High-Performance Sustainable Building Design for New Construction and Major Renovations

New construction and major renovations to existing buildings offer Federal agencies opportunities to create sustainable high-performance buildings. High-performance buildings can incorporate energy-efficient designs, sustainable siting and materials, and renewable energy technologies along with other innovative strategies.

Also see Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High-Performance and Sustainable Buildings.

Performance-Based Design Build

Typically, architects, engineers, and project managers consider the potential to build a high-performance building to be limited by the initial cost. A different approach—performance-based design build—makes high performance the priority, from start to finish. Contracts are developed that focus on both limiting construction costs and meeting performance targets. The approach is not a source of funding, but rather a strategy to make the most out of limited, appropriated, funds.

The performance-based design build process incorporates the following elements:

  • Extensive owner involvement in the incorporation of performance goals and financial constraints into the request for proposal (RFP),

  • Design-builder establishes the building characteristics that will meet the performance goals,

  • If costs exceed the budget, it is the responsibility of the design-builder to provide the solution,

  • Performance-based, rather than prescriptive goals are established in the RFP, giving the design-builder the flexibility to create the best solution for the specific location and climate,

  • A clear, comprehensive RFP, which is the product of extensive upfront planning,

  • Develop challenging, but achievable performance goals and substantiation criteria,

  • Require substantiation to ensure the project goals are on track at specific points in the process,

  • Commit to energy modeling as the primary driver for design decisions,

  • Build trust between the owner and design-build team, beginning with a non-adversarial acquisition process,

  • Collaborate throughout the project, and

  • Implement an award fee incentive program for the winning design-build team.

Project Funding

For information on funding mechanisms and opportunities to help construct or renovate a building, see Project Funding.

Additional Resources

The following resources provide more information on designing a high-performance building.