Rising to the Challenge

The AIA+2030 Professional Series, Session II Review

By Melanie Como Harris, LEED AP Posted on June 13, 2013

aia2030_logo_tm_webOn the third Thursday of May, members of the architectural community gathered at the Bruno Building downtown to further their knowledge-base on high-performance building design. The class was the second of ten sessions in the AIA+2030 professional educational series, which offers strategies towards achieving the 2030 Challenge of carbon-neutral building operations by the year 2030. The 2030 Challenge aims to achieve carbon-neutrality through a combination of design strategies, technologies and systems, and off-site renewable energy that significantly reduce fossil fuel use and green gas emissions. Session II, entitled Getting to 60: The Power of Targets + Load Reduction, featured presentations from architect George Halkias, AIA from Stantec and engineer Alan Traugott from CJL Engineering, and Karen Butler from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program.

George Halkias spoke of the importance of incorporating energy targets into design at the earliest stages. He stressed that sustainable design does not have to add cost – and in fact should not add cost – to the project. The difference between integrated sustainable design and additive sustainable design, states Halkias, is that sustainable strategies tacked on later in the process add cost because the other design decisions may be too far along to change. Early decisions about the envelope coordinated with the decisions about building systems design are critical to integrating high-performance while balancing cost. Another key point he mentioned is the need to discuss assumptions before the energy modeling starts. If used correctly, the energy model can and should be used as a financial tool for design decision-making.

The concept of whole building design to optimize energy reduction was also the focus of Alan Traugott’s presentation. Using several case study examples, including the recently opened Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), Traugott presented a litany of sustainable design strategies. Passive reduction strategies should be the starting point in any energy reduction discussion. After reviewing a number of passive strategies including building orientation, massing, shading, and sun control, Traugott moved into a presentation of the more active strategies including state-of-the-art equipment and products. It was enlightening to hear how the teams evaluated these various strategies in the case studies.

In addition to these local sustainability experts, we were honored to learn from Karen Butler of the EPA’s Energy Star program. As Energy Star’s manager for commercial building design, Butler was instrumental in developing Energy Star’s Target Finder tool. Energy Star has a number of tools online including Target Finder, Portfolio Manager, and Energy Star certification to help the architecture and construction industry to benchmark their projects against real performance data collection in the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). As Butler explained, figuring out your energy performance goals before you begin design is no different than comparing fuel efficiencies before you buy a car. We all got a chance to explore Target Finder when we broke into teams and determined the Energy Star scores for a variety of buildings in different climate zones.

Session III takes place on June 27th. This next session,  Accentuate the Positive: Climate Responsive Design, will build upon the previous sessions by delving deeper into passive energy reduction. Presentations will discuss how building form and orientation can respond to site and climatic factors and how climate-responsive design reduces the energy load of a building. The Pittsburgh region is lucky enough to have a wealth of sustainability experts and Session III will feature more of them. Speakers include Christine Mondor, AIA from evolveEA, Erica Cochran, Assoc. AIA of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Architecture, Lisa Adkins, AIA of Gensler, and Jeremy Snyder from engineering firm Burro Happold. It’s another educational opportunity not to be missed.

Read more about The 2030 Challenge here and another viewpoint about the series from local architecture firm evolveEA  here. Find more information about AIA Pittsburgh’s AIA+2030 Professional Series here.

Melanie Como Harris, LEED AP is a local architect and member of the AIA Committee on the Environment.

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