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Learn, zero, sell, people…

by Mel Starrs on April 26, 2006

in Psychology & Marketing

Queen's Building, de Montfort Uni

I’m unashamedly pinching my topic today from a great post over at Inhabitat last week on ‘The Next Big Thing in Green Building‘. Guest writer Jared summarises his finding from the Developing Green conference. His four key ideas were learn, zero, sell and people. What I love about this medium (the internet) is the realisation that the exact same issues are topical here in Leeds as 4500 miles away in Seattle:

Learn – post occupancy studies were all the rage when I began in this industry almost 10 years ago. The PROBE studies were in full flow and it never even occurred to me that people would ever NOT monitor what happens in a building once it’s built. Unfortunately the funding for PROBE dried up and the topic had since fallen out of favour. It’s starting to make a welcome comeback on most people’s radar. BSRIA have started a project ‘building bridges between FM and design‘ looking at feedback loops between building operators, designers and managers. The quote I liked the best was this:

‘Inevitably, one gets what one asks for. When one buys a cheap electrical appliance, one shouldn’t be surprised if it comes with a generic, badly-translated manual.’

Whilst searching for what ever happened to PROBE I came across ‘Usable Buildings‘ which looks to have some useful information, as well as an archive of all the original PROBE studies (over 20) originally published in BSJ. One of the one’s I particularly remember was the Queen’s Building at de Montfort Uni (picture above courtesy of Leicester’s environment city site). No.4 was co-written by a current colleague of mine, and Bill Bordass had a hand in most of the others (and seems to own the Usable Buildings website). Bill, along with Max Fordham, is one of the great characters and pioneers of the industry.

I’ll skip over zero (too much to write about that in this post!) and go straight to sell. As Jared quite rightly points out:

‘It is possible to develop a green building within traditional budgets and make a profit. But it’s more than life-cycle analyses and reduced operating costs. Jerry Yudelson, associate principal at Interface Engineering, and author of The Insider’s Guide to Marketing Green Buildings, talked about marketing value and quality. There is the immediate pitch to buyers upon construction, but the longer-term impact may be the bigger story. As energy prices skyrocket, buildings that perform more efficiently will be less risky investments and more valuable to future owners and tenants. And as more states and cities enact laws and mandates requiring LEED certification and other sustainable building practices, green properties will be more and more the norm.’

Translated to UK, read BREEAM for LEED and try to imagine the consequences of EPBD on the property market over the next 10 years. The way that property is financed, especially private commercial buildings, is not currently set up to complement this – the disconnect between who commissions the building and who ultimately pays the bills is too great. REIT‘s may improve the situation – we’ll have to see.

And this leads us neatly to people, or the folk who ultimately have to sit in the building, pay the bills and maintain it. Which brings us full circle back to learn. Neat.