From Theory to Practice in Measuring and Benchmarking Design/Build Sustainable Architecture: Local Examples, Global Perspective

By Thomas Spiegelhalter.

Published by The Design Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In recent times, our attention has turned increasingly to the subject of global warming, climate change and dependency on fossil fuels. The fields of architecture and urbanism play a role in this critical focus with their reliance on these limited resources. The profession’s slow education, transformation efforts, poor sustainable practices, and its inability to reach the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change goal of the average CO2 reduction of almost 80 % to approximately 1.3 metric tons per person per capita in 2050 makes us question the effectiveness of their curricula and initiatives. Resource benchmarking for a greener tomorrow on a comparable global level remains inefficient. The situation calls for a rapid and fundamental reorientation in our thinking. Especially on the part of learning institutions, colleges, universities, planners and institutions involved in the process of construction and operation of building and city planning.
If committed advocates of sustainable construction cannot reach these goals, how will society adjust its relationship to the built environment in order to prevent apocalyptic climate change? How does academia and the profession, which includes individual practitioners, firms, and professional organizations, employ global benchmarking in countries with different socio-cultural backgrounds to identify, measure, and publicize best practices?
To meet these goals, new initiatives to create and disseminate the resources and tools are needed to integrate carbon neutral design and post-occupancy measuring into professional architecture programs and practices. The new objectives call for a vital modification of existing courses of instruction and training. Energy supply systems, funding distribution models, standards, as well as statutory regulations and laws will also need to be adapted to be in agreement with the new objectives.
The author will examine how existing or designed buildings and cities in educational institutes and the professional world should be measured with resource foot printing on a common metric scale. This can only be realistically applied and globally benchmarked when we consider interrelated life cycles of systems, materials, different household consumption patterns, land-use planning and a wider geophysical perspective. Any legislative efforts must be based on actual, annually measured building energy performance and carbon intensity rather than on modeled assumptions or samples from quasi exceptional national demonstration buildings. A new holistic approach is recommended. This includes comparing against systematic global best practices, rather than only national peer groups of buildings and cities.

Keywords: Sustainable Design, Rating Systems, Benchmarking, Energy Efficiency, Life-cycle, Greenhouse Gases, Policy

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp.13-32. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.557MB).

Prof. Thomas Spiegelhalter

Professor and Co-Director, Environmental Tech Lab, Sustainability and Design, Environmental Systems, Advanced Systems Integration, Florida International University in Miami, Miami, Florida, USA

Thomas Spiegelhalter has realized research demonstration work in Europe and the US in numerous contextual, solar, zero-fossil-energy, and low-energy building realizations projects; large-scale sustainability master planning, and redevelopment projects for abandoned post-industrial sites. Many of his completed projects have been published in International anthologies such in “Contemporary European Architects, Volume V,” 1997, Building a New Millennium 1999-2000”, both Benedict Taschen Publisher, in “Solar Architecture for Europe, Publisher Birkhäuser, 1996, in “The Architectural Review, on “Ecology and Architecture,” in 1998, in” Architectural Record-” DESIGN VANGUARD AWARD 2003 or in the monograph “Adaptable Technologies - Le tecnologie adattabili nelle architetture di Thomas Spiegelhalter” by Angeli Publisher, Rome, in 2008. Spiegelhalter includes in his master planning, research, and consultation projects multiple sustainability measurement criteria systems such as the ISO 9000/14000 standards, IEA Solar City, the European Building Energy Performance Certificate Methodology, the World GBC, CASBEE, DNGB, Energy Star, Cascadia, and the USGBC LEED rating systems. Since 1990, he has worked with numerous EU and US Universities to research on multi-disciplinary ecological engineering projects. As a result of his 20 years of design and built work, professional consulting, awarded research, teaching, Spiegelhalter has received 54 prizes, awards, and honors in European and US sustainability competitions.


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