2030 Commitment Report Spotlight: Kyleen Rockwell of HKS Architects

2030 Commitment Report Spotlight: Kyleen Rockwell of HKS Architects
A rendering of a project analyzed in Sefaira by an HKS architect with no prior experience using Sefaira after four hours of training by Kyleen’s team. Image used with permission from the HKS team.

Architecture 2030 issued the 2030 Challenge to the global architecture and construction industry in 2006 in a bid to reduce the built environments’ carbon emissions and use of fossil fuels, and consequently help halt global climate change. In 2017 alone, this effort contributed more than 17.8 million metric tons of carbon savings compared to baseline equivalent buildings, and $3.2 billion in annual operating costs. As of 2019, 550 firms have participated in this initiative. As part of the program, participating firms report, via the AIA’s Design Data Exchange (DDx), their projects’ Energy Usage Intensity (EUI) during each stage of design, and seek to achieve the stipulated energy and carbon reduction targets for the year. For example, firms are challenged to reduce their design’s EUI by 80%  in 2020 (on the local CBECS 2003 baseline), 90% in 2025, and carbon neutrality by 2030. The AIA tracks these uploads in an annual report. Its latest 2030 Commitment report shows that Sefaira is the top tool used by architectural teams to improve building performance and communicate their shared targets.  

AIA
Tool comparison in the latest 2030 Commitment report

To get a better sense of what inspires these architectural teams and how they incorporate building performance analysis within their workflow, we spoke with three AIA 2030 Commitment Working Group members.  

This week’s spotlight is on Kyleen Rockwell, LEED AP BD+C and Performance Analyst at HKS Architects. Kyleen is passionate about teaching others energy modeling and is a leading member of HKS’s Sustainability Design Green Team.

Kyleen Rockwell, Performance analyst at HKS Architects

Can you tell us a little bit about your architectural journey so far?

I have degrees in both Architecture and Engineering; I started my career working in an engineering consulting firm but made the transition to an architecture firm in order to have more influence early in the design process to impact design decisions.

At HKS, my day-to-day role is using IESVE for advanced energy modeling. More recently, we have started teaching our architects the fundamentals of energy modeling using Sefaira. We feel that Sefaira is a great tool for someone to learn who may not have a building physics background. First, they learn the core concepts, such as EUI and envelope thermal performance, and then we teach them how to create a workflow that will help them to create an energy model they can deliver to the DDx.

How did you and your firm get into the 2030 Commitment?

HKS is one of the signatories to the AIA 2030 Commitment. Rand Ekman, our Chief Sustainability Officer has been critical in ensuring that we enter all our projects into the DDx.

How do you factor building performance analysis into your workflow?

The workflow we encourage is to use Sefaira and set up the code baseline model first.  This helps the designer dial in the code minimum envelope parameters for compliance. Then they would begin to clone the model and make iterations to see where the sensitivities are for the climate and program type to lower the EUI.

One way we’re encouraging participation in the 2030 Commitment is by allocating a fixed amount of the project fee for energy benchmarking and early-stage energy analysis. With a focus on reducing the EUI while there is still flexibility in the design making process, HKS will be better armed to hit the 2030 Challenge target.

HKS Performance Results
Proposed design iterations for the project shown above, which would reduce the overall kWh/year by half. Image used with permission from the HKS team.

What challenges and successes have you found when designing buildings with the 2030 Challenge in mind?

It can be discouraging when, after using high-performing glass and horizontal shading, for example, the EUI only goes down 2 kBTU/sf. This can be a daunting feeling for someone who is trying to make design decisions. Large models and the technical limitations of screen shares during virtual meetings can also greatly impact the speed of analysis.

How do you approach the DDx reporting process?

Our Sustainability Design Green Team, as a whole, reviews and uploads every single one of our projects to correct bad data. We have one dedicated team member that holds the key and will upload all assigned project numbers to the DDx. Once it’s time for the end-of-year reporting, he checks that all baselines and predicted values are accurate and in the system. A few people on our team use Sefaira’s direct upload to DDx feature – the rest of the team will usually go directly into the DDx to change the EUI manually. We reported over 300 projects in the DDx in the last reporting cycle; our focus is on the accuracy of data.

Do you have any favorite projects on which you’ve been able to hit targets or make big wins?

A fun project we’re currently working on is a massing masterplan proposal. Sefaira has been a helpful tool for indicating which orientation and massings are best for a specific climate, without already knowing or having to consider the HVAC and mechanical engineering details. Along with the massing studies, we’ve been doing daylightside studies to add more insights to the project.

As an AEC professional, what does the 2030 Challenge mean to you and the future of buildings?

It gives me hope that if all the participating firms hit the carbon reduction target, we can reduce carbon emissions and curb the damage that’s been done to our environment. It gives me hope for our planet.

Education is the biggest challenge in achieving this. Many architects are not well versed in understanding EUI, and other metrics or the DDx Baseline, so when they receive an energy model report from a mechanical engineer they may not know what number to update in the DDx. Furthermore, as they learn how to use Sefaira for early concept and schematic modeling; we encourage them not to get discouraged when they don’t reach the EUI target right off the bat because there are many variables that influence the EUI. 

A tool like Sefaira helps our team understand that there are different passive design strategies available to help improve the building’s performance, this includes massing and orientation, improving the envelope thermal performance, incorporating shading, reducing the window to wall ratio, to name a few.

Thanks for all your insight, Kyleen!

(Editor’s note: This post was updated January 31st, 2019 at 3:21 am GMT.)