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Top five resources to jumpstart your sustainable design workflow

The UN’s Global Alliance for Building and Construction states that the demand for building floor space and access to energy services has doubled globally. As developing economies continue to grow, the strain on construction services – and the resulting need to reduce energy consumption – creates a unique opportunity for AEC professionals. Enter center stage, sustainable design solutions.

Buildings and construction’s share of global final energy and energy-related CO2 emissions, 2020 Retrieved July 18, 2022, from

The need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and GHG emissions is a real concern with a dangerous countdown timer attached. At the height of the global pandemic, buildings accounted for 36% of global energy demand and 37% of energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020. In the US alone, The US Department for Energy (USDoE) estimates that greater than 40% of the energy used and associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were expended to provide comfortable, well-lit residential and commercial buildings—and to provide space conditioning and lighting for industrial buildings. 

How can professionals in the built environment inspire a sustainable future? First, bake in passive and active strategies for high performance in pre-construction; next, deliver builds efficiently and with little to no waste of resources, capital, or time; and finally, leverage data to optimize buildings’ post-occupancy performance.

To move the needle, AEC professionals need to leverage existing and emerging technologies and adapt their workflows to absorb sustainable practices as commonplace. Over the past decade, technology like Sefaira has disrupted the routine of performing late-stage building analysis simply for code validation and made it more accessible during early design phases. As a result, more and more AEC designers have taken on the challenge of baking sustainability considerations into their workflows. Armed with the right tools, these firms access the insights to steer towards better performance without exhausting their project budget. 

What steps can you take to incorporate better practices for a more sustainable built environment? We’ve shortlisted five resources to spark a new fire in your design workflow.

1. [eBook] Top five ways an architect can drive sustainability

From form and orientation to facade design, natural ventilation strategies, and material specification, this eBook will show you how to leverage your power as a designer to shape your building’s performance right from its inception and impact the world through sustainable design. Email required for access.

2. [Video] Introducing PreDesign

We discuss how strong design narratives lead to great designs on the SketchUp blog. In the spirit of embedding performance considerations from the start of the project, this video unpacks how climate insights can help steer your design narrative and how tools like PreDesign can provide recommendations for factors such as glazing ratios and type, shading, and outdoor interventions.

3. [Article] Six Metrics Every Architect Should Know (And How to Use Them)

If you are or have already ventured into performance design, chances are you’ve been hit by a million and one abbreviations that all appear important. These six key metrics will set you on the path to fine-tuning your designs and delivering better buildings. From energy use intensity (EUI), and carbon emissions, to spatial daylight autonomy (sDA), this article gives you the scoop on definitions, typical values (did someone say cheat sheet?!), and brief notes on how to use them.

4. [Case Study] JLG Architects: Five tips for embedding sustainability into design practice

JLG Architects Gorecki Alumni Center at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, is the first LEED Platinum project in North Dakota

The award-winning firm, JLG Architects, has committed to the Architecture 2030 challenge by reimagining its workflows around a data-driven, holistic, and firmwide process. Read about how they leverage technology and process across their entire project portfolio to achieve ambitious certifications such as the first LEED Platinum building in North Dakota. You can watch how in-house architect and sustainability specialist Dane Andersen gets it done.

5. [Case Study] Perkins Eastman: Designing Net-Zero Learning Environments

Front facade of Perkins Eastman Banneker High School in Washington DC.

It’s possible to exceed performance goals, reduce environmental impact, and deliver architecture that drives student performance. Promise, we’ve seen it with our own two eyes. Read how Perkins Eastman gets it done while delivering North America's highest energy-performing high school in the United States. 

This shortlist is designed to leave you inspired and empowered to make a mark on the next decade of the built environment. It is no longer a specialist's job to add a veneer of strategies after a design has been fully baked. Instead, tools like PreDesign can help you understand your site’s climate, while Sefaira provides the agency to assess the suitability of your ideas against energy, daylight, and carbon considerations. Progressive design firms now submit net-zero and net-positive design proposals as the standard. Integrating performance analysis earlier in the process can eliminate a significant amount of re-work, exceed building regulations baselines, and deliver ambitious projects. 

Start getting insights from PreDesign today, or watch this snappy video series to get started with building performance analysis in Sefaira.

About the Author

Sumele contributes architecture and performance-focused content to the SketchUp blogs. When she's not writing or practicing architecture, she can be found singing, cooking up a storm, or with her head stuck in a book.

Profile Photo of Sumele Adelana