How did you and your firm get introduced to the 2030 Challenge?
In 2008, the AIA took Ed Mazria’s 2030 Challenge and signed on to it under the “2030 Commitment”. Then, in 2009, the Chicago AIA chapter began to seriously take on the 2030 Challenge and this was when I was asked to serve on the Chicago 2030 Commitment Working Group. The Working Group was tasked with creating a spreadsheet for reporting. The recession had hit and as a representative of a five-person firm, I was tasked with figuring out a way for small firms to do energy modeling at a low cost. We started off with a free program developed by UCLA called HEED. It worked but wasn’t graphically polished. I gave presentations on HEED and also looked at all the other tool options that a small firm would want. This was when we found Sefaira. We liked that it was easy to use and provided client-worthy graphics.
I’ve been a member of the AIA’s 2030 Commitment Working Group for the last nine years and about five years ago I joined the AIA National committee. I’m currently in a two-year co-chair role with the committee.
As an AEC professional, what does the 2030 Challenge mean to you and the future of buildings?
The 2030 Challenge is more important now than ever. When I first joined the movement ten years ago, we were 21 years away from the 2030 target. Now that we’re eleven years out from this, it’s important that the 2030 Challenge becomes ingrained in firms’ cultures. It’s especially important considering it takes a year or more to design and build a building.
The current goal is to be 70% better than the 2003 baseline for a building. That’s tough to do and firms can get discouraged when they don’t achieve this number in the first year. We don’t expect them to accomplish this feat right away because it’s a big one. The best approach is to start energy modeling and familiarize your firm with a project’s pEUI so that over time, you can hit a 50 – 70% reduction. This is good preparation for 2020 when 80% reduction from baseline will become the standard. Overall, the goal is to keep making progress, year over year.
How do you incorporate building performance into your workflow?
Historically, the architecture industry did building analysis through hand calculations and progressed to spreadsheets. Technological changes mean that with a BIM model, you can change an element and the software will update all the calculations for you. We discovered Sefaira in 2014 and liked that it was easy to use and provided client-worthy graphics. Eighty percent of our work is focused on single-family detached homes and the rest are build-outs associated with large commercial projects, as well as restaurants, offices, and retail builds. Once we have the project scope, we test various design layouts. For residential projects, sometimes we’ll model three design layouts and test them in Sefaira first to get a general pEUI number and a sense of the form and orientation. We refine the models using the data from Sefaira.
We also build energy modeling into the project plan and we allot around four hours of work, most of which is recreating our models in SketchUp from Vectorworks. Since 80% of our projects are residential and in the same climate, our workflow is very efficient. Despite this, we really appreciate the real-time results and easy-to-read graphics. Energy modeling is integral to our design process. We feel that it’s important for clients to understand that energy modeling is important to us.
What challenges have you found when designing buildings with the 2030 Challenge in mind?
As both a firm and a member of the 2030 committee, we’re trying to demystify the 2030 Commitment. We found that education is key so we created a five-point sheet about barriers to taking the Commitment up. One of the issues we address is “this is difficult to do”. To show people that it’s not difficult when I do lectures I’ll show a series of images. First are hand calculations from 1940 by an architecture firm called Keck & Keck, who was one of the first firms to implement passive solar design and coined the term ‘passive solar’. These types of hand-drawn calculations are what I started with at school. Second are spreadsheets and the third image is a Sefaira report with beautiful graphics. Once they see how hard it used to be, it’s easy for them to see how incorporating sustainable design is more straightforward now. The ability to push and pull a model, add windows and see the impact in seconds is amazing.