Currently Reading

Visual energy model database demystifies net-zero design

Great Solutions

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.

By David Barista, Editorial Director | 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

Related Stories

Building Technology | Jun 18, 2024

Could ‘smart’ building facades heat and cool buildings?

A promising research project looks at the possibilities for thermoelectric systems to thermally condition buildings, writes Mahsa Farid Mohajer, Sustainable Building Analyst with Stantec.

75 Top Building Products | Apr 22, 2024

Enter today! BD+C's 75 Top Building Products for 2024

BD+C editors are now accepting submissions for the annual 75 Top Building Products awards. The winners will be featured in the November/December 2024 issue of Building Design+Construction. 

AEC Tech | Feb 20, 2024

AI for construction: What kind of tool can artificial intelligence become for AEC teams?

Avoiding the hype and gathering good data are half the battle toward making artificial intelligence tools useful for performing design, operational, and jobsite tasks.

Sustainability | Nov 1, 2023

Researchers create building air leakage detection system using a camera in real time

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a system that uses a camera to detect air leakage from buildings in real time.

Resiliency | Aug 7, 2023

Creative ways cities are seeking to beat urban heat gain

As temperatures in many areas hit record highs this summer, cities around the world are turning to creative solutions to cope with the heat. Here are several creative ways cities are seeking to beat urban heat gain.

AEC Innovators | Jun 15, 2023

Rogers-O'Brien Construction pilots wearables to reduce heat-related injuries on jobsites

Rogers-O'Brien Construction (RO) has launched a pilot program utilizing SafeGuard, a safety-as-a-service platform for real-time health and safety risk assessment. Non-invasive wearables connected to SafeGuard continuously monitor personnel to prevent heat exhaustion on jobsites, reducing the risk of related injuries. RO is the first general contractor to pilot this program.

Office Buildings | May 15, 2023

Sixteen-story office tower will use 40% less energy than an average NYC office building

This month marks the completion of a new 16-story office tower that is being promoted as New York City’s most sustainable office structure. That boast is backed by an innovative HVAC system that features geothermal wells, dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS) units, radiant heating and cooling, and a sophisticated control system to ensure that the elements work optimally together.

Design Innovation Report | Apr 27, 2023

BD+C's 2023 Design Innovation Report

Building Design+Construction’s Design Innovation Report presents projects, spaces, and initiatives—and the AEC professionals behind them—that push the boundaries of building design. This year, we feature four novel projects and one building science innovation.

Design Innovation Report | Apr 19, 2023

Reinforced concrete walls and fins stiffen and shade the National Bank of Kuwait skyscraper

When the National Bank of Kuwait first conceived its new headquarters more than a decade ago, it wanted to make a statement about passive design with a soaring tower that could withstand the extreme heat of Kuwait City, the country’s desert capital. 

Design Innovation Report | Apr 19, 2023

HDR uses artificial intelligence tools to help design a vital health clinic in India

Architects from HDR worked pro bono with iKure, a technology-centric healthcare provider, to build a healthcare clinic in rural India.


More In Category


Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021