Category: Articles

New Arts Center Falls Flat on Efficiency!

by Brent Sauser


I had the opportunity to tour the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts recently and was impressed with the grand scale of this world-class facility. A group of us was escorted to a five-story-tall “wave” wall that stretches the entire width of the expansive lobby. This wall will be flooded with colorful, moving light that can be easily seen from the street and can be modified to suit any occasion.


As I walked the many levels and stood at center stage, I imagined the many great performances that will soon grace these theaters. Without doubt, the new center will stand as a monument to excellence in the performing arts. This is a structure all Central Floridians can be proud of.


Except . . . . . .

When the tour ended, I thanked our guide and turned back to take another look at the building. A thought crossed my mind: If so much careful attention has been given in the pursuit of excellence in theatrical performance, surely the building itself would reflect excellence in its own performance.


I wondered what level of effort had been given to assure the center would perform to the highest level of energy conservation and sustainable design possible. After all, who is going to pay to heat and cool the massive volume of space? Who is on the hook to pay for the electricity and marvelous moving lights of the wave wall? Who is left to bear the utility burden of this facility? Surely, all this was taken into consideration in 2007 when the contracts for design and construction were signed.


After some online research, I discovered that the performing-arts center was contractually obligated to comply with the lowest level of sustainable design requirements for 2007. Many of these requirements are now part of our building codes. The project team could have elected to pursue higher levels of environmental design excellence, but chose to stay with the minimum requirements and incur the higher utility costs.

It is a shame that such an impressive facility does not demonstrate performance excellence for itself. How much will this missed opportunity cost in utility bills for decades to come? As for me, no standing ovations here!


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Net Zero Design Does Not Have to Look Goofy!

By Brent Sauser

Does building Net Zero mean giving up on traditional or conventional design?  That is a common misunderstanding when I speak to others regarding whether they would be willing to live in a Net Zero, off-the-energy-grid house.  The misperception is that they need to give up the aesthetics of traditional or conventional residential architecture.  Many of the photos they see look very different from what they are more comfortable with.  It’s a leap they are not willing to make.

Net Zero design is the thoughtful and sensitive combination of sustainable design principles with a desired aesthetic appearance, all working in harmony.  That is, Net Zero design is not just frosting, but also the cake, where form and function rise together.  In reality, a Net Zero design can incorporate most any conventional shape.

As an example of this, please consider the following Net Zero house, designed by dbs Architects PLLC.  This is a 2,240SF conventional-looking, two story, three bedroom home that is made from seven 8ft x 9’6”x 40ft shipping containers. The lower roof incorporates a 9kW solar panel system.    The floor plans illustrate a traditional layout that could be used in non-Net Zero construction.  Living Net Zero, off the power grid, is not a sacrifice . . . but a giant leap toward energy independence!  The cost for this Net Zero home would be in line with a similar home built non-Net Zero.  The ways and means are here and now to transition to Net Zero and free ourselves from rising utility costs and live a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.


SW Corner 01

Front Elevation








NW Corner

South Elevation








SE Corner

NE Corner








First Floor Plan 01

Second Floor Plan 02

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Sauser Talks “Sustainability” at the 2009 and 2011 NPCA Conventions

by D. Brent Sauser

SUSTAINABIITY as it relates to LEED 2Several thousand precast concrete enthusiasts converged upon the Charlotte, NC
Convention Center over January 28th to the 30th, 2011 to see the latest technology innovations and participate in a wide range of topical seminars.  Brent Sauser was invited to SUSTAINABILITY 101-2take the lead with two seminars:  “Sustainability as it relates to LEED”, and “Sustainability 101”.  

Brent Sauser had the opportunity to conduct two classes previously for an PP LEED101 Presentation 010309  CoverNPCA Convention in 2009 in Houston, Texas, where the focus was on the
USGBC and LEED, what it was, and how it might impact the precast
concrete industry.  Two
years later the focusNPCA Implementing Sustainable Strategies expanded beyond the specifics of LEED to the more comprehensive subject of sustainable design. 

            The “Sustainability 101” class explained:

  • What is Sustainability?sustainable design caption 01
  • Why is Sustainable Design so important?
  • Is Sustainable Design a New Concept?
  • Is Sustainable Design fact or fad?
  • Organizations promoting Sustainable Design
  • Examples of Sustainable Design
  • Understanding what “Net Zero” means

The “Sustainability as it Relates to LEED” class explained:

  • What is Sustainability?Sustainable Design 5
  • What is Sustainability as it relates to LEED?
  • Percast concrete and “Green” construction
  • Role LEED plays in the “Green” movement
  • Introduction of the NPCA LEED Calculator

Both classes were well attended by individuals who already had some degree of experience with sustainable design.  Some individuals stayed for the second class even though they weren’t signed up.  The overall impression was that each class had something positive to offer.  Several participants shared ideas on how to improve their overall production processes.  Judging from the positive evaluations provided by the attendees, Brent Sauser is looking forward to present again at future NPCA Conventions. 

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