What is cost optimality in building design?

Cost effectiveness is good, cost optimality is better

Cost effectiveness in a building project requires diligence and a willingness to look outside a narrowly scoped budget. There are dozens of ways you can be cost effective early on in a new project, and even more when it comes to renovations. Today, we have tools that incorporate BIM and financial data, aggregating information to help us make the best budget-conscious decisions on a wide variety of project types.

Cost optimality is a concept that extends beyond cost effectiveness. Being cost optimal means you’re really looking at the bigger picture: the entire lifecycle of the building. Analyzing the potential lifetime costs of maintaining, operating, and updating a building as it ages is one of the smartest things you can do as you go through the design, planning, and construction phases. It’s far more important than making choices that your construction costs low.

But why? Because cost optimality has more to do with human health than you might think. Occupant health and comfort are at the center of sustainable buildings and those factors should underpin all your decisions.

Cost optimality in today’s day and age has everything to do with sustainability.

Creating healthier buildings where people live and work goes hand in hand with cost optimality. Sustainable building practices not only support human health and comfort within a single building or development, but also on the global scale. Systems and designs that optimize energy performance save money over time and also reduce carbon emissions. As the drastic effects of climate change take shape, the building industries are positioned to band together to reduce emissions and ultimately contribute to a healthier world.

Unsurprisingly, sustainable and cost optimal building are becoming mandatory. Recognizing that buildings are responsible for the biggest share of energy consumption and emissions, the EU is evaluating some policies and standards. It’s pulling together different sectors and member states to support and promote sustainability considerations like energy performance in the built in environment. Cost-optimal methodology is a key part of the conversation. Recent updates to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) are requiring EU members to “introduce minimum energy performance requirements for buildings, building elements and technical building systems and set these requirements based on a cost-optimal methodology.”

Cost-optimality isn’t “one size fits all”

According to the EPBD report, which focuses on three case studies, the cost-optimal level is defined as “the energy performance level which leads to the lowest cost during the estimated economic lifecycle.” The study and analysis of global lifetime costs of buildings will shape the EU’s energy performance requirements in the future.

It is encouraging that large-scale adoption of such ideas is becoming commonplace, but finding the cost optimal level of energy performance is not a simple exercise. Cost optimality is a highly specific parameter that strongly depends on a building’s functionality, indoor and outdoor climate conditions, geometries, and many other factors.

Building simulation moves the needle

So it’s safe to say that there is not a “one size fits all” solution to achieving cost-optimal, high performing buildings, but there shouldn’t be. Each project and its outcomes are different. Luckily, if we use advanced simulation technology, we can make smart decisions for individual buildings that lead to beneficial financial and comfort outcomes for all.

Building simulation and artificial intelligence help us leverage data to make better decisions for building projects. Unfortunately, building simulation is not yet used extensively. “The use of simulation software is currently associated with immense license and personnel costs,” says Prof. Dr. Hartmann of Technical University Berlin. Simulation tools are also notably difficult to use. They can be clunky, too complex, and dysfunctional.

Developed to identifying the optimal level of sustainable technology use in a building that still contributes to a reduction in lifecycle cost, METABUILD is focussing on making simulation easier. Hartmann celebrates METABUILD for its “user-friendliness and practical applicability, which so far is missing in this area.”

By using BIM-based platforms like METABUILD, you will develop cost-optimal, sustainable buildings that yield dividends for comfort and budget in the years to come. Not only will you be compliant with new international guidelines that are tackling our world’s toughest energy-related challenges, but you’ll be on the leading edge of the building industries’ foray into artificial intelligence.