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Visual energy model database demystifies net-zero design

Diamond Schmitt Architects’ ecoMetrics tool allows its designers to quickly analyze solutions based on models from 44 LEED-certified projects.

August 23, 2016 |

The LEED Gold-certified Environmental Science and Chemistry Building at the University of Toronto Scarborough is among 44 sustainable projects included in Diamond Schmitt Architects’ ecoMetrics visual database of energy models. Among its sustainable design features are earth tubes that draw fresh air through cylindrical intake shafts to be warmed or cooled (depending on the season) below ground before entering the HVAC system. Photo: Michael Muraz.

Designers with Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt Architects (DSA) view building design and performance much like a physician views patient health: tracking the vital signs is key to developing the proper diagnosis or optimal solution. 

Instead of using heart rate and blood pressure to identify concerns, DSA’s designers look at six key metrics that, when optimized, are likely to result in high-performance building design, even net-zero energy performance. These include: total envelope U-value, GFA-to-envelope ratio, outdoor air intake rate, heating efficiency, cooling efficiency, and internal heat gain sources.

To help its designers balance and optimize these metrics during the design phase, DSA created the ecoMetrics tool, a visual, interactive database of energy simulation models from 44 of the firm’s LEED-certified projects. The tool allows DSA team members to analyze the firm’s green projects in a consistent fashion. For example, by breaking down the predicted energy use for projects in kWhr/m2, designers can compare, in apples-to-apples fashion, past projects against current designs.

The database also presents project performance in relation to energy benchmarking systems, including LEED, 2030 Challenge, and energy codes. The goal, according to DSA, is to create a common language to more effectively engage clients, consultants, and project teams about energy reduction targets.

The tool was built using Tableau interactive data visualization software. DSA contracted Mike Williams, Associate with engineer RWDI, to assist with the coding and database creation. 

“With ecoMetrics we are not only gaining a better understanding of energy use across different building types conveyed in simple-to-understand graphics, but also are driving innovation in sustainable design with this knowledge,” says Michal Szabo, Principal, DSA.


The ecoMetrics tool breaks down each project’s energy simulation model by key performance metrics, including predicted energy use intensity, total envelope U-value, GFA-to-envelope ratio, outdoor air intake rate, heating efficiency, cooling efficiency, and internal heat gain sources.


Read about more innovations from BD+C's 2016 Great Solutions Report

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