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How Sustainable AEC Design Firms Impact Our Future with Energy Efficient Designs

  • March 24, 2023

There's no doubt about the fact that humanity's industrial practices can't go on as they have any longer. The signs are everywhere – from intensifying natural disasters like floods and fires to increased energy costs and droughts, our survival as a species on this planet requires us to act responsibly with its resources. It's a major issue propagated by many politicians, business leaders and activists – and it's also become a key consideration for those in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. 

This article will discuss the relationship between sustainability and construction, why it matters, how AEC professionals help create a greener future, and how doing so could help reduce their tax liability.

Sustainability and the Role AEC Firms Play

Infrastructure serves as the base for everything we do – whether it’s getting to work or school, the food we eat and the water we drink. We'll always need it, and in that same regard, we will always be innovating and building it.

The issue comes when you consider just how much needs to go into everything we build. Aside from manpower, infrastructure requires a lot of material and energy resources. This can add up both in terms of financial costs and environmental impact.

It's why a growing number of design firms and the entire AEC sector have begun investing in sustainable practices and materials. The goal is to reduce the burden on our planet by creating more efficient and cost-effective solutions that last longer, require less maintenance, and produce less waste.

How Sustainability and Energy Efficiency Is Achieved In AEC Design

Sustainability in building design comes down to two core elements: materials and energy. 

The first is simply a matter of procurement. There is a growing number of environmentally-responsible products on the market, from sheetrock made with recycled newspaper to flooring composed of recycled plastic to FSC Certified wood.

The second component is more complex, requiring planning and strategy on behalf of those who design structures. The elements within them must be built to consume less energy while maintaining the performance of the functions people rely on them for.

HVAC, lighting, and building envelopes are three areas where efficient design and upgrades can have a large impact on the environmental footprint of a building. Take a look at the following elaborations. 

HVAC and Energy Efficiency

HVAC systems can be built to optimize air flow and insulation while conserving heat or cold air, depending on the needs of the climate.

LED Lighting to Reduce Energy Usage

Lighting systems can be designed to use natural light when possible and only draw energy at night or during bad weather. LED lights have quickly become standard in homes and commercial buildings across North America because of the way they reduce energy consumption while producing the same level of illumination.

Sustainable Design With Building Envelopes

Energy efficiency can even be improved by means of a building's envelope. Several studies link energy savings with high-performance windows and insulation. When it comes to larger high-rise buildings, structures and outdoor spaces, landscaping can be used to block winds in winter while providing shade in summer.

How Is Sustainable Design Gauged?

New construction projects are judged for sustainability with industry guidelines and averages. 

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) oversees the development of standards for energy efficiency in commercial buildings in the United States. Its most recent version of guidelines, ASHRAE 90.1, outline the minimum requirements that builders are expected to follow when designing and constructing structures.

The standards are also important when it comes to meeting Energy Star guidelines; the accredited program requires all new construction buildings to exceed ASHRAE's national baseline by at least 15%.

Why Pursue Sustainable Design as an AEC Firm?

Sustainably designed and energy efficient buildings aren’t just worth building for the planet - they can also afford AEC firms plenty of ROI. Various federal, state and local governments offer rebates, tax credits, reduced tax liabilities and other rewards for those who take on sustainable commercial building projects.

Some examples of tax incentives for architectural and engineering firms include:

  • Section 179D Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction, which allows qualified businesses to claim up to $1.80 per square foot for energy-efficient building improvements
  • Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC), which provides a per kilowatt-hour (kWh) federal tax credit for electricity generated by qualified renewable energy resources
  • Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS), which allows businesses to deduct the cost of certain energy efficient building components over a multi-year period.

Ask ABGi If You Qualify for 179D Energy Efficiency Deduction Tax Benefits

With a key role in the creation of our infrastructure, the decisions AEC professionals make today have the power to shape what tomorrow looks like. ABGi is passionate about enabling these professionals to design and construct the most sustainable buildings possible with the right tax incentives and resources. 

Our group of experienced professionals can help firms and individuals make the most of tax incentives and claim the 179D tax deduction. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your green building efforts!

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