High Performance Buildings

Technological advancements in the building design and construction industry are allowing the performance envelope to be pushed from all directions. Reducing energy usage, improving occupant comfort, optimizing lighting levels, and integrating systems to simplify operation and maintenance practices are all examples of issues that require close scrutiny and expertise when designing high performance buildings. To achieve success with such projects, high performance buildings require a more collaborative approach to design and construction. In order to produce and sustain the performance levels of these types of facilities, owners are actively involved during the design process and have upgraded their approach to operations and maintenance.

Project Management

No two high performance buildings are alike. The design of each building must be tailored to the specific needs of the owner while also coordinated within the project budget and schedule. This warrants a detailed and integrated approach to design. Options must be developed and analyzed to address various building design issues, often including building geometry and orientation, building envelope, engineered system selections, HVAC and lighting controls strategies, and equipment life cycles, all with an integrated approach. The cycle of developing options, while comparing their performance, costs, operation, and construction, and making decisions with the owner’s input, should commence early during conceptual design, and continue through design completion. The proper management of this process is critical to the success of the project, and it is imperative that the owner is directly involved throughout.

Energy Modeling

There are several software options, each with varying levels of sophistication, which can be used to simulate the energy usage of a building. For many projects, energy modeling is performed to document compliance with design standards. For high performance buildings, energy modeling should be used to facilitate the analysis of the numerous design options, allowing the designers and owners to make informed decisions. The energy model must be continuously updated as the design progresses to account for the subtle, and not so subtle, performance impact of each design change.

Wake Forest Energy Dashboard

Integrated Building Systems

For high performance buildings, HVAC control sequences and lighting control schemes should be custom-tailored to each application. In order for the systems to respond to changing conditions and minimize energy usage, multiple building systems are often integrated. For example, to respond to changes in occupancy or lighting status, HVAC and lighting control systems must communicate with one another. Once high performance building are operational, an extra level of monitoring and assessment is warranted from the owner to validate that the systems perform as intended. Owners find it very useful for building performance data to be measured, stored, organized, and graphically displayed on a building management platform or dashboard to provide the operations staff with real-time information they need to make operations and maintenance decisions. By the use of integrated building systems, multiple building can be monitored and operated remotely, via a single common interface.

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