Tag Archives: relifing

Rider Levett Bucknall, LEED

Is ‘Green’ The Whole Answer?

Our natural resources are limited and they are fast becoming scarcer and more costly. Thankfully, in recent years, awareness of this issue has heightened and individuals, companies and governments are making efforts towards more responsible usage of our depleting natural resources. Unarguably, we’re in the Age of Environmental Thrift, when ‘going green’ is just good practice—for the planet and for the pocketbook. The question remains, are we doing enough to minimize the use of scarce resources?

In the construction industry, environmentally responsible practices are being promoted by the US Green Building Council and others through programs like the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) rating system. Overall, 26 state and local governments—the state of Arizona among them—are mandating LEED™ certification for new construction, and President Obama is currently seeking LEED™ certification for improvements made to the White House.

Despite the rapid acceptance of sustainable design and its application on a variety of both new-build and renovation projects, the practice is limited in its ability to reduce whole earth impacts. Why? Because even though continual improvements are being made in the ways in which we use natural resources—sustainably harvested lumber, energy-efficient building systems, recycled building products—we’re still consuming! Only if the scale of resource usage stabilizes will the efficiency of how they are delivered result in reducing the net environmental impact. We need to be asking how and where we can use existing assets instead of consuming more of the earth’s limited resources to construct new assets.

Significant natural resources can be saved by capturing the remaining value and extending the life of a building rather than demolishing and replacing it. But how does one know if it is viable to extend the life of a building? The state of Arizona addressed this question in 2004 by implementing a process in which consideration must be given to ‘relifing’ existing buildings before a new government building can be procured. Rider Levett Bucknall worked with government officials to develop the legislation which, in the first six months, saved the state $26 million. The legislation has since been endorsed by the American Legislative Exchange Council as model legislation for all 50 states.



Through a relifing study on an existing Arizona state medical laboratory building, including an inspection of the current condition of various building components and their life expectancies, Rider Levett Bucknall determined that investment of approximately $4.9 million would allow continued use of the building for an additional 25 years.


‘Relifing’ is mathematically-based analysis which helps building owners and managers capture the remaining value of and extend the life of their buildings after years of service. It improves the decision making process when considering whether to renovate a building versus demolish it and build new and can be used during the design of a new building to optimize the building’s design life. Throughout the development process, it helps to minimize the use of scarce natural resources.

The Age of Environmental Thrift provides an ideal time for people to reconsider the traditional approaches to green practices, especially in the construction industry. Building owners, designers and contractors should be open to new ways of approaching old problems and be willing to implement tools to help them get the most out of our shrinking resources.


Rider Levett Bucknall is an international property and construction consultancy headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. www.rlb.com/life

Relifing - AZRE Magazine November/December 2009

The Cost Of Relifing A Building During The Age Of Environmental Thrift

The Cost Of Relifing A Building During The Age Of Environmental Thrift

Breath of Life – Relifing

Difficult financial times teach us that it is possible to do more with less, but also that doing more with less takes both thought and effort.

In 1965, Adlai Stevenson, then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, notably said, “We travel together, passengers on a little space ship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil.” This phrase alerted the world to the necessity to preserve Earth’s natural assets and resources. However, it is only in recent times — with the discussion of climate change — that serious attention has been paid widely to the question of the use of scarce natural resources and the effect of that use on the environment. The world has entered an era in which using natural resources sparsely has become critical, perhaps even a cause célèbre — this is The Age of Environmental Thrift.

The construction industry has been making serious efforts to catch up by adopting sustainable design practices represented by the LEED certification system. However, traditionally there has been no systematically adopted, mathematical approach to test whether an existing building could be successfully “relifed” instead of being demolished. Clearly, relifing an existing building saves natural resources — it does more with less.

Life Options

For all building owners — especially those with large sophisticated healthcare facilities such as hospitals, clinics, etc. — it should be natural to start by asking the question, “Can we economically extend the life of our existing building by 5, 10 or 20 years instead of demolishing?”

The difficulty in the past was that there was no simple, definitive, mathematical way to determine a solution to this question. However, when the state of Arizona adopted the concept of studying relifing options through building life extension studies, it broke new ground in managing taxpayer funds. These studies have been conducted on many buildings, including laboratories and state hospital buildings, with good success.

A relifing study determines the “useful life” of a building by analyzing the cost and service life of its various components:

  • structure
  • external cladding
  • internal fit-out
  • building systems

From these components, a life expectancy may be calculated. The study then analyzes and prices recommendations for maintenance, upgrades, renovation and replacement of various building components necessary to extend the building’s life to certain milestones. When the analysis is compared with the cost of building a new structure, owners have a quantitative tool to determine which option will make the best use of their functional and financial resources.

Private sector clients would be well advised to follow the state’s lead. By measuring and analyzing the service life possibilities of each building and relifing those that can be saved, millions of dollars and thousands of cubic yards of natural resources can be saved. With more thought, more can often be done with less.

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AZRE Magazine November/December 2009