by Brent Sauser
NOTE: This a follow-up article to the one written on January 28, 2014, as printed in the Orlando Sentinel on February 14, 2014.
I had the opportunity to tour the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts recently and was impressed with the grand scale of this world-class facility. A group of us was escorted to a five-story-tall “wave” wall that stretches the entire width of the expansive lobby. This wall will be flooded with colorful, moving light that can be easily seen from the street and can be modified to suit any occasion.
As I walked the many levels and stood at center stage, I imagined the many great performances that will soon grace these theaters. Without doubt, the new center will stand as a monument to excellence in the performing arts. This is a structure all Central Floridians can be proud of.
Except . . . . . .
When the tour ended, I thanked our guide and turned back to take another look at the building. A thought crossed my mind: If so much careful attention has been given in the pursuit of excellence in theatrical performance, surely the building itself would reflect excellence in its own performance.
I wondered what level of effort had been given to assure the center would perform to the highest level of energy conservation and sustainable design possible. After all, who is going to pay to heat and cool the massive volume of space? Who is on the hook to pay for the electricity and marvelous moving lights of the wave wall? Who is left to bear the utility burden of this facility? Surely, all this was taken into consideration in 2007 when the contracts for design and construction were signed.
After some online research, I discovered that the performing-arts center was contractually obligated to comply with the lowest level of sustainable design requirements for 2007. Many of these requirements are now part of our building codes. The project team could have elected to pursue higher levels of environmental design excellence, but chose to stay with the minimum requirements and incur the higher utility costs.
It is a shame that such an impressive facility does not demonstrate performance excellence for itself. How much will this missed opportunity cost in utility bills for decades to come? As for me, no standing ovations here.