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The AIA recently issued a press release announcing the findings of its AIA 2030 Commitment 2014 Progress report.
The report showed that nearly half of energy-modeled projects met or came close to meeting 2014 carbon reduction targets, with a quote from the press release saying “Quite simply, energy modeling presents the greatest opportunity for architects to realize more ambitious energy-saving in their design projects.”

The press release featured industry experts who agreed that energy modeling is key to reaching carbon neutrality in buildings. We interviewed one of the experts, Kim Shinn, a Sustainability Wizard at TLC Engineering for Architecture, to find out more of his views on energy modeling and the benefits of an integrated design workflow.

Why is an integrated design process, where the architect, engineer, owner, developer, and contractor are a critical part of the concept modeling stage, so important to creating sustainable buildings?
A couple of reasons come to mind.  The first is the principal that the earlier you can make an informed decision, the greater its impact on the building’s potential to perform well and the lower it will cost to implement. The second is that each member of the team brings special knowledge, perspective and experience to help inform those decisions – we benefit in the whole having greater knowledge than the sum of the parts.

Why is it so important for Architects to incorporate energy modeling as part of their design process?
All building performance simulations, not just the ones that model energy performance, are incredible tools that open a window into the design process.  Buildings are complex, comprising interactive elements and systems that defy the human mind’s ability to integrate all that information to develop design solutions and evaluate alternatives.  The decisions that project teams must make, especially the architects, from siting and orientation, to massing, to fenestration, to program area assignment, all the way down to envelope constructions are best informed when the architect understands the energy implications of those decisions, along with cost, aesthetics, function and human health and wellness.  Architects have to balance all those factors and the more information that they have about them, the better decisions they can make.

What do you think makes Architects hesitant about energy modeling? What are the obstacles to the uptake of energy modeling?
Energy modelling tools, especially the ones with a lot of power and capability, can be very complex and intimidating.  I frequently tease architects that energy models are powerful and complex tools, and as with many powerful and complex tools, an inexperienced operator can be maimed if not careful.  Also, the output of some of the older tools have traditionally been mostly numerical and not easily or quickly understood without a lot of “post-processing”.  Understanding and effective use of an energy model depends upon the user’s ability, skill and knowledge of building science.  Unfortunately, some architects are intimidated by “science” and think that “science” is the province of engineers.  So, I think architects are hesitant because they fear that they won’t be able to use the software and/or understand the model’s results without having to hire a consultant (normally an engineer).  Who wants an engineer around during design anyway – their vocabulary usually starts and ends with “no”.  Architects think it will take too much time and money (especially if they have to pay a consultant to do it).  Therefore, the obstacles:  knowledge, time and money.

Do you think concept energy modeling is enough? Is there a need for more detailed energy modeling at the early stages to uncover innovative strategies?
Concept modeling is a start, and needs to be more widely used.  If it becomes more routinely used, I think teams will see that there are opportunities to investigate novel and innovative strategies at early stages of design – especially to determine if further, more intensive investigations are warranted and feasible.

In your experience of using IESVE do you think it enables more detailed analysis at early design stages? If so can you explain how it does this?
Without question.  The integrated suite of solar, daylighting and glare analysis, wind and ventilation modeling, along with the energy analysis offered in the VE sets it apart in its ability to figuratively “open the windows” [pun intended] for looking at any number of early strategies that help shape the building’s architecture.  Effective daylighting and natural ventilation depend so much upon building form, fenestration and orientation that it is difficult and usually prohibitively expensive to develop and implement good solutions after those decisions are made in the absence of the information gained from simulations.  The VE also has enormous power and potential to influence, not only energy performance, but also the health and wellness performance of buildings, especially when it comes to occupant comfort and productivity that results from good daylighting, indoor comfort and natural ventilation.

Do you think the AIA guide will have a significant impact on increasing the amount of projects that use an integrated design process?
The Institute is incredibly influential.  It is trusted by its members, as well as the greater design and construction community, for the quality of its educational offerings as well as for helping shape the culture of the design practice.  The education materials developed, as well as the policies adopted and advocated by the Institute have the potential to change the way architecture is practiced, not only in North America, but around the world.  And these changes affect the way real estate development happen – all the way from client expectations to project delivery to actual performance.

