Editor's Viewpoint

With many clients, the values that undergird a new construction project—and the business plan developed for it—are often established long before the consulting engineer eyes the concept. On other occasions, however, the engineer is the first to be brought on board; and sometimes, a client's business plan for facilities is driven almost entirely by good counsel from a consulting firm.

05/01/2001


With many clients, the values that undergird a new construction project—and the business plan developed for it—are often established long before the consulting engineer eyes the concept. On other occasions, however, the engineer is the first to be brought on board; and sometimes, a client's business plan for facilities is driven almost entirely by good counsel from a consulting firm.

When it comes to sustainable or environmentally sensitive design, a committed client is essential. While operating expenditures are generally impacted favorably by "green" design elements, there is invariably a cost premium associated with the initial design and construction.

At the same time, many corporate and institutional clients have been convinced by their M/E/P engineering firms to go green. Here's how it happens: The consultant suggests a life-cycle argument for incorporating building features that conserve energy and water, limit pollution or reduce occupant health risks. The cost premium for the environmentally friendly alternatives is further justified based on lower operating costs, improved productivity or sheer promotional value, or all of these. The clients, as long-term building owners, often go along.

Yet, regardless of where the ideas originate, the fact is that most sustainable concepts hinge upon engineered mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Without strong technical support, coherent planning and effective integration, environmental gains can easily be squandered. Consider these green features:

  • Building-integrated photovoltaics and other renewable energy sources.

  • Grey-water and wastewater-treatment systems.

  • Geothermal energy and heat recovery.

  • Energy-use modeling and utility-management systems.

  • Emissions controls and indoor-air monitoring.

  • Integrated building controls and automation systems.

  • Stormwater management and recovery systems.

How successful can a project realistically be that includes such features, but does not ultimately rely on world-class engineering? It simply can't happen.

It's no shock that architects, corporate owners and environmental groups are taking all the credit lately for advancing sustainable design. After all, they're not shy about communicating, and they're happy to stand in the spotlight.

The real story—the full story—is that mechanical and electrical engineers made green projects happen, and deserve commensurate recognition.





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