Integrated Design Process and the Energy Modeler

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One cannot think of a whole building design approach without thinking of the whole design team approach. Who's in the best position within a firm to be take on the lead role of whole building design (architect, LEED staff, project manager, you the energy modeler)? I think in terms of responsibility to your clients determines the one driving the ship, the energy modeler of course. We know that it comes down the PM's responsibility for the whole project, but here I want to discuss that effort of quantifying anticipated energy cost savings and actual cost savings. At this point you should know, if you're new to energy modeling, that you will need data from others to building your model. Believe me, I do not want to set you up for failure, so head these words, "Only take data that you trust is accurate and just enough to get you through to a viable energy model of your building."

This implies a few things, such as printing off a full size set of floor plans with wall dimensions and room areas. You should do this if you can, but let's say for example you have a hotel that you are modeling and the architect has set all the room areas separately for the sleeping quarters, toilet room, and closet. You on the other hand see it as one space with an direct room exhaust component. I'd advise you not to go into the BIM model and change the room areas. Leave the changes to the discipline who "owns-it". They should be able to work with you to get viable information that will work for both of you.

Another instance is the envelope U-Values. You may run into an architect (sorry not to pick on them too much) that is not BIM or energy modeling savvy. When you ask for the information as to question their approach of complying with codes, they may just brush you off initially. It may be better to approach them from a different angle and ask, "So Mr. Bob LeBlah, we are shooting for Gold. What sustainable approaches are you brining to the party? I am doing the energy modeling of this project and I will need your exterior wall composite R-Value that meets or exceeds code...window assembly U-Values and SHGC performance values you are willing to put in your specifications...etc." Do not just accept the answer of 3"spray foam on the exterior sheathing, or here's a cutsheet of the window we're designing around. Pay attention throught the design process of the Arch's spec's for the window assembly. Typically, there may be more than one architect working on a project to help out at the end of design to get a better set of construction documents. Spec's may even be assigned to a specifier, or another architect. I have seen where their spec's only incorporated the min. code values and not what they gave me as a cutsheet. At this point, estimaters have already locked in the code min. windows, putting you in the position of being that person who says they need to spend more money. [Take a moment to digest this] ...OK remember how we're a "team"? Well now it's time to put on your big pants and do what's right. The client/owner/developer has a goal in mind to get a plaque, a low-cost sustainable building, and to meet their objectives after certificate of occupancy is issued.

NO I didn't mean barge in on the architect and ask them to explain themselves, nor tattle to the PM. The underlying definition of integrated is a suttle coming together of the minds so that you can virtually validate a plan to satisfy the client's needs. This may have been said before (not here, but in general) that the benefit in putting more money into the envelope is the best bang-for-the-buck approach versus expensive HVAC or lighting controls. Search for solutions together. There is a paridgm in the A/E world where the Architech's are used to driving the ship. In the integrated design process, they may need to let you take over the wheel for a while so they can focus on their details.

I know that not everyone out there is an expert nor a seasoned architect, so if you would like to discuss or share an experience you had with the acting as a team (good or bad experience) please share. And I'd like to add, that what has happened in the past should not be judged. I'm pretty sure that no one is perfect, and we do not know all the circumstances involved.


Be Sustainable -- Never let today use up tomorrow!.

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Joined: 2010-10-01
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