High expectations for high-performance buildings

High-performance buildings are intricate, complex projects that require attention—qualified, expert consulting-specifying engineers apply their knowledge on such projects.



 CSE: What’s the No. 1 trend you see today in the design of high-performance buildings?

Dave Clute: The No. 1 trend we see in our current projects is clients’ desire to deliver economic, environmental, and experiential outcomes that allow them to create a competitive advantage for their core businesses. Economic performance to satisfy long-term cost benefits is paramount. Environmental performance and energy efficiency is a given. Workspaces that provide a compelling experience to work, live, and play is also high on the list of desirable attributes.

Paul Erickson: Energy modeling seems to be the most widespread trend that I am seeing in high-performance building projects. At the rate energy codes and standards are ramping up, prescriptive compliance is becoming more challenging. This coupled with energy-savings targets for many institutions compels the need for using modeling tools to test concepts, shape design solutions, and evaluate the overall project performance.

Richard Holzer: I’m seeing a shift in emphasis from energy conservation to occupant health and wellness. Interestingly, the number of projects seeking LEED certification is trending down.

Tim Kuhlman: I see a trend to make buildings more “technology-ready.” Whether it is for smarter building systems or the interaction of the people that work in the building, there is an expectation that the new technologies for sharing data will be supported.

A. Brian Lomel: I’m seeing wellness and indoor air quality for enhanced productivity and better work environments as well as attraction and retention of employees/occupants.

CSE: What other trends should engineers be on the lookout regarding such projects in the near future (1 to 3 years)?

The Center for Translational Research and Education, located in Loyola University’s Health Sciences Campus in Maywood, Ill., is a $137 million research and education facility accommodating 500 scientists and staff collaborating on various projects geared toward improving human health. Photo: Dave Burk PhotographyErickson: Considering the energy/water nexus in buildings and on campuses, responding with holistic design solutions is a growing trend. More attention is being given to occupant experience, whether via rating systems like Living Building Challenge and WELL or via individual controllability tools like Comfy. Other trends we see are a bit more project-type-specific. Geoexchange systems (geothermal to many) have found great success in the K-12 market and are increasingly part of the puzzle for high-performance higher education and corporate buildings and campus planning.  With the confirmation of successful first applications like Cone Health’s, active chilled beams are the major trend in health care right now. With updates a few years ago to ASHRAE Standard 170: Ventilation of Health Care Facilities https://www.ashrae.org/resources--publications/bookstore/health-care-facilities-resources)that opened up the opportunity to use chilled beams for reducing air-change requirements, we are consistently seeing our projects apply this solution for the same cost—or less—as traditional variable air volume (VAV) while gaining significant energy savings as well.

Kuhlman: Engineers should start getting used to working with virtual reality (VR). I expect this to appear on two different fronts. The first is in how we design systems. VR will be able to help engineers to virtually interact with a system to determine issues with access, maintenance, and construction. The second is in the design of VR interaction rooms. These rooms can be thought of as very high-end AV rooms where a client can project a virtual space to evaluate products and have interactive training with equipment and demonstrations.

Holzer: There is a greater focus on water conservation and reuse, particularly in the Western United States.

Lomel: Net zero water and energy, microgrids, and emphasis on resiliency are some other trends.

Clute: The ability to offer the end users, tenants, visitors, and operators of a building a mobile, digital experience is becoming increasingly more important. Millennials and next-generation employees want to be able to access a building using digital credentials and modify the temperature and light levels of their workspace using handheld smartphones. Communication, collaboration, coordination, and innovation is how people want to work; anywhere and anytime.

CSE: Please describe a recent high-performance building project you’ve worked on—share details about the project including location, systems engineered, team involved, etc.

Clute: The Zurich North America Headquarters project located in Schaumburg, Ill., was recently completed and opened in October 2016. Certified as LEED Platinum, the 783,800-sq-ft complex reinforces Zurich’s commitment to environmental stewardship. A network of horizontal sunshades clad the perimeter of the complex, with the sunshades varying in depth depending on orientation, while floor-to-ceiling glass offers extensive natural light for the shallow office plates. A soaring 3-story double wall faces south toward the multilevel plazas, showcasing an architecture that responds to the changing Chicago climate. The building was designed by Goettsch Partners for the base building and Cannon Design for the interiors; Clayco Construction was the design-build contractor.

Erickson: Montana State University in Bozeman has an engineering student alum that’s made a name for himself in the HVAC industry. Norm Asbjornson, founder of AAON, made a significant donation to fund a new engineering building on campus (Norm Asbjornson Hall) charged with embracing high-performance design, even reaching toward net zero energy, to create a dynamic and interactive learning environment. AEI and ZGF Architects partnered with Associated Construction Engineering and A&E Architects to design this leading-edge facility. Starting with early planning and study, we determined an energy-use intensity (EUI) target that could be supported by PV on the site, which included a new parking garage that is a part of the project. In conjunction with a vision held by the assistant director of facilities services to interconnect multiple buildings on this south part of campus, we explored and implemented a geoexchange system design. Using a mix of an AAON air handling unit and local conditioning equipment that can be selected with geoexchange heat pump options, we were able to provide a low-energy concept that can move heating and cooling energy between the spaces in the building, the building and the geofield, or even the building and the other nearby campus buildings. To help meet the heavily dominating heating loads, a transpired solar wall systemhttp://solarwall.com/en/home.php) was employed, harnessing the extremely sunny Bozeman climate. These and other systems allowed the EUI of the building to be reduced to a very low number, often referred to as near zero energy or net zero-ready. Once deployed, the PV and solar hot-water systems should allow for net zero operation.

Kuhlman: I am currently working on cloud-computing data centers for a confidential client. The servers are connected through a fabric network designed for high throughput and high reliability. In addition to the technology that is implemented to make the data center function, the fabric network also implements technology to assist the data center operators to interact with the building systems.

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