Today in the United States, buildings account for nearly 40% of carbon emissions (EESI) and 78% of electricity usage. The most sustainability-focused firms run energy simulations for less than 50% of their projects (10% for a typical firm) and only doing so late in the process when design changes are limited and insufficient to combat red flags found in the performance report (AIA 2030 report). We can make building performance widespread once we help the entire community discuss the subject in terms of investment and return. Especially during a project pursuit, since having the buy in from the whole team helps ensure the key project metrics are met. Owners are seeking out teams who are using actual metrics and data driven processes that affect their bottom line. This new approach to practice is what makes the younger teams’ standout and will benefit both the climate and the bottom-line. Here are 5 ways to talk about building performance in your project pursuits:
Begin with Site
This includes not only the macro-climate, but also the micro-climate. Where your project is located is one of the biggest factors impacting the performance of your building. The key items to look for are dry bulb temperature, relative humidity and solar angles which helps determine optimal massing, and façade configuration.
Pro Tip: cove.tool can automate a climate report for any project location in the world. When you create a new project, cove.tool uses project details like location, type, and building code to generate substantial site assessment. Collectively these can help determine the orientation of your building, glazing distribution, and materials to begin with and those to stay away from. Here is a lab case study utilizing the site feedback to impact the massing.
Build trust with Passive Strategies
The most cost optimal way to create a high-performance building is to exploit all passive strategies with appropriate massing, orientation, glazing percentages, natural ventilation, thermal mass and more. Beginning with informed cost-effective design strategies reveals to the owner that the design team carries a practical foundation and values covering their bases and exploiting quick wins.
Pro Tip: Besides creating an energy model, cove.tool automatically runs 6 of the most commonly used passive strategies assessments to highlight the best strategies which would improve physical and thermodynamic comfort. Also, cove.tool’s extensive terminology glossary and diagrams helps everyone interpret the graphs and charts, as well as offer a range of design strategies one could pursue in order to meet comfort targets and optimize performance. Here is a student union case study utilizing the passive strategies as part of their design. You can model your project for free now.
Put forward intent and values by discussing Money
Every project has a budget and every component is subject to the budget’s flexibility, including building performance. Veterans of the field will tell you that projects are won and lost when teams demonstrate their Value Engineering (VE) skills. While most architects and contractors have the general knowledge to price a project, few can demonstrate their design’s specific ROI (Return on Investment) during a pursuit. Doing a cost vs energy optimization is the fastest and most accurate way to determine a project’s ROI. Cove.tool’s optimization is also the best way to see the importance of performance as a priority and convince every cost-conscious client of the benefits of sustainable design. To make the performance a realistic part of the project, always mention its impact on Money. Here’s how a high performance lab building convinced the owners to make sustainable choices.
Pro Tip: cove.tool runs a parametric cost vs energy optimization for first cost and life cycle cost.
After completing the project profile and getting baseline results for your building, cove.tool allows users to optimize building performance but edit or add system types, costs and performances. Each change will be reflected in the optimization page as a new series of bundles which you can filter to get the combination you want. Here’s a case study about cost optimizing a multi-family to meet the energy code.
Break protocol and mention Carbon Emissions
Although climate change is a touchy topic, the reality is that everyone is experiencing its effect and we do not have the time left to keep it a taboo. Buildings contribute to over 30% of the total carbon emissions in the United States and with our new facilities and innovations in technology we can design responsibly. Carbon emissions can be measured and running early stage energy simulations can help project teams understand the impact and possible design fixes which can drastically reduce the amount that would carbon emission would have been produced otherwise.
Pro Tip: Cove.tool calculates annual carbon emissions and percent reduction whenever the current building performance improves from the baseline model. This is one of the many metrics cove.tool automates, as well as whole building EUI, LEED Points earned, and 2030 Benchmarking.
We live in a time where building performance certifications help raise the $/sf in rent and attract better talent, students or tenants to a specific facility. Certification systems like LEED (USGBC), ASHRAE 189.1, Green Globes and more are a great way to add that value to the project.
Pro Tip: cove.tool does a preliminary calculation of your LEED EAc2 points. Alongside LEED, cove.tool is currently pursuing certification as compliable software for various programs, at various stages of compliance and credits. You can model your project for free now.
While a data driven design process may be new to architects, most industries have used simulations since the 1980s to make decisions. This must be the new norm for every project and not an afterthought (which is probably why you are reading this article). The key to implementation is automated simulation. Teams must ensure that all buildings have an energy. Owners often need to be educated that more efficient buildings can be cheaper to build (with optimization), cheaper to operate, and attract higher rents. Consulting engineers need new contracts that specifically ask for full building simulations instead of simple peak load sizing. Contractors are relying on the architect to specify energy efficient buildings. It is high time for the building design industry to come into the 21st century.
The public already believes that architects are defending their health, safety, and welfare by designing beautiful, energy efficient buildings. It is time to start living up to their expectations. If we do that, the world has a fighting chance to stop climate change.