According to the 2008 Autodesk/American Institute of Architects (AIA) Green Index, high-efficiency HVAC is one of the most important pieces in the design and development of green buildings.

This online survey of 287 practicing architects, 63 percent of whom have been architects for 15 or more years, acknowledges that of 16 different features, evaluations, processes, or design principles, 25 percent of respondents considered choosing a high-efficiency HVAC system to be the most important; the highest percentage of all 16 choices. Forty-four percent of participants listed high-efficiency HVAC within its top two choices, and 73 percent listed it within its top five choices.

Despite understanding the importance of high-efficiency HVAC within the design industry, another survey conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Autodesk Inc., revealed that only 4 percent of U.S. adults know that buildings are a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The results of the survey reveal an urgent need to raise awareness with the American public about the role of buildings in climate change,” said Jay Bhatt, senior vice president, Autodesk AEC Solutions.

“This is especially important given that half the buildings in which Americans will live, play, and work by 2030 have yet to be built. We believe that the building industry has a responsibility to do all we can to promote the creation of, and generate increased demand for, much more cost-effective and energy-efficient buildings.”

The Green Building Awareness survey was conducted online among 2,682 adults ages 18 and older between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6, 2008. The key finding of the multi-question survey raised interesting concerns as to the awareness that buildings such as offices, educational facilities, and private residences are the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. In fact, according to estimates in the AIA’s Architects and Climate Change report, buildings represent 48 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, with transportation and industry representing 27 percent and 25 percent respectively.

The Autodesk survey also revealed that 77 percent believe that constructing a green or highly energy-efficient building costs more than constructing a typical building, with 35 percent believing it costs a lot more. However, according to The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings, a study funded by the state of California’s Sustainable Building Task Force, spending as little as about 2 percent to support green design up-front would, on average, result in lifecycle savings of 20 percent of total construction costs - an average of 10 times the initial investment.

“Most people don’t realize that our homes, schools, and offices are sources of tremendous opportunities to save energy, save money, create jobs, and ultimately help preserve our climate,” said Michelle Moore, senior vice-president, policy and public affairs for the U.S. Green Building Council. “This new survey underscores how much good work can be done to raise awareness and create the kind of change we need to improve our economy and protect our quality of life on Earth.”

Publication date:04/20/2009