Advancing Building Energy Performance

Building energy codes are intended to mandate the highest level of energy efficiency that can be achieved cost-effectively. They set a standard that adjusts as building technologies improve, energy costs vary and the overall importance placed on energy conservation changes.

The recognition of climate change as a serious concern has helped make energy codes more aggressive, and so has innovation in the industry. Widespread adoption of voluntary programs, such as ENERGY STAR and LEED, have designers and owners demonstrating new ways of making buildings more efficient.

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Energy codes first appeared in the U.S. in the 1970s, when congress mandated them in response to the 1972 oil embargo and subsequent energy crisis. ASHRAE led the way releasing the first version of what is now Standard 90.1 in 1975. The federal government is not allowed to mandate a national energy code; energy codes are adopted and enforced by individual states. The federal government can, however, link financial support to state energy policies, according to Paul Torcellini of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “The current requirement for states to upgrade their codes is tied to whether the state accepted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds,” he says.

States adopt either the most recent version of ASHRAE 90.1 as their code (sometimes with modifications), or they adopt the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which is based on 90.1 (except for single-family and low-rise multifamily homes—IECC has its own process for developing the residential energy code).

The 2010 update to ASHRAE Standard 90.1 was the most ambitious revision in the standard’s nearly 40-year history. On average, buildings will have to be 18 percent more efficient to meet 90.1-2010 compared with 90.1-2007, according to a U.S. Department of Energy analysis. In turn, LEED continues to encourage even higher levels of efficiency: under LEED v4, new buildings have to beat Standard 90.1-2010 by at least 5 percent, and most will have to do much better than that to achieve the coveted Gold or Platinum certification levels.

Achieving that kind of energy efficiency cost-effectively requires engineers to expand their view beyond just taking responsibility for a building’s mechanical or electrical system, and instead actively work to address energy use for the building as a whole. Fortunately, that kind of shift in consciousness is underway, as seen, for example, in the 2012 rebranding of ASHRAE that removed the specific reference to “heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration” from the organization’s name. Now ASHRAE members are simply “shaping today’s built environment for tomorrow.”

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Great building performance also demands close collaboration by all members of a building’s design and construction team, which is why LEED v4 has a new Integrative Process credit to help coordinate that kind of teamwork. When team members take a broader view of their role and work effectively across the disciplines, highly efficient buildings can have minimal upfront cost premiums and huge returns, both for their owners and for the environment.

 Advancing Building Energy Performance

Generic Mechanical and Electrical BIM Objects for the NBS National BIM Library

by Andi Connelly Horsley, NBS Technical Author

The NBS National BIM Library will soon be issuing a significant number of generic mechanical and electrical BIM objects. These will help building services engineers visualise their designs and implications at concept design stage, giving the architect and other design team members an appreciation of what is required at a very early stage in the project. The generic objects can then be easily replaced by proprietary (manufacturer's) objects as the project develops.

Within each object, several parameters have been made variable, such as connection diameters and positions, and main object dimensions (length, width and height). Objects are intended to represent a wide range of the most frequently used plant and equipment.

One of the most important properties of the generic objects is clearance and detection zones. These provide the user with space requirements and clash detection knowledge early on in the design. For example, BS 5839-1 sets maximum spacing requirements for heat detectors. This is reflected in the object by way of coverage area. The detection zones of an object then enable the engineer to easily position and calculate the number of detectors required. The aim is to reduce the potential risk of having to make expensive design changes later on in the project lifecycle.

As the project progresses and the design evolves, generic objects for plant and equipment may be replaced with proprietary objects (from NBS Plus or the manufacturer). This provides the opportunity to immediately assess the effects on project objectives, such as performance and cost, and eventually produce information such as the building's carbon footprint.

Feedback from many areas of the construction industry has been used to generate NBS National BIM Library's generic mechanical and electrical objects. Objects are by necessity:

  • Geometrically accurate and instantly recognisable;
  • Of variable dimensions and connection type, to ensure maximum flexibility;
  • Produced complete with identifiable and visual detection zones where appropriate;
  • Complete with clearance/maintenance zones; and
  • 'Non-hosted'; that is, they don't have to be fixed to a wall or a ceiling when brought into the project.

