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February 27, 2014

State seeks to wring more value from its projects

  • A new executive order requires state agencies to use life-cycle cost analyses when they plan new buildings. The state’s goal is for projects to cost less to build, operate and maintain.
    Schacht Aslani Architects


    As design professionals, we strive to create higher-performing buildings that maximize their value for the owner over the life of the facility in three areas: construction, operations and maintenance, and program adaptability.

    Achieving high-performance buildings starts with a comprehensive approach to planning from initial funding to long-term ownership. It requires an iterative design process that utilizes real data, not assumptions, to inform decision making.

    It has never been easier to collect large amounts of data, including weather data, occupancy schedules, daylighting analyses and detailed energy models. Life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA) is one of the primary tools that helps us integrate this large amount of data into our process, and allows us to make informed design decisions.

    In a broad sense, LCCA is an economic evaluation of a building system’s total cost of ownership, including investments, acquisition, installation, operation, maintenance and disposal. LCCA can be used to calculate the total cost of ownership of mechanical systems, electrical systems, envelope systems and structural systems.

    Systems that have the largest potential life-cycle cost impact, such as mechanical systems, are most often analyzed using LCCA. Owners see a benefit from LCCA ensuring that decisions are made in the interest of creating buildings for the best long-term value, rather than the most inexpensive initial costs.

    New state requirement

    The LCCA process is not new, but we will soon be seeing more of it.

    Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order in August that will make LCCA the standard in public works procurement. The goal is to design higher-performing buildings that cost less to construct, operate and maintain. The order requires public agencies in the state to integrate life-cycle cost analysis in the design of buildings over 5,000 square feet.

    Read the order online at http://1.usa.gov/1kP6SfG.

    Several institutions already use LCCA, including the U.S. General Services Administration, the state Office of Financial Management, the Port of Seattle and Stanford University, among others. We also have been using this process to help guide design decisions on some of our recent projects.

    Schacht Aslani Architects is designing the Science, Engineering and Technology Building for Edmonds Community College. We are implementing an approach consisting of iterative LCCA and enhanced commissioning.

    Early in schematic design, a commissioning agent was identified and the owner’s project requirements were established in order to specify energy performance targets. Once these targets were established, an energy model was used to test the effects of daylighting, natural ventilation and massing on annual energy use. Due to the timing of this analysis, the resulting information directly informed the design of the project.

    Though LCCA will be a required analysis, when and how the analysis is conducted significantly affects the impact it has on a project. In order to effectively integrate LCCA into the project-delivery process, it must occur iteratively through design and occupancy in order to drive decision-making and validate outcomes.

    At the outset of the project, overarching project goals as well as building performance targets should be articulated in the owner’s project requirements. Ideally, these priorities are established by the owner’s team well before the analysis is started in order to establish decision-making guidelines.

    Within the LCCA process, design alternatives are tested against a building performance outcome. For instance, if the desired outcome for a project is LEED platinum, three alternative designs could be evaluated to meet that target, at which time the owner can make an informed decision about the total cost of ownership of each option.

    LCCA research

    Schacht Aslani Principal Walter Schacht sits on the state Legislature’s Capital Projects Advisory Review Board. Our firm, along with other industry professionals, was asked to participate in the board’s Life Cycle Cost Analysis and Energy Efficiency Committee.

    The goal of the committee was to research current practices of life-cycle cost analysis, identify current barriers to implementing life-cycle cost analysis in public works, and make recommendations to the Legislature regarding statutes relating to life-cycle cost analysis and design-build procurement.

    Other committee members were from the Port of Seattle, the Mechanical Contractors Association of Western Washington, McKinstry, Washington State University, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council, and the Associated General Contractors of Washington.

    At the conclusion of this research effort, the review board was left with a body of knowledge that they are in the process of sharing with different state agencies.

    With the executive order, performance-based design decisions will become increasingly common in Washington state’s public works. Consistent with integrated design, one of the values that the LCCA process can provide is getting the team at the table earlier in order to ask the right questions about optimizing the value for the owner.

    J-C Letourneau is a senior associate at Schacht Aslani Architects and the firm’s leader in sustainable building design.

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