Center for Sustainable Business Practices

High Performance Building Technology

The objective of the The High Performance Building Technology (HPBT) Initiative, funded by the Cleveland Foundation, is to mainstream HPBT—also referred to as green or integrated building—as an economic and workforce development driver in Northeast Ohio (NEO). This includes economic growth, job creation and retention through demand for high performance buildings and related technologies; increased workforce competitiveness and increased collaboration and dialogue among the environmental, economic development and social/political leadership.

What are high performance buildings?

A high performance building is one that generates a high return on investment for the environment, the building owners and managers, the human and organizational occupants, and the community. In more specific terms, high performance buildings are energy efficient, have low short-term and long-term life-cycle costs, are safe and healthy for occupants, initially minimize negative impact on the environment and ultimately have a restorative impact. Objectives include the tangible savings associated with energy, water and waste efficiencies as well as the “softer” benefits, such as human health and productivity, impact on the environment and incorporation of recycled content materials.

High performance buildings require an integrated and team driven approach that brings together various experts in the early stages of planning, design and construction conceptualization. The process requires thinking about the building and its site as a series of interlinked and interdependent systems and relies on simple techniques for design such as the manipulation of land features, building form and exterior materials to manage the climate and get the most out of the materials at hand before involving electrical and mechanical assistance from energy-driven heating, cooling and lighting systems.

What makes them different? (Clue: It’s the systems)

High performance building technology refers to the whole system, or industry, of expertise, practices, processes and products required for the planning, design, development, implementation and operation of high performance buildings. Used in this context, technology has a broad connotation referring to the processes by which an organization transforms labor, capital, materials, and information into products and services of greater value. It extends beyond engineering and manufacturing to encompass a range of marketing, investment, and managerial processes.

Therefore, high performance building design forces the re-examination of traditional products or building systems, identifying innovative technologies (or product and system alternatives) that offer significantly improved environmental performance. The use of computer energy modeling further refines a more progressive design approach supporting fairly accurate cost/benefit forecasting.

Reexamination? What does that involve?

High performance building technology is an innovation in both process and product. While innovation simply meaning a change, or advancement, in a technology, it is wise to remember that there are two primary types of innovation: sustaining, (or continuous) innovation and disruptive (or discontinuous) innovation. In his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen describes sustaining innovations as those that “improve the performance of established products, along the dimensions of performance that mainstream customers in major markets have historically valued.” Most technological advances are sustaining in nature, generally representing an upgrading of products.

In contrast, a disruptive innovation brings about changes not only in technology but also in the market structure, offering the market a very different value proposition than had been available previously, according to Christensen. High performance buildings generate a high return on investment for the environment, and for their human and organizational occupants and for the community, as well as for the building owners and managers. Thus, they offer a triple bottom line value proposition that integrates environmental and social objectives with traditional economic objectives. As a value proposition, the triple bottom line is essentially different, and therefore disruptive, to a mainstream building industry driven by the singular dimension of the economic bottom line.

According to author Geoffrey Moore, disruptive innovations require us to change our current mode of behavior or to modify other products and services on which we rely, as he describes in his book, Crossing the Chasm. And disruptive innovation such as high performance building technologies requires changes in market structure.

How must the market structure change?

As an innovation, high performance building technology is disruptive to the mainstream building industry. It is disruptive to the standard operations of organizations that comprise the industry. In short, it is not business as usual in northeast Ohio.

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Mailing Address
Cleveland State University
Center for Sustainable Business Practices
2121 Euclid Avenue, BU 327
Cleveland, OH 44115-2214

Campus Location
Center for Sustainable Business Practices
Monte Ahuja Hall, Rm. 327
1860 East 18th Street
Phone: 216.687.4750
Fax: 216.687.9331

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