The NBS National BIM Library has included plant and equipment such as:

Fire and detection equipment: Control and indicating equipment, detection (i.e. point heat and point smoke detectors, beam detectors), mimic panels, manual call points and sounders.

Intruder detection and alarm systems: Control and indicating equipment, detectors (including PIR, PIR and microwave, beam and acoustic), and sounders.

LV distribution equipment: Cubicle switchgear, distribution boards and consumer units.

Road and amenity lighting: Lighting columns, brackets and bollards.

Water services: Calorifiers, water heaters (both storage and instantaneous), pumps, booster sets, pressurization units, expansion vessels, storage tanks and solar collectors.

Heating plant and equipment: Boilers, heat exchangers, pumps, emitters and heat pumps.

Ventilation and cooling: air handling units, condensing units, chillers and spilt coil units.

NBS National BIM Library generic mechanical and electrical objects are produced in Autodesk Revit, as extensive research and analysis indicates that this is the tool of choice for service engineers implementing BIM. However, all objects are also in IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) format, an industry-wide open and neutral data format that enables rich data exchange without the dependency on any one software package. All of the mechanical and electrical objects are available from the NBS National BIM Library in both Revit and IFC format, accompanied by an 'Object Guide' in PDF format. This lists all parameters involved in the use of the object, including: NBS (which directly relate to NBS Create specification writing software), COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange) and IFC. It also provides a description for each parameter from the NBS in-house technical author engineers, and BuildingSMART.

The team at NBS are continuing to interpret and simplify the BIM process - and present it in a user-friendly way. As Ian Chapman, Director of the National BIM Library says, "No-one understands construction information requirements better than NBS".

Generic Mechanical and Elec1 Generic Mechanical and Electrical BIM Objects for the NBS National BIM Library
Wall mounted, gas-fired condensing boiler.
Image produced using Revit.

Generic Mechanical and Elec2 Generic Mechanical and Electrical BIM Objects for the NBS National BIM Library
Wall mounted, gas-fired condensing boiler in position in Revit,
with the clearance zone indicated.

 Generic Mechanical and Electrical BIM Objects for the NBS National BIM Library

10 predictions for the US building industry

green building 3 300x225 10 predictions for the US building industry

Portland/Seattle green builder Hammer & Hand has unveiled its ten predictions for the US high performance building industry.

These include:

  • Focus will move beyond Net Zero Energy to Net Positive Energy buildings.

Three trends will begin moving the high performance building industry beyond Net Zero Energy (NZE) buildings toward Net Positive Energy (NPE) buildings:
a. Falling prices for photovoltaic panels to make energy production more feasible;
b. Increasing viability and availability of electric vehicles to harness surplus energy production and compete with buildings for electricity; and
c. The emergence of market mechanisms that reward both onsite energy conservation and production (see next point).

  • Market mechanisms that reward energy conservation and renewable energy production will flourish.

Market-based tools like Feed In Tariffs (to allow building owners/operators to sell excess energy back to the grid), Carbon Offsets (to reward building owners/operators for reductions in carbon footprint), and Metered Energy Efficiency Transactions (to allow investors in building energy efficiency to sell “negawatts” back to the utility, being piloted by the Bullitt Center and Seattle City Light) will continue to gain ground in 2014.

  • Building energy codes will move away from prescriptive rules toward performance-based measures.

The City of Seattle leads the charge toward performance-based code at the municipal scale, and the States of California and Washington have taken important first steps at the state level. The US Department of Energy continues to push the envelope through its work on the International Energy Conservation Code. Expect the trend toward performance measures to continue in 2014 as the limitations of prescriptive code become more and more obvious to policy makers.

  • CO2 heat pumps will help transform heating and cooling performance.

New technology will continue to drive the development of the US high performance building industry, with CO2 heat pumps making an entrance into the North American marketplace. These heating and cooling units bring these benefits:
a. More earth friendly due to lower Global Warming Potential (GWP).
b. Move more energy more efficiently.
c. Work in much colder climates without the steep performance curve drop-offs seen with other heat pumps.

