Construction professionals have become increasingly concerned about sustainability and energy efficiency. While these principles are essential in building, how can you use them once construction is finished? Post-construction metrics are imperative to continue improving operations as new technology emerges. With each innovation, you can lower a building’s carbon footprint and support the environment. Here’s a guide to using post-construction metrics to improve building efficiency.

What Post-Construction Metrics Improve Building Efficiency?

The job isn’t necessarily complete once your crews leave the site. Post-construction metrics are a crucial step to improve building efficiency and help your sustainability goals. Here are six performance metrics to use when evaluating efficiency. 

1. Energy Usage

Energy usage is among the top priorities for construction crews today. Drawing from renewable energy sources and using just enough power for a building’s needs is crucial for its carbon footprint. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says buildings are responsible for 30 percent of the world’s energy consumption, so using post-construction metrics to track energy usage is vital to meet sustainability goals. 

Tracking energy usage post-construction can come from numerous modern tools. For instance, meters and submeters are valuable tools because they track how much energy your buildings use once the occupants move in. While these devices are helpful, you can also use advanced technology to optimize facilities for modern standards.

For instance, building automation systems (BAS) are becoming more commonplace as construction professionals integrate automation and energy efficiency. These mechanisms collect data on power consumption and dive deeper into the details to provide valuable insights. With these post-construction metrics, construction professionals are more equipped to improve future project efficiency.

2. Emissions Generation

Energy consumed has a direct relationship with the emissions generated in a structure. In addition to power consumption, the IEA says buildings account for 26 percent of energy-related missions, with 8% being direct and 18% from electricity and heat production. As sustainability standards have strengthened, tracking emissions generated from buildings has become a crucial benchmark for your post-construction metrics. 

Tracking your post-construction can utilize numerous sources for accurate data. For instance, use emissions calculators to estimate your buildings’ historical and future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These metrics will tell you how much emission production derives from energy usage, waste management and other critical factors.  

The general rule for tracking emissions in a building is to add the emissions from each GHG,  such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). Convert any non-carbon gases back to CO2 to find your carbon footprint and what your construction team needs to do moving forward. Having this baseline information will guide your organization to improved post-construction metrics.

3. Thermal Performance

Thermal performance falls under the umbrella of energy consumption due to the high demand for efficient heating systems in the winter. With a rising population, heating needs will rise even higher. The International Renewable Energy Agency (RENA) says residential and commercial buildings account for 95 percent of global heating demand, so improving upon this post-construction metric is essential for future generations. 

While there are a few ways to gauge thermal performance, energy use intensity (EUI) is among the most critical data points. Calculating EUI includes dividing the building’s annual energy consumption by the gross floor area, producing a measurement of energy per square foot per year. This metric will tell your leadership team how current buildings perform and what changes are necessary for improving thermal comfort.

When calculating thermal performance, you want to be as comprehensive as possible in each corner of your building. Small sections of the structure can contribute to heat loss, thus compromising comfort. To quantify performance, your construction team should track thermal resistance (R-value) and thermal transmittance (U-value). With these metrics, you’ll better understand the building’s thermal performance and insulative properties.

4. Financial Performance

Meeting deadlines and coming in under budget is essential in modern construction — even with sustainability standards becoming mainstream. Gauging the financial performance of buildings post-construction is valuable because of their link to sustainability. 

Structures consuming less energy and water will have lower financial liabilities, thus becoming more appealing to clients for long-term success. Studying past buildings’ financial performance is critical for quantifying your expenses and savings. Additionally, you can use your financial data for future projects by accurately estimating the effects of renewable energy systems, water conservation devices and more.

One post-construction strategy construction companies should consider for improved financial prospects is value optimization. This approach focuses on optimizing budgets by adjusting the project’s scope, thus helping teams avoid exceeding their budgets. Value optimization chooses cost-effective materials and streamlines projects by finding the options for labor, techniques and more. 

5. Indoor Air Quality

An occupant’s comfort is essential to their health inside a building, and indoor air quality (IAQ) is another post-construction metric you should prioritize. IAQ accounts for numerous factors, such as temperature, pollutants, ventilation and more. Achieving high-quality air while maintaining low costs can be challenging, especially with outdoor conditions being a significant factor. 

For instance, a building may need to run its air conditioning unit or dehumidifier constantly to keep the interior air comfortable. Air conditioners need around 25 British thermal units (BTUs) per square foot, so the energy consumed can become a liability for your sustainability goals. 

Monitoring post-construction can come from a few different sources. First, you can install air quality monitors around the building to track air pollutants and their concentrations. These devices are critical for controlling volatile organic compound (VOC) levels and improving occupant health. With this information, your team will better understand what materials — such as HEPA filters and natural ventilation — have worked to improve IAQ.

6. Maintenance Costs

Maintenance costs are among the most important metrics because they are an all-encompassing data point for your building’s efficiency. This gauge will tell you how often the occupants experience downtime with the building’s systems, how much they pay in repair costs and the overall health of the structure. Understanding metrics for maintenance costs increases sustainability by increasing uptime and ensuring efficiency with each building system.

Technology allows for easier tracking of maintenance costs, especially if you use computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). This software streamlines data by having it in one place for all parties to see. Here, you can track what issues have occurred, the required labor and the materials necessary for repair. You can improve future projects by tracking each equipment’s performance and equipping preventive maintenance schedules for each system.

How to Use Post-Construction Metrics to Improve Efficiency

Data is critical for construction companies because it can show your post-construction performance. What changes can you make for the future? These three strategies demonstrate what questions your team should ask when evaluating metrics.

Identify Common Denominators

First, your team should identify the common denominators with past projects. What metrics across various buildings demonstrate areas of improvement? For instance, your buildings may need optimization in the HVAC units. Inefficient systems could lead to higher utility bills and reduced thermal comfort, so your team mitigates the issue by scrutinizing HVAC maintenance or utilizing more efficient brands in your installations.

Set Measurable Goals

Improving future projects is more manageable when you set goals and use key performance indicators (KPIs). Set reasonable metrics you want your team to achieve with your specified deficiency and emphasize them to your team. For instance, your buildings’ energy usage may exceed your sustainability standards. This opportunity lets you focus on decreasing power consumption until you reach your desired point.

Find Employee Improvements

Finding room for improvement in post-construction metrics also lets you identify specific growth areas for your employees. How can your team improve their skill sets and contribute to sustainability? You could incentivize your crew to attend workshops and take classes on sustainable construction. 

For instance, talk to your employees about becoming certified with an accredited organization like the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). They’ll be better prepared to tackle sustainable building and make more informed decisions while improving future projects.

Using Data for Sustainability

Data goes a long way in telling the story of sustainability. Incorporating post-construction metrics into your company’s workflow will identify weaknesses and demonstrate what you can do to improve future projects. Energy efficiency, thermal performance and other data points are crucial for the industry’s future, so staying updated with these metrics will help your company leverage data for good.