Life-Cycle Driven Master Planning: Pursuing a Carbon Neutral Research Campus

Dirk von Below, Flad Architects
Dan Okoli, University of Wisconsin-Madison

How do owners and planners achieve stretch goals for sustainability and fund them in these times of limited growth and budgets? What tools are available to help them navigate the complex decision-making process, while offering transparent and objective means to present their findings to executives and stakeholders?

Using an example from a recent study for the University of Wisconsin, Madison College of Engineering, we will demonstrate how to generate an objective way to establish whether a building should be remodeled or replaced, while including the organization's strategic vision, user input, maintenance costs, sustainability criteria, and project costs in the decision. This process will include the assessment of the environmental footprint of the construction process itself, such as embodied energy in the materials, the potential to create acid rain, or excessive fertilizing (eutrophication), among other metrics, using Building Information Modeling tools.

LEED has related all assessments to cost savings that align with reduced resource consumption based on the assumption that sustainable facilities will save money, create a healthy workplace, and save our environment. This can now be taken to a new level of holistic campus master planning by combining financial tools such as the performance assessments developed by APPA and IFMA. What is replacing former facility audits are holistic evaluations of buildings measuring operational cost effectiveness (facility condition assessments) and alignment with goals and needs of research and education (facility quality assessments). These assessments take all key performance indicators that reflect the values of an organization into cost accounting that levels the subjective and objective criteria using a financial management system. While the data of the assessments can be extremely detailed and granular, the resulting dashboards are intuitive, realistic, and simple.

While the metrics and systems used are universal, they can be tailored to very diverse needs and philosophies of each organization. By accounting for the costs of fulfilling each of the desired design goals, decisions become more transparent, costs and benefits are in balance, and long-term effects on key performance goals are not lost along the way. True to a full circle of sustainability around social, economical, and environmental challenges, the new life-cycle approach will more holistically satisfy the requirements of a wide range of projects and strategies.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn how master planning can lead towards a carbon neutral campus
  • Learn how campus wide building performance criteria can be holistically applied based on strategic vision, building program requirements, user needs, and sustainability
  • Learn about the use of BIM in assessing the environmental footprint of construction
  • Evaluating new construction projects versus renovation of existing facilities


Dirk von Below has 20 years of comprehensive architectural experience delivering science buildings to private and institutional clients. He has managed large projects that balance state-of-the-art design, efficiency, and environmental design within a tight financial framework. His project experience includes the International Energy Research and Development Laboratory; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility in Golden, Colorado; Stony Brook University

Dan Okoli, university architect for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has over 20 years of experience in all aspects of planning, design, and construction within the higher education environment. He is passionate about creating campus places that are sustainable and people-centered. Over his career, Mr. Okoli has been involved in developing many innovative projects totaling more than 2 billion dollars.


Note: I2SL did not edit or revise abstract or biography text. Abstracts and biographies are displayed as submitted by the author(s).