Often times, architects who design high performance buildings in California, which are required to comply with stringent energy regulations, fail to integrate performance goals or to make certain decisions relating to energy efficiency strategies during the design phase.
This lack of attention to –or knowledge of- current regulations leads to the application of energy efficiency measures to a design when it is more difficult and expensive to make revisions, creating obstacles and increasing costs for builders.
Designing and constructing a high performance building is not difficult to achieve. It does, however, require new skills, some modifications to the conventional design process, and greater focus on teamwork.
Your high performance building design project will be smoother, less expensive and more successful if you implement the following seven best practices earlier in the design process, in virtue of which the appropriate decisions are made at the best time.
- Start with smart design
Cost-effective high performance buildings begin with smart design, paying special attention to several energy efficiency parameters. Designers and architects should design the building so that builders and subcontractors can implement each step as cost-effectively as possible.
- Reduce energy demand
If you are to achieve a high performance building, you must plan to reduce energy demand to a minimum in the design stage. This part of the project takes the most careful design and coordination of all, if it is to create synergies with the other components in the building system.
- Produce the required energy
After having reduced the building’s energy demand to a minimum, now you must balance the ledger, and generate the amount of energy to equal the demand. Solar panels are the most common answer for electrical power. With proper planning and disciplined decisions about where to “spend” energy, the solar measures will not break the builder’s budget.
- Use energy modeling software
During the design phase, the building’s energy use should be estimated using energy modeling software to ensure that the goal of net zero energy can be achieved while keeping costs down. Based on the results, design choices can be made or modified to balance building performance and construction cost.
- Seal the building envelope
Super-sealing the building envelope is the single most cost-effective measure architects can take to improve the energy efficiency of a high performance building. Several proven, air-sealing approaches are available. Choose the best approach that suits your design project.
- Insulate the building envelope
Having proper insulation levels is vital in having an energy-efficient building. Building codes specify insulation values for walls, windows, doors, etc., that should be given careful consideration earlier in the design phase.
- Increase heating and cooling efficiency
Highly-efficient, cost-effective heating and cooling systems are essential to meeting California’s 2016 Energy Goal. These systems don’t have the shortcomings of central, forced-air systems or the high costs of thermal heat pumps.
Designing a high performance building takes planning and communication, as well as a thorough knowledge of California energy standards and regulations.
Guidance from an outside expert can be invaluable in order to ensure that critical details don’t fall through the cracks.