Is Integrating Building Performance Difficult at Your Firm?

Is Integrating Building Performance Difficult at Your Firm?

In a study recently published by AIA, less than 13% of architectural firms have incorporated building performance as part of their practice. With buildings contributing 40% of total carbon emissions leading to climate change, just 25 projects are roughly equivalent to planting 1 million trees each year. In addition to that, teams that are able to showcase data-driven and performance-driven decision-making and feature an energy analysis in every pursuit are able to increase fees and generate more revenue. Although integrating building performance sounds like a no-brainer, it proves to be difficult at many firms, because in addition to the practical changes, it requires a culture shift. That culture shift can only happen if the tools are easy to use, accurate, and mesh well with current workflows. Right now is the perfect time to tackle these culture changes due to a few reasons:

  1. AIA Climate Emergency Resolution passed with 93% of the vote 
  2. Energy codes are upgrading across the United States and in other parts of the world
  3. Updated technology is making performance modeling simple and affordable

Here are 10 things you can do to integrate building performance into the processes at your firm:

Courtesy of Cove.tool

1. Get buy-in from project managers and management (most important). This is easier said than done; however, you can start making an impact in a cost-minimal way. If you are working on a project, you can take 30 minutes to create a free energy model and corresponding report and share it with project managers, principals, and colleagues. Cove.tool, the automated performance modeling software, can be a helpful partner in this process. By creating automated reports that can be used for project meetings and pursuits and allowing free trials so teams can build internal momentum without the cost implication, you can start driving the change.

© Houser Walker Architects
© Duda Paine

2. Have a firm-wide meeting to lay out expectations and timelines for making early stage modeling mandatory for every project. You will need a few meetings. One for the announcement and another meeting 1 month later to answer questions raised by the early adopters. Follow up with a 3 month meeting on lessons learned and a 6 month “state of the union” style message to champion success and call to action on remaining projects. Generally, more climate-conscious employees will provide the energy to make it happen but they need recognition from management.

3. Make sure all new hires understand easy-to-use performance modeling software like cove.tool so the internal knowledge keeps moving forward. This can be done through video tutorials or personalized training.

Courtesy of Cove.tool

4. Additionally, set the target of 100% of projects being energy modeled and reporting to the AIA 2030 DDx by the end of the year. This helps with marketing and selling the “High Performance Method” to clients and team members alike. Some catchy cool acronym that helps with team building and marketing is important to foster shared brand identity in changing the culture. Cove.tool automatically provides benchmarking data and links directly to the AIA 2030 DDx, making the reporting process seamless and quick.

Courtesy of Cove.tool

5. Identify sustainability champions who will help reluctant team members to understand how easy it is to incorporate and provide additional resources to those resisting adoption.

6. Further, emphasize how high performance and iterative design thinking is part of the firm culture going forward (turn haters into believers!). Sharing case-studies internally of wins from other projects will help drive the point home. You can also share case-studies from other firms.

7. Emphasize that design is still key and analysis is a decision-making tool to ensure that the design concept is protected and enhanced. Show how clients are willing to be more daring when they see performance to back up design moves. There are many things you can modify in your project to help make it more energy efficient without compromising the design like: 

        1. Adjusted set points
        2. Lighting Power Density
        3. Equipment (use Energy Star, laptops, etc.), 
        4. Controls for plugs and occupancy, 
        5. Schedules
        6. Size systems based on actual people vs. people per square foot

8. Have software companies help with setting up the first few models and provide customized training based on practice area. Record videos of the setup and share them back with the teams to increase confidence. Cove.tool works closely with every firm that starts using it to help set up the first few projects and serves as a resource every step of the way to remove the learning curve.

9. Provide a central location for videos, training, and lessons learned. Put the required views for exporting from Revit in the project template to make things easier. All firms have a different process and identifying that process is key. Using a new software must not slow down or hinder the design process in any way. Other plugins from cove.tool to Revit, Sketchup, Rhinoceros, Grasshopper help make the process easier.

Courtesy of Cove.tool

10. After 6 months, begin requiring that all projects update their geometry in cove.tool and upload to DDx before getting billing invoices approved for SD, DD, CD, etc. This ensures that the admin has a constant real time view of the firm-wide performance. Here are a few testimonials of firms that have been able to create this culture shift!

11. You too can get started now with step 1!

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About this author
Cite: Megan Schires. "Is Integrating Building Performance Difficult at Your Firm?" 22 Aug 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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