Why do building performance benchmarking for your clients, even if they don’t ask for it?

Dominique Davison / December 7, 2017

I have been practicing in the building design and construction industry for over 20 years and something I have seen over and over again is a pigeon-holing of project types into two categories – those that are sustainable and those that are not. The design team classifies the client in the same way – those that care about sustainability and clients that just want to get the building developed. It is treated as an either/or scenario that can shift how we engage with the client about critical performance related questions.

What if we approached the conversation from a different angle? Instead of putting developers/clients into these narrow categories that may or may or may not be relevant, why not look at changing the traditional approach?  By reframing the questions as they relate to the benefits that could arise, could improving performance become a key priority of every project?

For example, if we start the process with a new, private developer client and ask them – “would you like to incorporate sustainable elements into the design?” Sometimes the answer is “yes! I am passionate about the environment”. However, the more frequent response is, “well, I am interested but I don’t want to pay for certification and it’s not a prime priority” – or “perhaps, if it makes financial sense, I am willing to look at it”. This is because of a perception, often based on a past experience, of the higher cost and time associated with sustainable design and they didn’t see the value. This helpful graphic below, put together by the EEB HUB out of Philadelphia, describes many of the financial benefits of benchmarking.


Benchmarking example- learn more: http://cbei.psu.edu/benchmarking-and-disclosure/

When instead we pose the question of: “would you like us to study different designs, systems or materials to understand the long-term building efficiency benefits and maintenance costs of your building?” The answer is almost always “yes! That sounds great”. People want information to help them make smarter decisions; and early phase project benchmarking is a cost effective and time efficient way to provide this important perspective.

Having comparative benchmarking data opens the door for whether it makes sense to explore an alternate design scenario for energy and water efficiency, more in-depth, because the team will have a better idea of whether the payback will be there.

And that is how we as an industry are collectively going to advance our profession toward building a better planet – one conversation at a time – focused on what the client cares about.


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About Dominique Davison:
As a visionary in sustainable and building efficiency design, Dominique founded PlanIT Impact in 2013 to fill a void at her own architectural firm, Draw, where she is also a founder and principal. Under her guidance and vision, PlanIT has since evolved to encompass the needs of not only architects but also MEP’s, developers/owners and construction firms. By allowing building professionals to better understand environmental resource impacts at the early stages of the design process as well as better understanding a building’s ongoing efficiencies, Dominque’s vision is pushing the industry and buildings become “smarter”.

About PlanIT: With PlanIT Impact’s simple to use platform, teams can easily and quickly provide a comparative, simple-pay-back analysis for a client, of dozens of variables. The solution is used nationally by engineering, architecture and development organizations for benchmarking and better understanding the impacts their design decisions make.