  • The US-led move to make Passive House more climate-specific will improve performance at both micro and macro levels.

In the past year the Passive House Institute US began spearheading the effort to make the Passive House standard more sensitive to the diverse climates found across the US, including partnerships with the Building Science Corporation and the Department of Energy. This effort will bear fruit in 2014, helping to guide successful high performance building in the American South and across the northern portion of the continent.

  • Europe’s push to eliminate thermal bridges in buildings will make high performance building more mainstream in the US, too.

Europe is pushing hard to eliminate thermal bridges (building elements that transfer heat or cool energy through the building envelope), resulting in a wave of new user-friendly software tools for calculating thermal bridging. This development has brought what was once a highly technical, niche element of high performance building into the mainstream in Europe. These same tools apply equally well in the US, and promise to make the battle against thermal bridges easier to win for US designers in 2014.

  • China’s interest in high performance building will propel US market.

While still nascent, China’s move toward high performance, energy conserving structures and building envelopes will have far-reaching impacts. From demand for US-manufactured building components to supply of Chinese-made ones, the US high performance building industry stands to gain when the world’s second largest economy puts its weight behind building energy conservation.

 10 predictions for the US building industry

15 iPhone Apps Every Architect Must Have

Architecture is an occupational field where you need to stay very organized, calculated, have a great deal of creativity and own many skills. The iPhone is a very comprehensive multitasking tool, which if packed with the correct tools can help you do your job quickly and accurately.

Draw, read, calculate, organize your meetings, prepare for your LEED certification exam, and experiment with these handy and very useful applications that you will simply love. You are only a click away from having the universe of architectural professionalism right in your pocket for a relatively very small investment!

1. ColorSnap

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This is a color matcher application, which allows you to capture just about any color from a photo or the real world and convert it to paint color. You can create your own color palette very easily, and share it on social media portals, or send it via email to friends or colleagues. Match, adjust, browse and save your favorite color combinations within seconds. Add some imagination, and create unique pastels that you will use for the works that you create.

iTunes download link

2. Sketchbook Mobile App

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A master tool for drawing and design. This is a highly creative tool that allows you to draw even digital sketches on a napkin. It has the renowned SketchbookPro Software paint engine embedded, so you can achieve very high quality brush or fluid paintings. It has 45 preset brush types, like markers, pencils, texture brushes or felt pens. All the brush settings are fully customizable, so that you are allowed to express your drawings and sketches exactly the way you envision them. It is a highly useful tool for architects and graphic designers alike.

iTunes download link

3. CAD touchR2

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This is an iPhone application that is very useful not only for architects, but engineers, designers or carpenters as well. Thanks to its high standard embedded technology, the app allows you to draw with great precision floor plans, calculate areas/perimeters, and build complicated diagrams. Whenever you are satisfied with your drawing, you can instantly send it through mail.

iTunes Download link

4. Architect’s Formulator

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A very comprehensive and highly professional app which contains 200+ useful formulas for architects. Some of the formula sections include: Acoustics, Room Absorption, Reverberation Time-metric or Time-feet, Cantilever Vmax, Uniform Load Tree Spans, Weight of Fine Aggregate, Bricks Needed in 8, 12 or 16 inch wall, Design, Seating Capacity Area, plus many more.

iTunes download link

5. Colorcoat Prisma®

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With this app you can view the sample colours and specifications of the Colorcoat Prisma® colours, and of course you can order samples or view finished buildings that have used the Prisma colours. With a touch of a button, you can check the great palette of new colors, product performance information, and read case studies charts. Confidex Guarantee® is up to 30 years for solid metallic colors and up to 25 for matt colors. The app is totally free, and perfectly compatible even with iOS 4.

iTunes download link

6. (2 Do: Tasks Done in Style)

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If you are an architect, you know the importance of staying organized and working around a well defined schedule. If you are not satisfied with the organizer tools you have had until now, 2Do will delight you with its many functions, settings and ease of use. Besides having an elegant layout, it is extremely useful and you will definitely not get lost in the complicated features. Helps you stay productive with your work.

