Cost Effective Design


Cost effective HVAC design by AAA Energy Service Co.

Every owner wants a cost-effective building. But what does this mean? In many respects the interpretation is influenced by an individual’s interests and objectives.

  • Is it the lowest first-cost structure that meets the program?
  • Is it the HVAC design with the lowest operating and maintenance costs?
  • Is it the building with the longest life span?
  • Is it the facility in which users are most productive?
  • Is it the building that offers the greatest return on investment?

While an economically efficient project is likely to have one or more of these attributes, it is impossible to summarize cost-effectiveness by a single parameter. Determining true cost-effectiveness requires a life-cycle perspective where all costs and benefits of a given project are evaluated and compared over its economic life.

HVAC system life-cycle performance optimization begins at the very beginning of a project. Close team collaboration is required to develop the client’s short, medium, and long-term goals, objectives, and expectations related to indoor thermal comfort for occupant effectiveness.

These performance expectations must be written down plainly in the design documents so what the clients want cannot be misinterpreted or misrepresented. The Detailed Design Intent Document (DDI) becomes the living document that chronicles the building planning, design development, construction, operation, modifications, and performance.

The next step in the HVAC life-cycle performance optimization process is providing supervision throughout HVAC system design and installation, and during testing, balancing, start-up, and turnover. Revisiting the project throughout the first year’s operation ensures that the HVAC system is finely tuned to operate optimally through all the seasons.
This should be an ongoing process throughout the life of the building, providing annual certification where necessary.

To measure the effect of a new indoor environment on client satisfaction, an evaluation of occupants’ effectiveness/satisfaction in their current space(s) is necessary to establish a baseline for comparison. A post-occupancy evaluation of facility performance and user satisfaction with the new environment will determine if the client’s expectations for improvement have been met and, if not, what needs to be adjusted.

Degradation of HVAC system performance during the first five years of a building’s operation is a major problem facing most buildings. HVAC design optimization assures that system and component selection are made with long-term performance as one of the parameters. This means the systems’ operation and performance expectations will be maintainable throughout the life of the building.

If done correctly, HVAC systems, in combination with lighting and acoustics, can increase occupant effectiveness by over 25%, which can pay for a portion—if not all—of the construction costs. Just one year of the salaries of workers in a typical office building equals twice the entire cost of the building and 100 times the annual electricity bill. Also, a productivity increase of 10% creates a 30% increase in a company’s bottom line.

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