The key to sustainable design is to launch each prospective design with just the right sustainable concepts, tempered with just the right technology to make those concepts soar.

Building designers need to ask the right questions, and supply technologically savvy answers.

Building massing is the ideation phase in which designers decide the shape, design and orientation ideal for each project. At this phase, the site and vision of the project have been set. With structures contributing to more than 40% of all carbon emissions, it is important to address this aspect early in the project. And even building glazing is something to consider.

With the able aid of Houser Walker Architects and Pond & Company, the design team for Georgia Tech’s Public Safety Facility project analysed a trio of key massing designs using automated performance software—comparing their performance in regards to energy and daylight. The team then used data collected to arrive at functional, sustainable, affordable and beautiful designs. 

Designing with passive strategies is about comprehending the constraints of a design and creating solutions that don’t require active mechanical systems. For example, ambient energy sources can be used to cool, heat, shade, or ventilate a building space. Passive strategies must be integrated into the early phases of the design process to work. This process may involve the listing of strategies effective for your climate zone, collecting case studies, and creating a collection of design ideas compatible with the project. The Cove.tool online design tool conducts a swift analysis, but also recommends case studies to assess based on the climate. Owners must be involved early in the design and planning process, so that all involved can come to an agreement regarding a sound path forward on the project. 

Shading strategies are intended to diminish glare and, in warmer climates, to lighten energy consumption. Due to the complicated interaction between the sun and the building, it’s advisable not to play it by ear or judge by intuition. Glare is measured by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) as one of two factors:

  • Excessive light
  • Too much contrast, meaning that the range of luminance in the field of view is excessive

A common glare metric is Annual Solar Exposure (ASE). A component of LEED and the WELL building standard, ASE measures the percent of floor area exposed to a minimum of 1,000 lux for a minimum of 250 occupied hours annually. This metric determines the percentage of space that gets an overabundance of direct sunlight, prompting visual discomfort and enhanced cooling loads.

A related idea is Spatial Daylight Autonomy (sDA), measured as a percentage of floor area getting enough daylight (judged to be a minimum of 300 lux for at least half of yearly occupied hours). In a design, the aim is to enhance the Spatial Daylight Autonomy while also lessoning the Annual Solar Exposure for optimum daylight quality inside the space. Cove.tool permits for both sDA and ASE analysis within moments of exporting from Revit, Sketchup, Rhino or Grasshopper 3D design files.

Over and above glazing percentage, the daylight penetration reflected from a façade relies on the window’s aspect ratio. It is formulated by the sill height, lintel height, and width more than the total glazing percent.

The daylight maps show the true effect that impact glazing shape can bear on the reach of the daylight. Horizontal windows permit greater penetration of daylight within a space. By experimenting with shading, designers can rid of the most severe glare while still getting the best daylight and views.

Cost is a vital part of decision making during the design of the majority of projects and it is important to utilise a data-driven approach to balance cost with energy performance. With energy codes developing around the globe for new and standing buildings, developers are concerned about the escalating costs affiliated with compliance. Emory University initiated an integrated design process to ease this concern on their new student union, the Campus Life Center. As a private institution, Emory reduces upfront construction costs using Cove.tool.

The first phase is to collaborate with the contractor or cost estimating team to assess realistic construction costs for materials and systems. The more choices a team can lend an algorithm, the better. As each choice is made, the price and performance properties of materials and systems are programmed. This provides a clear and affordable pathway for the project to proceed.

Many variables must be tested for this to work, including window type, wall insulation, roof insulation, HVAC, photovoltaic panels, shading strategy and sensors. This formula can produce thousands of feasible combinations, each with a varying level of energy use and cost. Cove.tool allows users to examine all options, finding the best and most affordable for them.