The SKETCH_PAD - CATALYST ARCHITECTURE Newsletter for Clients and Colleagues

News Item Picture
CATALYST'S 17,000 sq.ft. Less-Than-Zero, LEED-Platinum Seeking USFWS Visitor Center Opens in California  CATALYSTs Two LEED-Seeking USFWS Projects Mid-Way Through Construction
Principal Ackerman Completes 3-Phase Masterplan For Meteor Crater  Yavapai County Admin Bldg. CDs Complete
3 For 3: CATALYST Brings in 3rd Consecutive Project Under Budget Using Innovative Value Optimization Process 
Yavapai County Goes Green With New 24,000 sq.ft. Admin. Building 
Boulder CO Becomes World’s First Smart Grid City 
Sustainability Is Not Only Good Business – It's a Growth Strategy 

Meteor Crater Masterplan Designed By Matthew B. Ackerman, LEED-AP AIA of Catalyst Architecrture

Acker Night Music Festival
Prescott Email
12/18 Hassayampa River Preserve Hike
928 684 2772
1/16 Desert Botanical Garden Art Exhibit
Phoenix 480 941 1225
1/26 Urban Land Institute Forum Phoenix 202 624 7000
2/2 Green Neighborhoods Lecture
Phoenix 480 312 3111
3/14 Globe 2012 Conference Vancouver

800 274 6097
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Matthew B. Ackerman,  LEED-AP AIA
Matthew B. Ackerman,  LEED-AP AIA
Jeffrey L. Zucker,  LEED-AP AIA
Jeffrey L. Zucker,  LEED-AP  AIA

Sustaining Our Client's Dollar Resources

One of the most common concerns we hear from our clients who are considering building green: "...isn't it going to cost more?"

The short answer to that is, "No".  And particularly so, once we're able to help our clients understand that the conceept of "cost" necessarily has to include what it's going to take to operate and maintain their building down the road– for the long haul.

A growing body of research continues to show that there is no statistically significant difference in construction cost between green-certified projects (such as the LEED Green Building Rating System), and non-green certified projects.  My 20+ years of experience as a sustainable architect has tended to validate this data.
Blue PanetMost of the important energy-efficient features that any self-respecting green architect must consider first, are items that don't cost anything more up front.  They're simply what I'd call basic, common-sense design.  These include such considerations like how the building is oriented on its site and where the windows are located.  Have the roof overhangs been properly placed and designed?  Are the windows appropriately sized, with correctly specified glazing for each exposure?  Are there deciduous trees nearby that can be used to both control and take advantage of the sun?  While each of these considerations can greatly affect the overall performance and thermal comfort of a building, none of these are design items that cost a penny more.

For those green building features that do cost more up front, overall cost savings can still be achieved through creative, informed design decisions regarding just how and where that added investment is made, and what other building systems can be reduced or eliminated as a result. This is known as "Cost Shifting".

Cost Shifting can function as an investment strategy (like putting money in the bank used to be), where greater dividends are earned over time, on top of the initial investment amount.  Planned carefully, these savings can add up substantially.

For a hypothetical 18,000 square foot Community Center building for example, if we were to specify a high-performance double-glazed window system costing $10,000 more to install than a more conventional window system, savings are realized when that investment allows us to cut 8 additional tons of refrigerant cooling, and 75,000 BTU's of additional heating from the construction scope that would otherwise be needed.

The reduced heating and cooling plant size would save roughly $5,000 right out of the box.  With the reduced operations and maintenance cost for the mechanical equipment that we didn't need (at a savings of ~$3,000 per year) we'd achieve what's known as "payback" in about 2.5 years, saving an additional $3,000 each year after that, year in and year out, for the duration of the building's life.  Over an arbitrary 30-year period, that would add up to around $90,000 net worth of savings– and that doesn't even account for the generally rising costs of energy, or the life-cycle replacement cost savings for mechanical equipment that was never installed.

As you can see, while perhaps costing a bit more up front, with the right choices it doesn't take long to achieve a net-gain ROI (return on investment), which can easily exceed the initial added expense.  In the Community Center example above, shifting costs from the building's heating and cooling systems to a better quality window package, yields a more energy-efficient building, with a significant cost savings for the owner over time.  This only makes good economic sense.

Though typically overlooked, sustainability in general and green design in particular must also take into account the large amounts of "human" energy that also goes into any building project.  At Catalyst, we consider our client's financial resources as important to sustain and conserve, as the material and energy resources that go into our buildings.

To address this notion of "our client's finances" as being a critical project resource, we've developed a unique process called "Value Optimization". With Value Optimization (in contrast to Value Engineering), we pair up our design-side engineers (representing the major building trades– architectural, mechanical, structural, civil, etc.), in an intense two-step workshop environment, with their build-side counterparts (representing the same building trades), in an effort to creatively brainstorm on how to best construct the approved design– and for the least amount of money.  Our Value Optimization process has consistently trimmed 10 - 15% from our initial construction cost estimates, and for less than half the cost of traditional Value Engineering.  It's become a proven win-win-win process for our entire project team.

Using this innovative cost control method, our company has brought in each of our last three significantly sized projects under budget– including the new County Administration building, which is currently under construction out on Commerce Drive.  On this particular design, ALL 16 of the qualifying construction bids came in well under the County's $5M budget cap.  This is an excellent example what can be achieved when the best of our industry's creative capabilities is applied to the task of conserving and sustaining our client's financial resources.

So no, building green doesn't have to cost more.  And especially when we're able to apply the concepts of sustainability to ALL the resources that go into a building– material, energy, and monetary.

Matthew B. Ackerman,  LEED-AP  AIA

Green Product of the Month:
Enceliums' Polaris 3D Takes Energy Management For Commercial Buildings To The
Next Level    

Green Technology of the Month:
Artificial Leaf Makes Fuel from Sunlight 

Green Builder's Tip of the Month:
Attic Insulation– Check Your Fill, And Lower Your Bill 

Green Project of the Month:
A Mountain Home Is Gracefully Sited To Work With The Topography And Its Neighbors 

Green Project Image

Deb's Green Activist Corner:

Steps YOU Can Take
To Help!

Make Your Holidays Greener. 
Check Out The Sierra Club's Top 10 Tips For The Holidays
Learn More 

Green Activist Image

Email us Questions?  Email Deb.


 News from the Blue

 Our Featured AZUR Project:

Mixed-Use Art's District Masterplan
for Atlantic City, NJ

 AZUR-Ecotecture is the master-
 planning and large-scale projects
 division of Catalyst Architecture.


is an award winning, full-service sustainable design firm located in Prescott, Arizona. We specialize in educational, commercial, master planning and custom residential work, with an emphasis on high- performance design, and caring client relationships.

At CATALYST, our mission is to creatively transform the space and budget needs of our clients, with the opportunities and ecology of the site, into functional and sustainable solutions that move the spirit.

Email usComments or feedback?  Email us.

123 E Goodwin St, Prescott Arizona 86303 - F 928.778.3509 - P 928.778.3508
Copyright © 2003-2011 CATALYST ARCHITECTURE, LLC. All sketches and artwork are the property of CATALYST ARCHITECTURE, or its affiliates. No reproduction, copying or redistribution of this material for commercial purposes is allowed without the expressed written consent of CATALYST ARCHITECTURE, LLC. All Rights Reserved.