Tabitha L. Sprau Coulter, Ph.D., C.E.M.
Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering
EIT, CEM, LEED AP and Green Rater
Project Manager, New Ecology, Inc.
In general, the majority of focus surrounding energy efficient buildings and improved sustainable development, is centered around an enhanced appreciation
for building systems. It is believed that by increasing a designer's understanding of building system functions, these systems can be manipulated to perform
more effectively, subsequently improving building performance outcomes. More recently, designers are learning that building design is not the only factor
influencing building performance. It is becoming clearer that end user interaction also plays a large role in building performance outcomes. Although main-stream
sustainable certification programs are beginning to recognize the importance of integral continuing operation and maintenance practices, marginal research
has been conducted to document and understand the end user's role in building performance. One way to solve the disconnect between design and operations
is to conduct an energy audit. However, more often than not, an owner is subjected to a lengthy, convoluted auditing process, including feasibility studies,
energy upgrade selection and implementation, and possible retrofitting, and the result is a lack of alignment between anticipated energy use and actual
energy use. Therefore, one must question if this is an issue with the design process and existing building systems, or, if there are other contributing
factors - end user education and involvement. The research presented will explore the importance of end user education throughout the design, construction,
and operation of sustainable buildings. The data collected will contextualize how improved end user education and collaboration practices, may contribute
to more favorable building program outcomes. Through the use of case studies, the research will explore the relationship between end user input and energy
efficiency outcomes as well as the development of tools to help align end user goals with energy audit initiatives, and sustainability initiatives.