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Performing Arts: The Energy Story

Posted by
Roger Chang, February 03, 2015 at 12:00 am

Last week, I picked up my latest copy of Architect Magazine, flipped to the table of contents, and was excited to see an article titled: Performing Arts. Our firm works on many performing arts centers across the country and I thought the article would be about the building type, when in fact it was an article about building energy performance that I had been interviewed for last year! The pull-out quote at the beginning of the article was from me and I was admittedly initially shocked by the quote, especially if taken out of context from Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson's great article about the impact of human behavior on the performance of buildings.

Over the past couple of years,WRL has been involved in several very interesting projects with aggressive sustainability goals. To this day, one of the main challenges we face is data collection, both getting the data in the first place and then analyzing the data to create tangible action items. We started to see that for the specialized building types we work on, benchmark data is lacking. As Ms. Dickinson notes, many design teams rely on benchmark data derived from the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) which is based on a very small sample size of under 6,000 buildings. When one starts to filter the data by climate, building type, and age, there may only be one or two reference buildings to compare to. Whether a building is a high energy consumer starts to be very difficult to determine.

It is encouraging the number of private and public sector organizations that have taken on the energy benchmarking cause. The energy disclosure requirements of several major cities around the United States will create a significantly increased data set for practitioners to draw from. This data will likely feed back into virtual energy auditing (VEA) platforms like First Fuel and Retroficiency, which allow building performance to be analyzed with 15-minute interval energy usage data.

Thank you to Architect Magazine for bringing new meaning to "Performing Arts" and bringing focus to the need to tie the importance of the human spirit and innovation back to energy use and data.

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