Do you know of any good project examples that have used an integrated design process and are achieving good results? Can you share these with us?
I daresay that any Living Building or LEED Platinum project is an excellent example of an integrated design process.  In fact, it is almost inconceivable to think of achieving those levels of performance without using integrated design processes – short of spending inordinate sums on “buying points” and excessive renewable energy capacity.  While we have many, many examples of these projects, I’ll just cite one.  The fitness center at Tyndall Air Force Base is the US Air Force’s first LEED Platinum building, and the first LEED Platinum project administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  The architect was Atkins and TLC provided the building systems engineering.  The Air Force wanted to use the project as an educational demonstration project, to demonstrate how integrated design and incorporating early energy modelling could achieve high performance goals – they wanted the project to demonstrate how to achieve LEED Silver level on a “conventional” building budget.  I think it speaks volumes that we were able to achieve Platinum on a pre-LEED budget.  We used energy modelling at the concept phase to influence site orientation, massing, and fenestration approaches to minimize solar gain and maximize daylighting potential, as well as to maximize the solar photovoltaic and solar thermal potential of the building for no capital cost impact.  We used energy and daylight modelling to size the window apertures and glazing material selections during design development, as well as to optimize the equipment sizing, achieving significant capital cost savings over more “conventional” approaches.

Last month, to mark our return to the AIA Convention, we launched a competition to explore the architect’s role in building energy analysis. We put the following question to architects, engineers and sustainability consultants around the world — What do you view as the Architect’s role in Energy Analysis?

We received many interesting and thought provoking answers that had our judges deadlocked in deciding who would come away with the fantastic prize of a one year license for VE-Gaia, the VE-Navigator for LEED, as well as associated IESVE modules and training.

Our expert panel were pushed to pick a winning entry and we are delighted to announce that the winner is Susan Welker of Harris Welker Architects. Susan’s entry impressed us because it really got to the heart of what the architect must strive for when aspiring to create the most energy efficient building possible. Here is Susan’s winning entry…

As Architects of not just the built environment, but the planet, our role in energy analysis is threefold. We are the thought leaders in the early stages of design and set the form for the building’s needs for light, water, energy and natural resources. Architects analyze their initial energy analysis with engineering consultants to revise and maximize the buildings minimum energy usage. Finally and most importantly, Architects follow through with observations and field testing to achieve the minimum energy usage during the construction phase.

We also had other entries that are too good not to give an honourable mention to…

Ryan Arnold of MSI Engineers made an interesting point about the collaborative nature of energy analysis – Energy analysis has developed into a truly collaborative process, a process that’s success relies on it not being the claim of one profession, but as a shared responsibility to the whole project team. Thus, the role of an architect in energy analysis is the same as all involved parties- to constantly facilitate the collaboration and creativity needed to solve the complex energy issues we all face, together.

Kirsten Wood of Technical Commissioning Services excellently articulated what energy analysis should mean to the architect and humanity – Architects combine functionality with aesthetics to produce structures that are pleasing to the human senses and useful. Today, that usefulness is also defined by how structures consume energy. A structure that is wasteful will not serve humanity well. Therefore, the role of architects in energy analysis is to reflect deeply on the aspects of energy efficiency and incorporate those into the design.

We’d like to thank all of you who took the time to participate in our contest. Your answers provided a real insight in how the architect’s role in energy analysis is changing, and how our software is helping facilitate this change for the better.

And once again, a big congrats to our winner Susan!

Live from AIA 2012

Posted: May 18, 2012 by , Category:Architects, events

Notes from the show floor…

I’m back from dinner and a wonderful evening in Washington, DC, and I’m sitting down to take a look at my notes from the day.

What do I think of AIA so far? I’m happy to report that the show is fantastic! There was some great traffic in the 2100 row, and we had some great conversations at the booth today. The buzz in the air was refreshing. I think the architecture industry is going to see some big things in 2012.

The theme of the show — Design Connects — is certainly something we’ve been talking about for years at IES. Early stage analysis, including solar shading and the impact of daylight levels, for example, are an important part of the whole-building design process. The understanding of how climate and building design connect as part of the key to low-energy, sustainable design is an integral part of our software, and we are excited to share this with attendees this week.

I haven’t had much time to step away from the booth and walk the floor, but I hope to check out some of the other booths today. Maybe I’ll see you?

And we’re trying to Tweet throughout the day (when the Wi-Fi is cooperating), so follow us here – @IESVE.

There is also time to enter our AIA 2012 competition, to win a one year license for our architectural analysis tool, VE-Gaia, and the VE-Navigator for LEED, and associated IESVE modules. All you have to do is answer the following question in 100 words or less:

What do you view as the Architect’s role in Energy Analysis?

Entries can be made here. Good luck!

It’s already May! Can you believe it? May! And that means just one thing for me — AIA 2012 is right around the corner.

The IES Team will be manning booth 2121 this year — and I’m very excited for what we have in store. We’ll be showcasing some of the great new updates to our software. Architects, engineers and designers will get an in-depth look at the new ways to visualize solar shading, solar arc and solar analysis with VE-Gaia and VE-Pro.

As we prepare for this year’s show, I’ve been thinking about IES’ role in architecture and how it has adapted and changed based on the trends of the industry. Energy modeling has changed the way many architects think about sustainable design. The ability to test architectural hypotheses for energy efficiency before ever laying the first brick brings a lot to the table, and more and more architects are seeing the advantages of simulation as they tackle new projects. But, just as IES adapts to a changing industry, architects do as well.

