A New Paradigm for the Design of Sustainable Buildings

Apr 12, 2010

Despite advances in building science technology, many buildings do not meet performance expectations, and in some cases, fail prematurely. Why do we continue to design and construct buildings that underperform? Is it simply a result of cost cutting, lack of skilled trades, or lack of awareness of all of the loads and system interactions?

By examining buildings with performance problems, we can learn how to improve the design of new buildings. This examination includes both detailed investigations to learn the reasons for the failure to meet the expected performance levels, as well as a more holistic review to determine the impact of the performance problems on the other building systems. Many of the problems fall outside of traditional building design team disciplines and responsibilities. A review of the causes for a sampling of building performance problems in multi-unit residential buildings is provided, including water ingress, ventilation, and energy consumption problems, as well as a discussion of the implications of these problems on other building systems.

This review provides a basis for developing new approaches in building design and construction. We have the ability to build buildings that meet our performance expectations. However, if we are going to meet our future energy efficiency and other building performance goals, there is a need for a new design paradigm. This new design paradigm utilizes actual building performance data along with a systems approach in order to consistently result in new buildings that meet our expectations, and provides the means to effectively improve our building stock in the future.

Warren Knowles, P.Eng
Brian Hubbs, P.Eng
Paul Kernan, MAIBC
Graham Finch, MASc
Presented at: 
Building Enclosure Science & Technology (BEST2) Conference
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
RDH Building Engineering Ltd
Building Enclosure Technology & Environment Council (National Institute of Building Sciences)

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