Feature Article

Mouth, Meet Money: Case Studies of Outcome-Based Design

Performance-based incentives are a growing (and positive) trend. They’re not as risky as they sound, but there are some steps you should be taking to prepare.

There’s a dark underside to many of our recent high-performance projects. They’re not actually performing as designed—and owners are starting to notice.

The Federal Center South Building 1202 is one of those rare buildings in which actual energy consumption is lower than what was predicted during design. Much of that success can be attributed to the project’s performance contract.

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider
“With all the new energy benchmarking ordinances, more owners are starting to realize that their new buildings are performing worse than their old ones,” says Adam McMillen, P.E., the director of energy consulting at Seventhwave. McMillen’s team has spent the last nine months talking to many institutional owners and developers that have been frustrated with actual energy use being higher than expected, sometimes ending up double what was predicted during design.

After a building has been occupied, there’s a lot designers can do to make sure that it’s functioning as intended. But in these articles, we focus on earlier parts of the process, including RFPs and contract negotiations. We’ll explore:

  • How owners are holding teams accountable for performance promised during design—contractually and otherwise
  • How to set up a project for surer outcomes
  • What design firms should be doing now to stay competitive in a market that focuses on results during occupancy

The frustration with outcomes not meeting expectations doesn’t stop at energy; owners want to see outcome-based verification of strategies like indoor air quality upgrades and biophilic design. However, so far, the outcomes that teams have been held responsible for mostly relate to energy because those metrics are most clearly defined. Thus, the case studies presented here mostly revolve around energy outcomes. (See Verifying Project Outcomes: Which Metrics Work? for more about tracking other outcomes.)

Published September 7, 2016