By Scott Bowman, PE LEED Fellow

Sustainability is about more than energy, but energy is often a gateway to deeper transformation. One of the last projects that I had a significant design influence on before I retired as Principal from KJWW Engineering Consultants was the Iowa Utility Board / Office of Consumer Advocate in the Capital Complex in Des Moines, Iowa. Follow this hyperlink to read a recent article in High Performance Buildings about this incredibly well performing building. In fact, I am not going to repeat any of that information, so before you continue with the blog, please take a look.

Done already? So now you know all the envelope and system design decisions that were made to support an Energy Star 100 building, and a little about the users. But there is so much more to the story, the story of the users. This is the project that solidified the reason that I retired early from KJWW, and why I am now a coach for REV and Sustainability Circles.

For the last few years of my career as a Principal, I was focused on helping projects succeed, and to be sustainable. We were very successful with over 130 LEED certified projects, over half of them Gold or Platinum. But what I was really learning as I helped teams to reach higher levels of performance was that engineering was not going to get us to high performance. Envelopes have to improve dramatically, and be optimized for daylighting AND thermal performance, but even that will not get us to high performance. People have to change the way they use buildings; there needs to be behavior change. To help facilitate this change, I needed to expand my voice; extend beyond the systems and work in a different way with clients.

Around this time, I started giving a presentation called Users Take Control, and I have incorporated parts of this into my coaching. People need to first have a better understanding of comfort, what thermostats can and cannot do, and to make them aware of the area that engineers cannot help them…plug load. Then I formed a new consultancy and accepted the role of coach with REV, because durable change does not come from a seminar, or a building; it comes from education and learning, what Sustainability Circles do for our participants.

The true story, the true magic, of the IUB/OCA building is the operation of the building. The architects, engineers, and contractors did good design and good work, but it is the staff of the building that have for three years now pushed plug load to below 0.25 watts per square foot. They are using the building above and beyond (or is that below and behind?) what we predicted. They truly are prime examples of the incredible things that happen when Users Take Control!

If you’re interested in finding out more about how REV coaches work with customers to inspire behavior change in their organizations, please contact us. We’re happy to share some examples. Or you can have a look at this brief video.