Module 4 - Design Project Brief: Conceptual Design — Building Context & Passive Design

Module 4 - Design Project Brief: Conceptual Design — Building Context & Passive Design


The focus of this conceptual design stage in the process of creating your integrated design project is to identify:

  • Building Site & Context Features that will affect your design decision-making
  • Building Massing -- the overall shape and form that you’ll carry forward in your design
  • Building Orientation -- the rotation of the form relative to the compass and the sun

Recommended Approach

At this point in our design process, we’ll start working with conceptual mass models to develop and test our design ideas.

Explore the Building Site Context

Start by thinking about and exploring the information about your project’s site and how your proposed design can take advantage of its features -- are there:

  • Unique site features -- for example, hillsides, view opportunities, and access
  • Local climate conditions -- sun, temperature, and wind
  • Adjacent buildings or public spaces -- how will your design interact with its neighbors

Explore Building Massing Alternatives by Creating Several Conceptual Mass Models

Create several conceptual mass models to develop and test a few different alternatives for how you might mass the building forms.  Think broadly and consider:

  • How can the building forms support the design program? Should the building be:
    • A single continuous mass?
    • A series of interconnected masses optimized for each program use?
    • A series of separate pavilions connected by the landscape ?
  • How can the building forms support your aesthetic and user experience design goals?
    • Should the building be bold, eye-catching, and dominant - or - subtle, blend-in, and compatible?
    • How will the shape, height, and width of the building sections affect the user experience? For example -- if creating a connection to the outdoors is important, narrower building forms that keep users close to exterior walls might be preferred.
  • How can the building forms support your sustainability goals? What shapes and forms will be most beneficial for:
    • Daylighting
    • Shading
    • Natural ventilation
    • Rainwater collection

Test Your Building Massing Alternatives to Understand How They Support Your Design Goals

Use the analysis tools available to predict the building performance of the massing alternatives.  Be sure to check out:

  • The solar insolation on the building surfaces to understand which surface receive the most and least sun.
  • The photovoltaic (PV) potential to explore how your building form affects your ability to place PV panels that will generate renewable energy.
  • The predicted energy use intensity (EUI) for each massing alternative given the same factor assumptions in Insight.
  • The most favorable building orientation for each massing alternative using the Building Orientation factor tile in Insight.

Compare the Results and Decide Which Building Form to Carry Forward

Which building form alternative or specific features ideas are best for supporting your design goals?

Think about how you can use a little text and images of your building form alternatives and the analysis results to compare the results and share your thinking about which building form you will carry forward to the next stage in the design process.

You don’t need to be exhaustive in your explanation -- create and share an executive summary the highlights the key findings from your analysis.

Thinking Ahead

In the weeks ahead, we’ll develop these big ideas into a detailed building design.  If it helps your creative process, you can start thinking ahead to:

Space Planning and Building Layout (Module 5)

  • Creating a space budget to meet the program requirements
  • Developing a bubble diagram of how your program spaces will interconnect

Access, Egress, and Circulation (Module 6)

  • Placing the entries, exits, building cores, elevators, and stairways to support circulation and emergency egress in your design

Building Envelope (Module 7)

  • Designing the building facades and roofs (materials, glazing, shading) to support the uses and design/sustainability goals for each of the spaces in your design

Progress Check-In / Documenting Your Design Journey

About Design Journal Entries

You’ll be sharing your ongoing design process and progress with others in our class community through a posting in an online Design Journal using Notion.

Feel free to use whatever format best captures the ideas that you want to share -- text, images, sketches, photos of hand sketches, intermediate models, results of analyses, and so on.

For this class, your design process is as important as the final result.

Post a Design Journal Entry

Create a new posting sharing your Design Journal entry on this linked Notion page:

✏️Design Project Check-In: Conceptual Design - Building Context & Passive Design

Your Design Journal entries for this module should highlight:

  • the design alternatives that you modeled and tested
  • the results of the analyses and how they influenced your thinking about how to move forward

Weekly Design Project Check-In

You’ll sign up for an appointment next week with a member of the teaching team to review your progress and share tips about how to proceed.