Please read the Eco-Structure Magazine, January/February Issue, page 14 ‘Correspondence’
The argument made in the letter is a common response to building projects we support. INTEP, the name of our company founded more than 35 years ago, is based on our "integrated planning" and design methodologies, not the traditional "value engineering" philosophy reflected in the letter. Our process of integrated planning focuses on holistically optimizing buildings on three levels: 1) Investment; 2) Life Cycle, and; 3) Sustainability Cost. Let me briefly explain by using Investment and Sustainability Cost as examples ...
First, Investment: The BioHaus, see the "Total Immersion" article in the September issue, is based on the German Passivhaus standard. This standard is rooted in the fact that, in the European climate and construction market, a building's heating system can be eliminated with a super-insulated building envelope and other measures. After 15 years of applying this energy standard, today's results can generate an energy-use reduction of 85-90% without any additional investment costs in larger building projects. We applied this standard to the BioHaus for the first time in a commercial project in the U.S. with the same energy-reduction results! My colleagues and I refer to this phenomena as "tunneling through the cost barrier" as outlined by Paul Hawken, Amory and Hunter Lovins in his book Natural Capital.
Second example, Sustainability Cost, or the cost to tomorrow’s global society. In response to the notion of “money as a resource," the words of Sir Nicolas Stern describing the global warming crisis comes to mind: It's “the greatest market failure the world has ever seen”.
The real culprit here is that traditional "value engineering" uses only the current market cost of the resource. It ignores the future cost of the resource – which is why we have a global warming crisis. Accounting for this total Sustainability Cost, I would direct the letter's author to the spring '07 edition of the McKinsey Quarterly (Download mckinsey_quarterly_107.pdf ), “A Cost Curve for Greenhouse Gas Reduction.” The chart from that report shows that greenhouse gas-abatement measures beyond "business as usual" (page 38) with "building insulation" leads by a NEGATIVE cost, or a payback of 150 Euros per CO2 ton by 2030.
Let me provoke future discussion with a final comment and question: We in the U.S. emit 20 tons per capita of CO2 while the global target goal by 2050 is 1 ton per capita. Since buildings contribute 38% of CO2 emissions and have a life cycle of 50 to 100 years, are we taking real responsibility with traditional value engineering approaches?