Project Design Elements

Of the total expenditures an owner will make over the course of the building’s service lifetime; design and construction expenditures, the so-called “first costs” of a facility, will account for 5-10 percent of the total life-cycle cost. In contrast, operations and maintenance costs will account for 60-80 percent of the total life-cycle costs, with land acquisition, conceptual planning, renewal or revitalization, and disposal accounting for the remaining 5-35 percent (NRC, 1998).

Three key elements of design–performance standards, cost issues, and materials selection–are described briefly below. Follow the links for more detailed information.

Performance Standards, Guidelines, and Specifications
Performance standards set targets and provide clear direction to designers and building professionals, while offering flexibility in determining how to accomplish a particular standard. Learn more about guidelines, specifications, and rating systems that have performance standards.

Cost Issues
Discover some interesting primers on cost issues. Explore the environmental and economic benefits of green building through first cost, life-cycle cost method, cost-benefit analyses, and environmental assessment tools.

Materials Selection
Learn the attributes of environmentally preferred or green building materials, including a selection criteria and a three-step process for choosing green building products. A matrix of information on green construction materials from several building projects that placed an emphasis on achieving environmental benefits is also available.


  1. US Federal Facilities Council, “Sustainable Federal Facilities: A Guide to Integrating Value Engineering, Life Cycle Costing, and Sustainable Development,” Federal Facilities Council Technical Report No. 142, National Academy Press, Washington D.C., 2001, Chapter 2, p. 18.