Net-Zero Buildings: A Look at Energy Efficiency and Building Performance

Building Performance Analysis Team | Dekker/Perich/Sabatini

To achieve AIA 2030 Commitment goals, Dekker/Perich/Sabatini formed an internal Building Performance Analysis Team (BPAT).

BPAT empowers design teams and clients by providing valuable information early in the project about building performance and site configuration. This early feedback fosters an iterative design process that allows our teams to explore a number of concepts and make key decisions with all project stakeholders. BPAT representatives Aaron Ketner, Luc Wing, and Brandon Garrett explain how D/P/S, clients, and consultants are working together to achieve greener, healthier buildings.

Interview with D/P/S's Building Performance Analysis Team


What is BPAT?

BPAT is short for Building Performance Analysis Team, and we support D/P/S's commitment to the AIA 2030 carbon neutral building challenge.

BPAT collaborates closely with our project teams, as well as our in-house LEED and WELL experts to determine which strategies will result in the greatest energy reduction while meeting our clients’ needs and goals.

We take on the heavyweight of analyzing building performance, and work hard to communicate the results through clear and thoughtful graphics and reports. This provides our teams with valuable insight to better facilitate the decision-making process regarding the design and cost considerations as they relate to building performance. 

As a firm, we always push sustainability by bringing a lot of different specialists and disciplines to the table to work hand-in-hand, and BPAT is just another team member.

Artesia Administration Building

Artesia Administration and Training Center

What types of analyses do you perform?

We're primarily focused on EUI (Energy Use Intensity), which is the measurement AIA 2030 uses to track progress towards carbon neutral, or net-zero, buildings. It estimates the amount of energy used per square foot. Through energy models, we can quickly study massing, shading, and orientation in a real-world environment and optimize EUI.

Our capabilities also include wind analysis, pinpointing areas where glare might occur, evaluating solar heat gain throughout the year, optimizing placement of solar panels, estimating energy savings and payback periods, and analyzing the building envelope among other studies.

BPAT Tools and Capabilities

For instance, our models take into consideration nearby buildings. If there’s an existing building that will shade the first floor of the new building, then maybe you don’t need to buy shades for those windows. So we can show those details to our clients, and together we can make very informed decisions about individual design elements.

In today's data-driven world, we have access to huge sets of data. We can add sun orientation or typical wind patterns to a model, for example, and look at where snow drift and ice buildup are likely to occur. We can then strategically add more trees or plantings to mitigate or channel winds. In one instance, we used this data to determine the best placement for a playground so it wouldn't be too cold or covered in snow during winter months.

Solar Energy Analysis

Artesia Administration and Training Center Energy Model

How do you work with design teams to optimize performance?

BPAT has been particularly successful because we're involved early in the design process. That's the key point. The earlier we're integrated into the process, the easier it is to implement sustainable strategies because it's accounted for in the budget and schedule and we're not backtracking. It also helps communicate energy benchmarks the project is trying to achieve, so everyone involved in the project is on the same page from the beginning.

We've also created standards for conveying analysis, so teams can easily reference every bit of information involved with our studies. These deliverables are useful to explain to clients why certain decision are being made, and they can also be used to lay a path for additional energy savings.

Solar Panels, photo credit Andreas Gucklhorn on Unsplash

As an example, we recently worked with a team that was incorporating a PV system into their project, so we ran an analysis to show optimal solar panel placement, energy savings, and projected payback period. We ran the analysis with different scenarios, weighing energy efficiency and costs. The client and project team were able to determine how much to invest in the system now, and there's also a clear path for expansion of the PV system in the future.

This is especially powerful considering how rapidly technology is evolving. When a more efficient panel comes out, fewer panels will be required to achieve the same energy savings, so we can very quickly rerun the analysis to show the new amount of PV required to achieve a net-zero building.

Daylight Illuminance Analysis of D/P/S's Office

What's the most exciting outcome of BPAT and the AIA 2030 commitment?

D/P/S is performing energy analysis on nearly every project now, and we're working with multidisciplinary project teams to really make AIA 2030 a firm-wide commitment. We've already reported over one million square feet to the AIA Design Data Exchange -- a national database that measures progress on carbon neutrality.

UNMHSC Domenici Phase 3

UNM Health Education Building

We're also seeing high engagement with our clients. We can show them affordable solutions for meeting renewable energy and sustainability goals, and we have very clear and reliable data based on industry standards to support these solutions. As one client put it, "How do you say no?".

The ultimate goal is to achieve carbon neutral buildings by 2030, and it's rewarding to see the headway the building community is already making.

Learn more about BPAT by watching a recorded version of their Autodesk University presentation, How to Meet Your 2030 Challenge Goals with Revit and Insight 360.