“Soft Infrastructure” Is Crucial for a Post-Carbon World

Published by Common Edge: The soft/hard infrastructure debate points to a fundamental (but often hidden) truth about climate-responsive design. It’s not enough to design and construct a building that, on paper, is net zero and resilient in the face of climatic events. Engineers and architects must ask clients which systems make sense for the future, given expectations about how the building will be managed. In just the same way, community input is needed to identify the climate-related challenges that will be faced by future occupants.

When LEED for New Construction was first released, it was adopted by many in the industry with the assumption that the operational savings promised through the energy model would automatically materialize. Instead, a 2008 post-occupancy study conducted by the New Buildings Institute revealed that, while LEED certified buildings performed on average 24% better than minimally code compliant buildings, individual building energy efficiency varied widely. The high-performance buildings canceled out the low-performance buildings.

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