Energy + Ecology: The Value of Early Analysis
Energy + Ecology is a practice within BranchPattern developed to allow design teams to better meet owner and project goals. This group of highly specialized building analysis gurus integrates in with the building design team to provide feedback on design decisions. With expertise in architectural and mechanical systems, energy and daylight analysis, lifecycle cost comparison, code compliance, and occupant comfort, Energy + Ecology tests options and synthesizes results that leads teams to make the best decisions. By following BranchPattern’s D.I.V.E. Project Framework™, here are a few examples how the Energy + Ecology practice has been instrumental in helping design teams meet project goals.
This is the point where the project is just getting off the ground, and especially where our team likes to be engaged. Here, goals are defined, and this is where design decisions can have the most impact. Energy + Ecology focuses on ensuring the building’s performance goals are being considered. Analysis in the discovery phase allows for building massing, utility costs, and mechanical and architectural systems to be optimized. In the discovery phase, there are multiple “what if” questions. For example, what if we increase or decrease insulation or what if we pick this mechanical system over that one? We are here to help form these questions and perform the analysis so that the design team can make the best decision.
This is where the fine tuning of the building can be performed, and opportunities to decrease lifecycle cost and energy consumption, as well as increase occupant comfort and building performance can be analyzed. Here, these “what if” questions become more detailed. A question may be, for example, what if we alter the type of windows will daylighting improve, can mechanical sizing decrease, will utility cost go down, and will occupant comfort improve? The Energy + Ecology team performs the analysis to provide a holistic picture of just how the building will perform. Iterative feedback throughout the design process provides the team with valuable information that helps to make design moves, as well as it ensures the decisions being made are truly converging on the project’s goals.
Since the Energy + Ecology team has been providing analysis throughout the process, verifying that the design meets project goals and standards is a simple step of finalizing the model with the construction documents. Here, our team helps with submittal to local jurisdictions indicating that the model meets code compliance, as well as LEED and other standards. Once the project has been constructed, it’s important to verify the performance of the building against the modeled results. This phase, measurement and verification, is the process of finding discrepancies between the analysis and actual. These discrepancies identify areas where the building’s systems may not performing as efficiently as possible. Here the team works with the commissioning agents and contractors to ensure building performance is optimized.
Like all practices at BranchPattern, the Energy + Ecology practice strives to improve the lives of building occupants and project teams. On most projects, this team collects data and shares that among the design team internally and externally so that the best decisions from current projects can be carried forward onto future projects. This allows our teams to improve and helps to push the building design and construction industry forward.
Getting involved with the design early allows the entire design team to benefit from the quick iterative analysis. The results of this analysis helps ensure that big and small design decision ultimately meet occupant and building performance goals. In short, we help keep things on track.
The driving purpose behind BranchPattern is Improving Life through a Better Built Environment. In other words, all the decisions that we make are in the best interest of the people with which we work and design for. The Energy + Ecology practice contributes to this overall vision by providing quantitative information to the design team throughout the design process so that the spaces in which we are designing allow the people who occupy them to thrive.