In the past, sustainability initiatives were coordinated by a few key sustainability-focused professionals in the office. These team members would take charge and corral the rest of the project collaborators in conference calls, emails chains, and boardroom meetings making sure building performance targets were discussed, decided, pursued, and implemented.
Present circumstance makes this process, which was not too efficient, very challenging to begin with. With that in mind, here are some tips from cove.tool and AEC leaders that have mastered remote work and the best ways to coordinate building performance while stuck at home.
Use an Online Collaboration Tool
Even the team with the best communication practices and smallest circles have a hard time getting everyone on the same page. So instead of lengthy contracts and chaotic emails chains, many teams are using a single web-app platform like cove.tool. A shared online digital workspace gives the benefit of allowing anyone with internet access the ability to join and view a project, as well drafting a roadmap to harness the most influential building performance strategies while they can still impactful.
Of the Architect Magazine Top 50 Firms for Sustainability, 50% of firms use cove.tool to achieve a distributed workflow. Having floating licenses, allowing everyone to invite collaborators, and an ever-growing list of recorded metrics and analysis types allows a team to use their time efficiently. Teams know when they begin a new project, they will need to run an energy, daylight and glare model to start benchmarking and mapping out the rest of their project’s building performance life, and online tools make that easy.
Spell out the Economic Case for Building Performance
Helping collaborators to see the financial trade-offs of building decisions is hard enough in-person, but how to do it remotely? Value-engineering is at the forefront of new technology in architecture with many firms turning cost vs energy optimization to try out hundreds of material options instead of cutting design features. It is important that each person be able to see how the decision was made and try out their own options so they are 100% on board. Read more about balancing cost and performance.
Every time a new design decision is made, running a cost vs energy optimization is key to keeping the project budget in line. Having a model saves the design team money since redoing drawings due to a lack of coordination kills the project fee. Doing a cost vs energy optimization to reduce upfront construction cost and find the payback gets owners excited about the building performance strategies. The sooner cost is incorporated the more rational the decision making is on a project. Increasingly, this is the standard of care expected by owners.
Assign Responsibilities to People Outside of the Sustainability Bubble
Many firms have a dedicated in-house sustainability team that other architects, engineers are supposed to collaborate with on as “as needed” basis. With this scenario, how would a principal who has never tried out a sustainable building approach even know what the right questions are to ask? With the energy regulations tightening across the world, building performance and architecture are merging into data-driven design methods. Integrated design works best when everyone learns and understands how their work affects the work of others. Not does this lead to a more efficient collaboration, but also means the project will hit building performance targets in a more innovative and integrated fashion. See how this high-performance team utilized this integrated workflow.
The best way to roll out high-performance practices is to show everyone can contribute in some way. Currently, many team members will be limited by the computers and software they have available at home. Using a web-based application like cove.tool, allows everyone to have high powered analysis with just an internet connection. Firms find that maximizing a distributed workflow means having team members only enter the information they know to reduce errors.
For example, the BIM expert or junior architect could use Rhino, Revit, and/or SketchUp plugins to export geometry for your project. Simultaneously, an engineer in a different city can shed some light on your project inputs and not have to touch the geometry (they hate remolding your mega BIM file). A contractor can add all the alternates available in the city for various materials while the cost estimator can provide feedback on cost options. A web-based platform smoothly allows anyone with an operable internet browser, to log in, create a project, review the inputs, and generate a building performance report unique to their building. It was never a good idea to have just 2 or 3 people able to run simulations, but desktop applications forced teams to use this non-collaborative workflow.
Create Sustainability Knowledge and Competence
Projects with sustainability initiatives have a lengthy checklist and a very detailed set of assumptions and requirements. It is easy to lose track of why things are done a certain way and transfer learned knowledge to new team members. Curating a selection of articles, workflows, lessons learned, and case studies in an internal knowledge base is a must for firms. According to McKinsey & Company, on average employees spend 19% of their time gathering information to complete their tasks. Just having an easily searchable internal knowledgebase can boost productivity by 35%.
If it happens to be your firm’s first rodeo building a knowledge base, then check out the AIA 2030 Guide to Building Performance for an excellent breakdown of the stages of building performance. The web-app cove.tool already curates an extensive archive of such topics for teams that want a prebuilt knowledgebase, as well.
Used by thousands of users across 20 different countries and taught across 100 leading universities including Harvard and MIT, cove.tool launched a student design competition early in 2020.
Winning Entry: Brian Ferrel, B.A. Architecture, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Project Name: NoDa Mill Elementary School
Project Description: The project is a net-zero ready elementary school located in the North Davidson neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina. The site is bordered by two historic mill buildings that illustrate the character of the area as a former textile mill neighborhood and new buildings that reflect its current use as an arts district in Charlotte. The design proposes adaptive reuse of the mill building and an addition to the building, housing flexible learning and administrative spaces, communal areas, and learning landscapes.