iTunes download link

7. Architect Quick Quotes v. 1.3

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This is a fun and very inspiring application every architect should own on their iPhone. This basically is a selection of 380+ quotes from very famous architects around the world. Some of the great names quoted in this collection are Frank Lloyd Wright, Rem Koolhaas, Addison Mizner, Kenzo Tange and many more. You can bookmark the quotes, search the library very easily and email them to your friends. Moreover, there are 23 colorful wallpapers included.

iTunes download link

8. Architect Envi Deluxe

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Brought to you by Open Door Networks Inc., this application is your iPhone encyclopedia and thesaurus, containing the world’s most famous architects with high quality pictures of their best works. Moreover, with each entry you will also get in-depth information regarding the architect himself. This is the perfect tool for a starter architect, but an invaluable collection for the master architect as well.

iTunes download link

9. LEED Green Associate Flashcards app

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A highly educational tool brought to you by LEED Teacher. Given the fact that in the architecture nowadays it is very important to stay eco-friendly, taking the LEED Green Associate exam is a hugely important step in your career. The educational flashcards will guide through the preparation for this important exam. Good luck!

iTunes download link

10. Buildings App

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Highly useful, map-like application featuring all the important buildings from all over the world. This is a quick reference guide for both starter and pro architects, and within seconds you will find the building you are looking for with comprehensive explanatory notes attached and location on map.

iTunes download link

11. Architecture

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This is a highly inspirational tool. Whenever you feel like you are out of design and creation ideas, simply browse through the wide and diverse palette of architectural shapes. Brought to you by Italic Labs LC, the compendium consists of a slideshow of top quality images from around the world which have been photographed by experts in the field. Simply beautiful!

iTunes download link

12. Drawvis

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A highly useful application that allows architects and technical engineers to view technical drawings in AutoCAD DXF format. What is even better about it is that you are allowed you attach sticky notes to your drawings, so that you can always organize drawings well, and get help from the reminder notes. Version 1.3 is currently updated and it allows voice, image and video notes as well. The app is totally free, and it is compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

iTunes download link

13. Design Observer Application

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A very modern tool for every architect. If you love designobserver.com, and you probably do if you are passionate about design and architecture from around the World, then this application is a copy of the site in miniature. It is a totally free app, and you will get an instant insight into the trends in sustainable architecture, visual culture, innovative techniques, and urbanism. You can catch up with the news in the field, by browsing among the high quality essays, reports, videos or special slideshows. It comes with a special “Mondrian” view, which allows you to use key images for browsing articles/essays.

iTunes download link

14. Globe Convert

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In order to stay fully organized, you will also need an application that will help you convert units quickly and accurately. Plus, since you are a master of aesthetics yourself, you would like to have one good looking converter, just like this one. It is totally free to download, and has many integrated converting and calculating functions such as area, speed, length, width, power, pressure, temperature and many more.

iTunes download link

15. 3D Builder Bricks

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This is an application that will help you expand your creative side. You can use several “Lego” like building blocks to create stunningly visual works of art. Half playing and half seriously, within minutes you will be able to see what beautiful designs you have created. This application is not intended for professionals or to aid you with your work, but it is simply a challenging and funny application that you will enjoy playing and constructing with!

iTunes download link

This selection of the best iPhone Apps for Architects

Some of them are free, while some of them with a quite decent price tag – will definitely make your life easier.

You can choose among several professional calculators, drawing & design tools, full architectural encyclopedias, a thesaurus in images containing the most representative works from around the world, and even one compendium of quotes from famous architects.

Many of these applications are intended for professional use, but you will also find a few that have simple recreational purposes and which you as an architect will highly enjoy. Great ideas come from little things, so go ahead and pick out the applications that you think you will find useful, interesting or must-haves for your job.

 15 iPhone Apps Every Architect Must Have

Women’s Opportunity Centre in Rwanda, Sharon Davis Design

Drawing on local precedents, this centre teaches cultivation skills to the women of a Rwandan village, improving both their prospects and those of the community

The Women’s Opportunity Centre in Rwanda was conceived as an economic incubator that would serve a local community and become a model of sustainability in this impoverished country. It was sponsored by Women for Women International, an NGO founded by a refugee from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to help women in strife-torn states rebuild their lives.

