AIA: Energy modeling key to reaching carbon neutrality in buildings

Energy modeling allows architects to be more ambitious with energy-saving in their design projects.

November 18, 2015 |
AIA: Energy modeling key to reaching carbon neutrality in buildings

Nearly half of energy-modeled projects met or came close to meeting 2014 carbon reduction targets. Photo: York Region/Creative Commons

The number of design projects, gross square footage, and net-zero energy projects has increased as part of the American Institute of Architects 2030 Commitment. Reaching carbon neutral buildings by the year 2030 is countered, however, by a small percentage of projects that met the 60% carbon reduction target for 2014.  

It was determined in this report that nearly half of energy-modeled projects met or came close to meeting 2014 carbon reduction targets. Energy modeling allows architects to be more ambitious with energy-saving in their design projects.

“As an architect, the only way that you have options to make major changes to your design projects is by using energy modeling early in the design process,” said AIA 2030 Working Group member, Nathan Kipnis, FAIA. “Otherwise, your decisions are locked and limited to making equipment and materials choices in hopes of lowering a building’s energy consumption.  Energy modeling gives you the best bang for your design buck.”

“Energy modeling has the potential to be a game changer that can help architects reach carbon reduction targets—but only if there is a move away from using it as a compliance confirmation tool,” said Kim E Shinn, PE, LEED Fellow. “Instead, the key is to start using it as a simulation tool completely interwoven into the design/test/refine cycles from the very beginning, and during the conceptual phase of a project. This helps ensure that architects stay on track to achieve their projects’ energy goals rather than realizing some course correction is needed well into design, perhaps after making some nearly irreversible decisions."

To increase the energy-efficient design literacy among the profession, AIA has partnered with Architecture 2030 to launch an educational program that addresses energy modeling throughout the online continuing education series. Participants can learn what comprises a living energy model that can ultimately lead to a more efficiently designed finished project.

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