Getting Confused with the word efficiency in Building Efficiency

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    David Kaplan

    Luis,

    The term "efficiency" essentially means that a building floor plan that has MORE net assignable area is more efficient than one that does not.  By efficient, we mean that the architect has been able to design the floor plan to minimize the amount of circulation space (like corridors) and therefore maximize the amount of space that can be used for building occupants, rented out to building users, used for program, etc.  

    Let's use the example of an office building.  You have your exterior walls set and you now have to plan out the interior.  The owner wants to maximize the amount of rentable SF inside the building.  You would strive to design this floor plan likely with a compact, central core and minimal common corridor that connects the core and surrounding tenant spaces.  In doing this, you have made this floor plan more efficient, in that you have not wastefully provided more common corridor or core spaces than you truly need.  The more you can reduce these spaces, the more SF the owner gets for office use.  Apply that concept to all buildings.

    Buildings that are LESS efficient are those that have lots of corridors, circulation space, etc. but sometimes building types necessitate that.  Take a hospital for example.  Hospitals have many corridors - some for public use, some for staff use, some are semi-restricted, some are restricted/sterile, etc.  Because of this, hospitals are considered less efficient than say the office building example I provided above.  But, it's the nature of the beast sometimes - sometimes you have to design that way based on the way the program needs to be laid out to meet certain guidelines, in this case medical.

    Hope that helps some.

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    David Kaplan

    And no, building types are not assigned an efficiency ratio.  Efficiency is not a pre-determined quantity.  Usually what happens though, and let's use the office building example above, the owner may say "I need 70,000 rentable SF of office space in this building to make my numbers work financially."  Then we as architects have to take that info and design the building to achieve this with the minimal amount of non-rentable/non-assignable square footage possible so that we can meet their needs but also not blow the budget out of the water by designing too large of a building footprint.

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