Colin Evans's blog

How to Influence Building Envelope Design with Energy Modeling

Author: Colin Evans
Posted on: November 15, 2013

My first energy modeling assignment was for a building that was nearing the end of construction.  The owner wanted a second opinion, or third-party energy model, to see how it would compare to the energy modeling results given by the design team for LEED certification.  What they really wanted to know was how much they should expect to pay for utilities during their first year or two, because they were a national real estate developer trying to predict the future of their investment.  Since this introduction to the powerful tool of energy modeling, my mind has been focused on proving to myself and others that the most useful investment for energy modeling is to influence the building envelope and architecture design at the beginning of design and conceptualization.

Influencing Design Specs with the Energy Model

So, the question becomes: How do we help shape the design and specifications of a building to maximize energy efficiency?  I think the answer comes with experience and a determination to analyze as many building envelope and design options as possible.  If I were designing and constructing a building myself, this question would be a pretty simple to answer.  Since engineers and energy modelers typically work alongside architects and owners in designing a building, the key is to focus on a conversation that helps all parties understand what is at stake with their design choices and how powerful an energy simulation can be in finalizing those choices.  I tend to think of myself as an experienced energy modeler, not an expert.  But I think this does make me an expert at finding out how a particular design choice changes the performance of a building.

Finding the Right Answers