The phrase that always has me reaching for a complimentary bag that can be found in the seat pocket in front of you on an airplane is “Best Practice”. Are you following “best practice”? Are you familiar with “best practice”? Will you use “best practice”? No. No. And no.
Define best practice, anyway. What does it mean? It’s something someone with many letters in their title block, who was paid a princely fee to declare, “This is the way it ought to be done”. Let’s examine a few deep thoughts on this concept.
- “Best practice” infers this is the best car, shirt, beer, house, bicycle… for you. What if your friends or coworkers you frequently haul around in the back seat of the car are tall and best-practice man recommends a best-practice Nissan Altima? I can tell from experience riding in the back seats of rented Altimas that they have no headroom, and I am not a tall guy. Consider EE program evaluation: The typical portion of an EE program budget (total) available for program evaluation is 3%. The sample size for producing the industry standard confidence and precision targets is typically in the 70 project range, almost regardless of the size of the population. Do you think 3% is the right number to budget to evaluate PG&Es residential lighting program and 3% is the right number to budget for Rochester (Minnesota) Public Utilities residential lighting program? Best practice – in the garbage can.
- Somebody paid the best practice man to produce “best practice” and therefore, “best practice” is available to the public. If it isn’t available to the public, how can it be declared “best practice”? If we are asked in an RFP to do stuff via “best practice”, where is it? It’s available on the internet somewhere, like advice for curing hiccups. The fact is, if it is available to the public, “best practice” actually means “status quo” or “not worst practice” or “folklore”.
- “Best practice” is something you want to advertise? Who writes a proposal and enthusiastically scribes they will deploy industry “best practice” for the client? Firms that die. That’s who.
How about these best practices, which I Jeff Ihnen, P.E., MS ME, LEED AP, JBJBJee provide for free:
- Best practice is never use the term “best practice” when describing how you will handle a project for a client.
- Best practice is explaining how you understand the client’s plight, challenges, and interests and how you will take care of them for the client. I will not deploy the square-peg “best practice” to your round-hole problem.
- Best practice is completing stuff on time for the client.
- Best practice is producing accurate results that reflect reality; results that will not come back to bite a few months after best-practice man flew home and started deploying “best practice” for other clients.
- Best practice is telling clients what they need to know and not what they want to hear or what you want to tell them.
- Best practice is working for clients who want to know what they need to know.
- Best practice is producing clear demonstrable results, not merely trying with “best practice”. Trying is for young kids. Results are for adults.
- Best practice is bang for the buck, not paying for ridiculous precision on something that doesn’t matter.
- Best practice is doing what the client needs, not what the consultant wants.
LEED has resulted in common examples of failed “best practice”. LEED is taking a pounding with high profile news outlets and lawsuits but the best practice known as LEED is NOT the problem. The USGBC is NOT the problem. The problem is practitioners who have no business developing green buildings. They don’t understand energy consumption and efficiency. They don’t know how buildings work. They don’t understand building automation systems. They can’t follow instructions to do things differently. They design and build the building as usual and look at the paperwork at the end as a useless function. What does one expect?
Building a “green” building is exactly like cooking a delicious meal for guests. Cooking a delicious meal is easy 95% of the time by following instructions in the cookbook – but you HAVE to follow instructions. The usual LEED building process goes like this: brown hamburger, cook macaroni, add Hamburger Helper, “where’s my plaque?”. No offense to Hamburger Helper, which was derived for “cooks” who can barely handle boiling an egg and for busy people with a pack of ravenous kids to feed, but in the end it’s Hamburger Helper. It’s what you get from people and firms with no skill. It’s “best practice”.
 The 5% that is difficult takes a lot of experience – things such as bread and pastries require skill and experience.