zondag 16 februari 2014

(Virtual) Reality

Since we want to build as sustainably as possible, we decided to use the BREEAM certification system for definition and verification of our goals. BREEAM stands for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method. It is an international certification system for "green" buildings that originates in the UK. Over 250.000 buildings have already been certified worldwide. The independent professional assessors award 1 to 5 stars based on measured performance in the categories Materials, Energy, Health, Ecology, Transport,  Pollution, Waste, Water and Management.

The main reason we decided in favour of BREEAM is that it measures the actual measured performance of the building (reality), as opposed to scoring a building on the basis of its design only (virtual reality). As machinery manufacturer we know how essential it is to judge something by its actual performance. We continuously fine-tune our dryer and cooler design models based on measured feedback from the field. Without such a feedback loop there is no real progress.

Another big plus of BREEAM is that it not only judges environmental aspects but also health and well-being of users of the building. Staying healthy and working in a comfortable building is a prerequisite for employees to be able to contribute to the goals of People, Planet and Profit. Breeam does that by setting strict limits on air quality, noise levels, building materials etc.

To do this properly you need to completely integrate the BREEAM guidelines (hundreds of pages) into the design process from day 1. We set ourselves goals for each of the above criteria that would allow us to achieve the highest possible score under BREEAM: 5 stars/Outstanding. Then we optimised every design decision to take those goals into account. 

This way BREEAM forces you to take better decisions and to take a real long term perspective. For example, by using financial Life Cycle Analysis it shows you how only a 0,1% reduction in employee sickness during 20 years can justify a big extra investment in top quality air systems to avoid "sick building syndrome". Or how intensive cooperation with the building's users and neighbours in the early design stages leads to a better design and a smoother approval process.

Obviously the biggest disadvantage of such a certification system is the cost. It easily adds the same amount of money to your budget as covering a big part of the roof with solar panels :-) But as a percentage of total construction cost it is less than 1%. That additional investment is easily recovered in extra quality of the building. And of course in knowing that all the extra effort leads to a more healthy and sustainable building, not only in "virtual reality" but also in "reality".

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