Key/Essential/Unique Design Features
There were several unique design features that I chose to implement in my design – some of which were envisioned from early on, and some of which were added later in the design process. Regardless of when they were implemented, they all attempted to incorporate sustainable practices. Key features included aspects like the green roof, passive shading features, slanted walls, two-storey atrium lobby, use of renewable materials (bamboo), a fully wooden structure, grey water recycling, and outdoor spaces (balconies and pergolas).
From the start of the design process, I envisioned a building that used as many sustainable materials as possible. I wanted to avoid using concrete due to the high carbon emissions, so I incorporated a full wood structural system, and bamboo passive shading mullions. In addition, a green roof was incorporated and was shaded by two large wooden pergolas.
Another aspect I wanted to consider from the start was an energy efficient building. Although I did not model PV panels in my design, I used other aspects that can help reduce energy usage. This included aspects like a facade system with high R-value insulation, floor and roof insulation, passive shading, optimized building orientation, and double glazed/low-e curtain wall panels.
Finally, in tune with the purpose of the building, I wanted the design to emulate sustainability, the very thing it is responsible for teaching. I accomplished this by including four balconies, a green roof, and plenty of natural light. I think by doing this, along with the exposed wooden structural elements, it makes the building feel in tune with nature.
My Big Successes
I think one of my big successes was being very analytical throughout the design process, incorporating as many of the analysis features available in Revit to design each system. This is not always easy, as the analysis often provides scattered results and can be troublesome. I think using the tools throughout the design process made me more conscious of the ways I could be more sustainable in my design. Ultimately, this led to the implementation of many of the features and systems I am most proud of. Also, it allowed me to reshape my building layout to flow in ways that made the most sense for the space. I am happy with the way I laid out my building and allowed for a mix of public and private spaces.
The analysis based approach started with the building masses, where I checked several building shapes and orientations for energy efficiency – allowing me to choose the optimal building orientation. From here, I planned the spaces of my building in detail, outlining the atmosphere I expected for each room, and the inclusion of outdoor spaces. I followed this space plan when designing the building layout and circulation. I was particularly thorough when considering the building envelope system – where I used the lighting analysis to serve as the basis for the mullion system (for passive shading) I incorporated, and considered the effects of different types of insulation. From here, I designed the structural, HVAC, and plumbing system with sustainability in mind, incorporating grey water recycling and a renewable material based structural system.
Overall, I think a main success of the building was the fact that each system was carefully analyzed and contributed to the overall theme of sustainability. This analysis led to the successful implementation of all the unique features I discussed above.
My Big Challenges
I think there were two main challenges I was faced with during the design process. At a higher level, I was overly ambitious with the amount I could actually implement, and more specifically, incorporating all the different systems without clashes.
Being overly ambitious with your design goals is something that usually happens at the beginning of the project. With little idea of how difficult it is to actually implement and model everything, I eventually realized I could not do it all. Designing an entire commercial building is something that takes design teams months, and attempting it with no previous Revit experience added to the challenge as well. In hindsight, I likely would have created more reasonable goals, and focussed more extensively on reaching all of them.
Another challenge that I faced was coordinating all the systems while trying to meet the design goals. For example, by the time I reached the HVAC design, I had already lost about 2.5 feet of ceiling space to my structural system. This forced me to place my HVAC system lower than I expected. The complexity of the HVAC system was an issue in itself. After the design I realized I should have split the system up even more and had multiple mechanical rooms to create smaller HVAC ducts. In addition, I should have made the level height higher than 14ft. I have gained an appreciation for model clash detection, and the importance of clash resolution meetings. Given the time frame, I could not achieve a clash-free design, and this was something that was always in my head throughout the design process.
Overall, I am proud of the key features I included and if I had a longer timeline I would have liked to incorporate PV panels, more passive shading, and complete more of the site design.
After finishing a design project like this, I have some advice for future students attempting something similar. From the start, it is important to be realistic with your design goals. I found it was more beneficial to focus on a few initiatives in depth, rather than trying to implement a grocery list of items. In addition, from the start it is important to think about all the systems you need to implement, how they will work together, and how much space is required. In hindsight, the planning before design is as important as the specific decisions you make.
In terms of more specific lessons learned, I realized that your design will never be perfect. Given the time frame, it is better to focus on the design process as a whole rather than dwelling on specific clashes. With this, always overestimate how much space you will need. Opt for at least 15 foot levels, a centralized mechanical room, a split or non-traditional HVAC system, stacked restrooms, and consider the structural requirements when creating unique architectural designs. Overall, remember that this is a learning experience, and the more you can absorb from it the better you will be in your future career.
Personally, I learned a lot about specific building systems and how they’re constructed this semester. Moving forward, I know which parts of construction I would like to be more involved in, and which parts I did not like as much. Thanks for everything Glenn and Nico!
Video Presentation / Tour of Your Project Features
Please see the link for my video presentation / higher level tour of my project features: