In the architectural design process, an essential challenge is to get an accurate preview of what a building and its spaces will look like, how the design will translate from concept to reality. We consider a wide array of general factors, spatial, proportional, orientation, including what users will need on a daily basis. And today, increasingly, we use a digital toolset to specifically analyze how a building or campus will best interact with the climatic conditions of a site: sunlight, wind, temperature, and humidity.

This process is generally known as environmental analysis. Although the software has existed for over a decade, in the past few years we have made analysis for optimal performance a requirement on every project. As HMC Architects’ Design Director James Krueger puts it, “These tools result in a superior design, because performance is a key part of design itself— you can’t separate the two.”

Like most design, it is a step-by-step deductive process, starting out with bigger general questions and then getting tighter and more specific as we go forward. We start by looking at the climatic conditions and incorporate design strategies that perform well in that location. As a next step, we compare options to evaluate the most optimized high-performing option. As a final step, we closely examine and refine design decisions to further enhance building performance.

The results of this process suggest architectural solutions, like optimized orientation, window-to-wall ratio, glazing location, shading strategies, analyzing length and angle of the shades, water use reduction, and efficient HVAC system selection. This analysis also helps integrate passive design strategies and improve building performance. For example, in Cove Tool multiple consultants can collaborate and come up with integrative design solutions that meet specific project EUI and optimize embodied carbon goals.

We analyze prevailing wind to both capture desirable natural ventilation and prevent wind tunnels that can be uncomfortable. Based on this preliminary Computational Fluid Dynamic iteration we can know whether vegetation can be used as a wind block, and whether operable windows and natural ventilation may be an option.

The process involves several complimentary tools, all of which talk with our core design software, Rhino. The two main software applications we use are Cove Tool and Climate Studio. We would not be able to arrive at these complicated calculations without them.

Nash Reyes, HMC’s director of technology says that energy and climate apps are one piece of a larger technology picture. He talks about their power, “There’s a lot of tech under the hood. You need a lot of math: weather data from NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), geolocation information, and seasonal data. The key value for our teams is the speed of the output for such complex calculations. In a matter of minutes these apps generate sophisticated diagrams and charts that are easy to read. Like all technology decisions in an increasingly tech-driven profession, we look at the needs of our teams—and ease of use is important.” He continues, “this is part of a larger movement in architecture, data-informed design, where you now have information to back up your decisions. In the age of big data, gut feeling and intuition are not enough anymore.”

ASE 12.6 percent

Illuminance: 4586

At Laurelwood Elementary School, a 14-acre K–5 campus currently in development in Santa Clara, we are using sustainability tools to optimize massing, daylight, energy use intensity, rainwater harvesting and potential solar power systems. The rainwater system will capture 850,000 gallons a year, which will completely meet the exterior landscaping needs. We also analyzed sunlight data, roof slope and direction to optimize a PV (photovoltaic) system across 31,000 SF of built space. It will generate nearly 750,000 kilowatts per year, a significant amount of electricity. The data helped us arrive at the right system size—the right amount of power based on initial cost and ongoing need.

“These tools are game changers in allowing us to make real progress toward carbon reduction goals,” explains Jennifer Wehling, HMC’s director of sustainability. “Smart, data-driven, decisions on building orientation, window size and placement, shading, wind, and solar can move a school toward zero-net energy, the emerging standard as energy codes become more stringent in California. We start with passive strategies, using the architecture and user habits to minimize the energy needed, then look to high-efficiency systems to provide that energy. With this approach, we are able to reduce the predicted energy use of the building often by as much as 40-80%, making offsetting the remaining energy with renewable sources, like photovoltaics, a much more affordable option.”

James Krueger puts these digital tools into the larger context of our work. “As we move toward the 2030 global energy goals, climate and energy analysis helps us do the right thing—for the planet, the future, and for the kids attending the schools we build. Data-based design gives us a lot of credibility with our clients, who want to know why we make design decisions. We now have the data to back up our thinking.” With projects like Laurelwood Elementary and many others currently on our drawing boards, environmental analysis holds an important place in our overall design process. As the software continually improves and gets more accurate, it is an exciting and promising time in architectural design.

For further reading: three-technologies-are-changing-howwe-design-for-climate/

https://www.fastcompany. com/90738053/this-open-source-toolhelps-architects-design-climate-friendlyhomes articles/3676197-climate-analysis-andpassive-design-strategies

Shweta Joshi

Project Designer

A project designer with over 10 years of experience working on large K-12 and Higher Ed projects, Shweta specializes in environmental and data analysis, using
digital tools and research to deliver high-performing, sustainably designed projects that are optimized for site and natural conditions. She holds a Master of Architecture degree and a Master of Science in Digital Arts.

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