How Are Construction and Poor Code Meeting Design Costs Passed to Clients?

Imagine if doctors were told to listen to Fox News for what to do to patients.

Construction CostsMost commercial projects are using between 200 and 300 kBTU/square foot annually, while some landmarks like Seagram and Lever House use way more – closer to 400-plus.

The cost for commercial and high-rise housing over 30 years is equal to $1 million per 1,500 square feet of space – 10 times the cost for staff in offices and alike for health issues.

In my last blog about 90 percent more efficient green residential projects saving $500,000 dollars over a 30 year mortgage period (Footnote No. 1), 90 percent more efficient green passive commercial buildings can use around 40 kBtu – so between 80 and 90 percent more efficient than a regular building that is built to code.

So who is paying for the inefficiency of the code building, and why don’t we build better – especially since it only costs 7 percent more to do it?

It is the first-day sale/lease scenario for developers, or anyone leasing or building for spec.

Anyone in real-estate knows that every day a building or space sits empty, it hits bottom line heavily. Hence we have to design and build as cheaply as possible to avoid any initial cost to the last cent/penny/shilling.

The idea that a building should perform like an investment in long term for users and our nation never enters the equation as it just cannot, so our entire industry is geared to produce the least-efficient building that can be built legally.

Our codes are fought heavily by developers and builders for the same reason to be as lenient as possible.

There are no representatives for users in the process, nor are architects trained or able to interfere with the process for the reason that we are trained to stay alive to help developers do what they do.

Imagine if doctors were told to listen to Fox news what to do to patients. It is an equally insane situation.

In my past blogs I have raised the issue of our country losing annually near a trillion dollars in GDP for this reason – almost twice the amount we spend on military each year.

The cost is obviously borne first by tenants or users, but indirectly by our nation as a whole as it is then deducted from our taxes. Never by the operator/leasing entity!

When we sell properties, be it residential or commercial, inefficiency does not equate. It is never brought up as it would make older building and cheap spec one look inferior. So the emphasis is on decor and cleanliness – The Trump way. Sometimes even “better design” by talented individuals.

So investing in green, passive building saves 7 percent within 30 years – at least the cost of the building itself (not land); in residential sometimes twice the cost of building itself, as a normal 2,500-square-foot house is about $300,000, excluding thrills like fancy cabinets and bathrooms etc.

In super tall buildings, we do not get the total cost of building back due to framing cost, but we do get a building that will be easier to “reskin” as our glass curtain walls are only meant to stay watertight and sealed for 25 to 35 years – an issue rarely discussed and dealt with.

I have developed a curtain wall system or approach that allows re doing without making tenants move away from their space for instance.

Tenant issue: The inefficiencies are particularly costly in AC and heating, as the cost of running services are in the lease agreement. They also include surcharge of 15 percent for the electrical power normally. So not only are we punished for building character, we are punished for the delivery of essentials.

If we were to pay 15 percent more taxes, we would have a revolution in our country – or anywhere else – yet we pay this blindly, as we do pay our credit percent costs, too (as we think savings on taxes will help without realizing the costs to our nation).


1) The energy loss for a green renovated 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot house is about 28000 BTU, 1/2 to new one at 0 degree, 14 BTU hour/square foot – annually about 20 kBTU/square foot.

Thank you,

Tapani Talo, AIA