concept of projecting the energy budget in the design phase using building energy simulation (BES) software as the benchmark for  the “performance” phase (a.k.a. warranty phase) of a construction job.

ASHRAE recently launched a building labeling program designed to rate buildings according to their in-operation energy use by assigning them a building energy quotient (bEQ). The bEQ will measure energy use amount based on completion of an in-operation assessment that includes an ASHRAE Level I energy audit.

The panel discussion aimed for a head start on this quotient/measure by bringing the owner, design team, builder and trades, and facility operation together as a team in the schematic or criteria design phase of a project and begin the energy simulation so that a preliminary bEQ can be established and fine-tuned as the design process and pre-construction services evolve.

I must admit that in selecting the four panelists (I have known each of them for at least a dozen years), and believed they would be open-minded to discuss the concept/theme as it pertained to design, construction, and operation beginning early in the design phase and communication maintained throughout the project.

Based on the NESEA session we collected the following comments:

• The owner/operator must make the time commitment to participate because he is the keystone to the building program goal success.

• Owner must be a sophisticated individual(s) when it comes to the building program and design and contract documents, and must have a proactive O&M organization.

• The BES software needs to be adjusted as the job progresses and more information is gathered and decisions made.

• The design engineer, as well as the other team members, will be more engaged in the energy budget outcome, .

• Design engineers need to clearly define the sequences of operation early in the design for energy modeling success.

• Plug loads and unregulated loads, particularly in health care and research facilities, are a challenge to manage.

• The electrical design will require separate metering of electrical panel lighting and plug loads.

• BIM software can help with the energy modeling by incorporating energy budget per square foot based on the space (office space vs. research space, etc.).

• A list of reasons should be drafted, outlining reasons for a one-year guarantee so as to encourage owners, designers, and builders to buy into the performance phase.

• Construction manager’s value engineering recommendations early in the design should also take into account energy modeling.

• Trade contractors need to contribute to the guarantee process as part of their signed contract.

• Commissioning of building envelope will contribute to achieving energy modeling success.

• A one-year guarantee cannot be achieved with the design-bid-build project delivery approach, but it may be possible via construction-managed project delivery.

• A one-year guarantee can be achieved via the integrated project delivery method, and this can be further enhanced following the LEAN construction approach.

• All participants will need to buy into the commitment, and this will be a culture change for each member.


There was a lot more discussed at our open forum, but these are some of the important comments worth noting. If you are a believer, I’d love to hear from you. ES