4 Cornerstones of High-Performance Buildings

What makes a building high-performance? Is it efficient, green, healthy or smart? A truly high-performance building is all of these and more. Here we’ll lay out four key building blocks you’ll need to create a building that costs less to operate, is easier on the environment and is a healthier place to spend time in.

1. Energy efficiency

Buildings use a lot of energy and water, so improving building performance should start there. Use ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®, a free online available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to compare your energy use against similar buildings. Once you know your score, you can target the most effective energy-saving opportunities and implement an energy management plan for long-term savings.

Water efficiency starts with conservation. Install WaterSense®-certified toilets and fixtures throughout your facility. See EPA best practices for better managing your facility’s water use.

2. Sustainability

Commercial buildings generate 16% of all U.S. carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Onsite renewable power, such as solar and wind, can play a key role in reducing building emissions. Installing renewable power can require a significant financial investment. The Energy Investment Tax Credit can reduce your upfront costs. Some states also offer tax incentives for renewable energy investments.

Commercial buildings also generate plenty of solid waste — such as paper and plastic — that ends up in landfills. Find ways to reduce paper use and reuse packaging materials. Implement a recycling program throughout your facility. See Sustainable Materials Management from the EPA for more information.

3. Healthy indoor environment

Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can negatively impact occupant health and comfort. Many buildings have poor IAQ because of pollution sources and poorly designed, maintained or operated ventilation systems.

Common sources of indoor pollution include fuel-burning equipment, building materials and cleaning and maintenance products. Take steps to make sure these items are properly stored and maintained. Make sure your building is adequately ventilated according to minimum requirements set by ASHRAE Standard 62.1.

4. Advanced technology

A high-performance building uses advanced technologies — building automation systems, Internet-of-Things sensors and artificial intelligence — to make efficient use of resources and create a healthy and comfortable indoor environment for occupants.

For example, by connecting building automation systems with IoT occupancy sensors, you can collect and analyze real-time data about building occupancy patterns that can help you optimize lighting, space conditioning and ventilation — saving energy and improving IAQ.

Get certified

Building certifications not only give you a set of measurable goals to achieve, but they also help publicize your commitment to sustainability and indoor environmental quality. Well-known certifications for high-performance buildings include ENERGY STAR, LEED and WELL.

  • ENERGY STAR-certified buildings use 35% less energy than standard buildings and cost less to operate.
  • LEED-certified buildings must earn credits toward energy and water efficiency, sustainability, materials and indoor environmental quality.
  • WELL Certification is based on building features that impact human health and well-being — such as air, water, comfort and more.

With these building blocks, you can bring the performance of your building to a whole new level.