So just what is the architect’s role in energy analysis in 2012? Well, that’s what we’d like to know from you! We’re running a competition at AIA this year, and the winner will receive a free one-year license for VE-Gaia, one of the most comprehensive architectural analysis tools available. In addition, the winner will get free access to the VE-Navigator for LEED, as well as associated training.

Want to win? Just answer the question.

What do you view as the Architect’s role in Energy Analysis?

You can enter your response

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online at http://www.iesve.com/AIA2012Comp. To see other entries and for updates on the competition, follow the official hashtag — #IESCompAIA —on Twitter.

We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at the show! Let the countdown begin…

Training Road Show Recap

Posted: January 5, 2012 by , Category:Training

2011 was a busy year for IES! We made some upgrades to our award-winning software, consulted with a number of architects and engineers on some exciting projects, and we launched a series of training sessions and architectural seminars throughout North America. These Road Show events proved to be successful, and something we plan to continue in 2012. But for now, a recap…

Starting off in Chicago and Denver in August, our Road Show carried on to Portland, Vancouver, San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, Houston and other great cities across North America through the rest of the year. Our Road Show gave us a great opportunity to connect with both existing and new IES users face-to-face. We were able to show them capabilities of the software, including many of the new features launched this year, and answer any questions they might have about our suite of products. We were also able to establish relationships with various local groups, and we love all the contacts we’ve made throughout North American this year!

Our final training event of the year was in Washington, D.C. last week. There were a lot of new faces, and we had a very successful event. Thanks to our hosts at AECOM!

Also in D.C. last week was our final architectural seminar of the year. Approved by the AIA for Continuing Education System credits, our seminars offer hands-on training focusing on conceptual analysis in sustainable design. Participants who are AIA members receive 2.5 learning unit hours.

Thanks to everyone that joined us this year, and to all of our customers and partners who helped us out with venues and our presentations. We’re looking forward to meeting more of you in 2012 as we continue to hit the road. Next year, we’re heading to Omaha, Seattle, Kansas City, Nashville, St. Louis, Birmingham and more. Stay tuned for more details about when we’ll be in a city near you!

AIA Makes Push for Design Transparency

Posted: December 15, 2011 by , Category:Architects

In the architecture and design realm, keeping it simple often yields the best results. Keeping it sustainable doesn’t hurt either.

A push by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), as highlighted in a recent article in The Washington Post, supports this idea. All across the United States, AIA chapters are “taking a stand for visibility, transparency and sustainability.” Brick and mortar no longer separates the AIA buildings from the public, something that becomes clear if you’ve seen the new building of the AIA’s chapter in D.C.

Thomas Corrado, project architect with the Washington firm that created the design, described the concept as “clear, simple and concise.” He went on to say that “the idea was about how to make the space a connection between architecture and the person on the street.”

What I find most interesting about this new open-door style is its appeal to the public. As the United States pushes for a greener, more efficient future, anything that can draw in the public to gain some traction is positive for the sustainability industry as a whole. When pedestrians peer through the floor-to-ceiling glass of the D.C. building, for instance, they see an open gallery that currently showcases the winners of a recent design competition. Next month, the gallery will feature an exhibit on art nouveau architecture from Brussels.

Another example of the AIA’s new design efforts is the soon to be completed Center for Architecture and Design in North Carolina.

The nation’s only AIA building to be built from the ground up, it was designed by Raleigh-based architect Frank Harmon after a statewide competition. Inside, the lighting adjusts to demand, monitored by a donated state-of the-art computer server that responds to the amount of daylight admitted. Early modeling projects energy savings as high as 64 percent.

As we head into 2012, we look forward to seeing the AIA’s new push for design transparency continue to generate public appeal and translate to more sustainable designs nationwide.

Architect Barbie has a new house!

Posted: August 10, 2011 by , Category:Architects, careers

Earlier this year, AIA challenged its member to design a dream house for Barbie — yes, Ms. Barbra Millicent Roberts herself. The AIA Barbie® Dream House Design Competition is part of Mattel’s spotlight on architecture as its “Career of the Year” for Barbie.

And it looks like the competition was a success! With more than 30 entries, the design submitted by Ting Li, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP and Maja Paklar, Assoc. AIA, took home top honors.

This Mother Nature Network article, “A palace fit for a doll: Barbie gets new green digs in Malibu,” links to the winning design.

Now you would think with such a high-profile “character” as Barbie, this would be a positive for the architecture community. Unfortunately, some of the articles I’m seeing online actually think the architecture profession itself needs a makeover, not just a new spokeswoman.

In an opinion piece on The Christian Science Monitor, John Cary states”Architect Barbie’ builds a dream home, but her profession needs a makeover.’