The organisation has rented space in many countries, from Bosnia to Congo; in Rwanda the government gave them a two-hectare plot of land near the village of Kayonza and invited them to build a ground-up facility. For this ambitious project they picked Sharon Davis Design, a New York practice that had collaborated on their earlier Kosovan venture.

Rwanda is one of the smallest, most densely populated countries in Africa. Scarred by the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu extremists massacred nearly a million of the Tutsi minority, it welcomes outside assistance and is relatively free of corruption.

Davis knew little of Africa before this assignment, but she responded enthusiastically to the challenge. Drawing on the expertise of a hydrologist, engineer and landscape architect in New York, she did a lot of research in Rwanda before starting her design. ‘I wanted to use locally available materials and find inspiration in the vernacular tradition,’ she explains.

Those traditions have been lost in the rush to modernise, but Davis found a model in the recreated King’s Palace. That gave her the idea of building in the round. An arc of circular classrooms frame a community space. A pair of curvilinear administrative offices, orthogonal housing, stables, and a covered market border the trapezoidal site. Four tented rooms accommodate guests.

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Vernacular structures had thatched roofs supported on a wood frame and walls of woven reeds, all of which required frequent maintenance. Davis considered the alternatives and specified bricks, 450,000 of which were hand-made on site by the centre’s users. She designed the perforated brick walls of the classrooms as self-supporting coils, with a single recessed entrance.

The engineer was unsure how much weight the walls could support and recommended an independent roof structure. Thatch harbours bugs and indigenous clay tiles are heavy and require massive supports. So Davis chose corrugated metal, ubiquitous throughout Africa, to create lightweight canopies, supported on tapered steel girders, which float above the masonry.

web  390 Womens Opportunity Centre in Rwanda, Sharon Davis DesignChain drains are used to collect rainwater which is then stored in underground cisterns

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It was an inspired solution. The complex captures the spirit of a traditional village using contemporary materials that can be locally sourced and assembled. Brickwork proved much stronger than anticipated, and should be able to withstand seismic shocks. The curved plan was ideal for classrooms, where up to 25 women form a circle to interact more effectively.

Pierced walls and the detached roofs shade the interiors from the equatorial sun, drawing in cool breezes but shutting out wind-driven rain. The openings are large enough for occupants to look out, but small enough to ensure privacy. Corrugated metal facilitates the collection of rainwater, which is channelled into underground cisterns to keep it cool. From there, a small solar pump raises it to a tower at the top of the site, where it is filtered and sold as drinking water - a precious commodity win this drought-prone country.

It was important to Davis and the sponsor to make the complex self-sufficient, for economic and social reasons. Construction of the centre cost about £800,000, but it should pay for itself in sales of water and produce, and rents charged for market stalls and event spaces.

There’s a model farm adjoining the site so lessons can be directly applied. In rural Rwanda, women eke out a living in subsistence farming, fetching water and scavenging wood for fuel. The goal is to teach them new skills, in cultivation and marketing, and have them become teachers in other villages. The 300 women directly served by the Kayonza Centre could enlighten a broad spectrum of their sisters, country-wide.

web  390 Womens Opportunity Centre in Rwanda, Sharon Davis DesignThe women are taught skills in subsistence on the farm, making the centre self-sufficient in terms of produce, even deploying human waste as fertiliser

wev 390 Womens Opportunity Centre in Rwanda, Sharon Davis Designcircular classrooms facilitate interaction and intimacy

Inevitably, there is resistance to change. Local masons were initially reluctant to build the pieced brick walls, but they acquired valuable skills in doing so, as did the women who made the bricks. When the project began, there were few Rwandan architects and no building codes; the situation has since improved.

Davis designed hygienic composting toilets that save water and allow human waste to be used as fertiliser, in place of the pit latrines that pollute the aquifers. Some villagers are still reluctant to make use of the waste. As the architect notes, it’s a cultural issue that calls for education and time to win over doubters. She has become an advocate and plans to focus her practice on the opportunity to serve and innovate in Africa.

 Womens Opportunity Centre in Rwanda, Sharon Davis Design