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Introduction and Overview


Building commissioning has also become a standard, critical component of the green building delivery process. According to the Oregon Office of Energy, building com- missioning is the process of ensuring that building systems are designed, installed, functionally tested, and capable of being operated and maintained according to the owner’s operational needs.23 Although building commissioning does not specifically address issues of sustainability, it demonstrates how the high-performance building process is improving the overall building delivery industry in the United States.

The building commissioning process has evolved from the mere testing and bal- ancing of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems at the project’s completion to include an array of services. Ideally, a commissioning organization becomes involved in the conceptual stage of the project, providing expertise during the design phase. Prior to the completed building’s delivery to its owner, the commis- sioning agent performs a thorough review of all systems, including but not limited to roofing, interior finishes, power, lighting, HVAC, plumbing, fire protection, telecommunications, and elevators. The building commissioning process is covered in depth in Chapter 12.

Summary and Conclusions

The rapidly evolving and exponentially growing green building movement is arguably the most successful environmental movement in the United States today. In contrast to many other areas of environmentalism that are stagnating, sustainable building has proven to yield substantial beneficial environmental and economic advantages. The USGBC’s market and consensus-based LEED standards have catapulted sustainable construction into wide adoption. Despite this progress, however, there remain signifi- cant obstacles, erected by the inertia of the building professions and the construction industry and compounded by the difficulty of changing building codes. Industry pro- fessionals, in both the design and construction disciplines, are generally slow to change and tend to be risk-averse. Likewise, building codes are inherently difficult to change, and fears of liability and litigation over the performance of new products and systems pose appreciable challenges. Furthermore, the environmental or economic benefit of some green building approaches has not been scientifically quantified, despite their often intuitive and anecdotal benefits. Finally, lack of a collective vision and guidance for future green buildings, including design, components, systems, and materials, may affect the present rapid progress of this arena.

Despite these difficulties, the robust U.S. green building movement continues to gain momentum, and thousands of construction and design professionals have made it the mainstay of their practices. Numerous innovative products and tools are marketed each year, and in general, this movement benefits from an enormous air of energy and creativity. Like other processes, sustainable construction may one day become so common that its unique distinguishing terminology may be unnecessary. At that point, the green building movement will have accomplished its purpose: to transform funda- mental human assumptions that create waste and inefficiency into a new paradigm of responsible behavior that supports both present and future generations.


1. Sustainability was first defined in 1981 by Lester Brown, a well-known American envi- ronmentalist and for many years the head of the Worldwatch Institute. In “Building a Sus- tainable Society,” he defined a sustainable society as “. . . one that is able to satisfy its

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