According to the article, “The American Institute of Architects has

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announced the winners of its contest to build a dream home for the Mattel doll, ‘Architect Barbie.’ The contest misses the point that the severe gender gap in architecture is a problem of retaining women — not one of recruiting them.”

What do you think? Does the architecture community have an issue retaining women? And if you answer yes, is that an issue exclusive to architects, or all professional careers?

Live from AIA 2011

Posted: May 13, 2011 by , Category:events

New Orleans. NOLA. The ‘Big Easy.’ A city full of rich architecture and in the last few years, one on the forefront of the building industry as they rebuild.

Jane Kolleeny of Architectural Record noted the same thing in her blog post last night.

Yes its about 90 degrees and humid, but it’s a great pleasure to be in New Orleans whose recovery since Katrina seems remarkable.

Walking around the city on Wednesday when I arrived in town, I was truly amazed. Having never been here before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But this city truly is rebuilding, and it’s amazing to see how the city is evolving, yet still sticking to its root.

I caught some of the keynote presentation with Thomas Friedman yesterday. What I walked away with was a reaffirmation that we need to focus on sustainable design practices. (But we already knew that, right?)

“This is your warning heart attack,” Friedman told the nearly 4,000 architects assembled to hear him in New Orleans. “In both the markets and Mother Nature, we’ve followed two common economic principles–IBG (I’ll Be Gone) or YBG (You’ll Be Gone), leading us to do what we want now. There’s a deeper values breakdown behind that. Our parents built us a world of incredible abundance based on sustainable values. We’ve moved to a world of situational values and that isn’t sustainable.”

The theme for AIA 2011 is
Regional Design Revolution: Ecology Matters. As I thought about this theme, and listened to Mr. Friedman, I was really proud of the work we are doing at IES. Reducing the energy consumption of buildings has been at the heart of IES since its inception 15 long years ago. The team here have worked hard to get to where we are today and we are now widely respected as the leading company in the performance analysis field — the one the innovators come to.

Bringing our knowledge and expertise to the US market has been a real privilege and in recent years we’ve seen the scales tip with US designers increasingly concerned with combining aesthetics and performance to ensure their design’s sustainability.  We are happy to be playing our part in this revolution.

That’s all from the show floor today. We’ve got to get back to the booth and continue the great conversations about sustainability.

But we’ll be at the TweetUp tonight to chat. Will we see you there?

The FIFA World Cup uses BIM? Tell me more…

Posted: June 29, 2010 by , Category:BIM

What country are you cheering for in this year’s World Cup games? As a billion viewers watch the World Cup with anticipation of their country winning, they may not realize all the work that went into prepping for this massive sporting event. Transportation, lodging and security were key components in preparing for these games, sure. But have you thought about the construction and refurbishment of the 10 stadiums that are being used for this global competition? The A/E/C community might be happy to know that BIM (Building Information Modelling), a tool which you more than likely use every day, played an integral role in building the new stadiums, home to over 40,000 people attending each of the 32 games.

In a recent article in Constructech Magazine, it’s mentioned that 5 new stadiums were built in preparation for the World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa – 2 of them using BIM techniques and software. The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and the Mbombela Stadium were both constructed using BIM since “arenas are typically unique structures, with complicated rooflines, curved beams, and heavy structural steel design.” The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium had to be devised and constructed within a very quick timeframe, since Africa had few arenas that could support the World Cup audience so the designers used BIM technology to streamline 4,200 drawings between multiple participants including designers, architects and building managers.

While BIM might not be an everyday word to most, high profile projects like these provide great proof points for the A/E/C community. This technology has continued to grow over the years and continues to be a subject people want to learn more about, including the audience at the recent AIA convention in Miami. According to Reed Construction Data, “BIM was the hot topic” at this year’s show. The constant buzz around BIM just helps to further underscore its importance to the design process and longevity within the market.

As you watch your favorite team compete for the highly prized cup, keep a close eye on the stadiums, too. You’ll see that BIM played a pivotal part in the 2010 games.

We’re celebrating Architecture Week. No, we’re not talking about the magazine. (Although I highly recommend adding said magazine to your list of weekly reads. Always great content!)

We are talking about National Architecture Week. With a series of online conversations about “design matters” over on AIA’s website, and ongoing conversations on their Facebook Fan Page, it’s already turning out to be an exciting week!

According to the website, “How can you take part in this initiative? If you haven’t done so already, set up your personal accounts on Twitter and Facebook now. Become a fan of

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the American Institute of Architects on Facebook and follow AIA National on Twitter. From both accounts, you’ll begin receiving updates about Architecture Week 2010. Then, get ready to partake in what we hope will be some lively, thought-provoking conversations about design matters, which end this Sunday, April 17.”

And while you’re there, become a fan of IES and follow @IESVE on Twitter.

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