It has been an exciting journey designing the sustainable design exhibition center. Throughout the experience, I worked toward various sustainable design goals via different systems and components of the building. Here is a quick overview.
Key Design Features
First, the exhibition center is a 3-story building that sits on the slope near the Dish, facing the Bay Area to the northeast. Since the northeast side of the building can provide fantastic open view and daylighting, the building is designed to embrace the view via big windows and balconies. It also positions itself uniquely on the slope so that part of it is underground, by which the ground provides additional wall insulation and the outdoor natural space is accessible at all levels.
Second, the building has a large roof area. While part of the roof is used for HVAC equipment, skylight, and a green roof, over 3/4 of the roof is covered with solar PV. Through an analysis on solar PV potential of the building, I found that the building could potentially achieve 100% clean energy using the rooftop PV.
Another key design feature is natural ventilation. The building’s position allows it to rely on prevailing wind to facilitate natural ventilation. It also has two atriums that vertically span multiple levels, which helps utilize the stack effect for air circulation inside the building. These strategies help reduce the HVAC requirement and associated energy use.
Finally, the building maximizes its use of daylighting. On top of the curtain walls and big windows on the north and east sides, the building also has a relatively open floor plan, floor openings, a skylight, and interior windows to transmit daylight deeper into the space. Another bonus for energy savings.
I think the biggest success of the project is its potential to achieve net zero energy (or 100% clean energy) by its rooftop PV system. Most of the key design features directly contribute to energy savings of the building. I also designed the building to have a larger useable roof area (by extending the roof, which also helps with shading, and moving most the HVAC equipment elsewhere). While I have only conducted a preliminary energy analysis, I hope the sustainable design strategies will pay off.
Apart from the sustainable design strategies, I also like how different systems contribute to a minimalistic and modern design style. For example, I chose lightweight concrete floors and a steel structural frame that gave the building a light industrial look (with recycled materials, of course). This design may not conform to the stereotypical image of a “green building”, but I want it to make a statement that sustainable design can take many versatile forms.
There are many challenges working with each system of the building. It takes a lot of effort even just to design one system right. For example, the HVAC system needs to be properly scaled to accommodate the loads in each zone before sketching it out. The actual modeling process of the HVAC ducts and equipment was even more difficult. Similarly, the plumbing system can also get very complicated with different types of pipes — domestic hot and cold water, greywater collection, greywater reuse, sanitary drainage, fire protection, etc. My project by no means reflects the complexity of these systems in reality.
More challenges arise from coordinating between various systems. When space is limited, it is hard to make sure that different systems are positioned correctly so they don’t conflict with each other. There are many clashes in the model that I haven’t been able to address. And I think it takes additional effort to consider whether to display or hide certain components or parts of a system in accordance with the overall design concept, and to consider the synergies and trade-offs among all the systems.
Here are my main takeaways from this class.
- Building modeling is fun!
- Plan ahead. Take the time to think about the design goals because it dictates all the design decisions that come afterwards. It is also hard to change your design later if the goals aren’t clear in the first place.
- Start simple. Sometimes I try to make everything perfect on the first trial but it’s usually impractical. Start with a simple model first and add/modify components and features later.
- Think holistically. This also means using the model coordination tool effectively to inform design decisions. Check the coordination view between models regularly to identify issues early, otherwise it will be very difficult to change them later.
Video Presentation / Tour of Your Project Features
Zoom recording link: