How Low Can We Go?

Finegold Alexander’s big bold poster promotes conversation… and energy savings!

February 8, 2023
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Let’s face it: as design professionals, contractors, building owners, institutional leaders, and just plain citizens, we all take climate change seriously. We care about building performance and occupant comfort; we think about thermal bridging, triple glazing, and argon gas; and we reduce our use of plastics and fossil fuels wherever possible in our daily lives. Is it ever enough? No. What else can we do? Talk.

Talk about the numbers, or one number in particular: the predicted Energy Use Intensity (pEUI) of our ongoing building designs. pEUI describes the energy use for a project based on modeled site energy. You know, pEUI equals the site kBtu per year divided by the project’s square footage [pEUI = site kBtu/sf-yr]. We could spend an hour-long lunch ‘n learn on this, but for today’s insight post all we need to know is: the lower the pEUI for a project, the better!

Finegold Alexander’s in-house sustainability team, spearheaded by Rebecca Berry and Lara Pfadt, decided to gather the pEUIs of our most recent projects and splash them prominently across a wall in a highly trafficked area of the office: adjacent to the kitchen. Their goal? To bust everybody out of their sustainability siloes and get their colleagues talking, and comparing, and competing over notable project pEUIs. What projects are scoring super-low numbers and exactly how are they achieving them? What building types have high national averages, and why? And most importantly, how can we improve upon these numbers moving forward … or to put it another way, how low can we go?

“As part of our design process, our teams have regular sustainability reviews to establish and monitor projected project EUIs, evaluate massing and orientation, and compare embodied carbon for different design options. Through these processes we seek a sustainable and resilient world beyond zero carbon. This poster keeps it front and center for our studio to encourage discussions and the exchange of ideas as we seek to continuously improve the energy use intensity of projects.”
--Rebecca Berry | Principal and Director of Sustainability

The bright, bold poster features the pEUI statistics for twelve projects, from eight distinct building types. The orange bars indicate the project’s pEUI value while the dark gray bars record the national average for that building type. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that many impressive performances are on display. A few of the notable stats include La Victoire’s 20.0 kBtu/Sq.Ft./Yr.—a 66% reduction against a national average of 59.6 for multi-family buildings; and York Judicial Center’s 24.0 kBtu/Sq.Ft./Yr.—a 76% reduction against a national average of 101.2 for courthouses. But the biggest jaw-dropper of them all is the 12.0 kBtu/Sq.Ft./Yr. modeled for 45East Central Street in Natick, a whopping 80% reduction against the national average!

“We enjoy working with clients who are just as committed as we are to reducing carbon emissions and lowering the energy uses of our designs – both new and existing buildings. This poster shows the progress we’ve made, but also demonstrates there is work to be done as we continue to strive for a carbon neutral future.”
--Lara Pfadt | Senior Associate and Sustainability Strategist

Finegold Alexander is committed to keeping the conversation going, re: energy use reduction and what we can do to improve energy performance on every front. In our professional work, we conduct formal, regular sustainability reviews to establish and monitor projected project EUIs. And more casually, as we make our way to the kitchen, we debate energy performance over our morning coffee or afternoon snacks. The next time you’re in our offices—whether for a project review meeting, or perhaps to drop off some samples—stop by our kitchen and see Finegold Alexander’s pEUI poster for yourselves!