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An Energy-Performance-Based Design-Build Process: Procuring High-Performance Buildings on Typical Construction Budgets

NREL experienced a significant increase in employees and facilities on its 327-acre main campus in Golden, Colorado over a period of five years. To support this growth, researchers developed and demonstrated a new building acquisition method that successfully integrates energy efficiency requirements into the design-build requests for proposals and contracts. NREL piloted this energy performance based design-build process with its first new construction project in 2008. They have since replicated and evolved the process for large office buildings, a smart grid research laboratory, a supercomputer, a parking structure, and a cafeteria. Each project incorporated aggressive efficiency strategies using contractual energy use requirements in the design-build contracts, all on typical construction budgets. NREL found that when energy efficiency is a core project requirement as defined at the beginning of a project, innovative design-build teams can integrate the most cost effective and high performance efficiency strategies on typical construction budgets. When the design-build contract includes measurable energy requirements and is set up to incentivize design-build teams to focus on achieving high performance in actual operations, owners can now expect their facilities to perform. As NREL completed the new construction in 2013, they have documented their best practices in training materials and a how-to guide so that other owners and owner’s representatives can replicate NREL's successes and learn from their experiences in attaining market viable, world-class energy performance in the built environment.

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