Module 7 - Design Project Brief: System Design — Building Envelope Systems

Module 7 - Design Project Brief: System Design — Building Envelope Systems


The focus of this stage in your integrated design project is to explore how you can best implement the strategies that you identified for achieving your project goals as you design the features and details of your building’s envelope.  For this check-in you’ll add these features to your building model:

  • Wall Systems
    • Exterior Walls (including materials and thermal properties)
  • Glazing Systems
    • Windows & Curtain Walls
    • Skylights
  • Shading Systems
    • Roof Overhangs
    • Window Shelves, Fins, and Shade Screens
  • Floor Systems
    • Interior Floors & Slabs
    • Decks & Terraces
  • Roof Systems
    • Roofs (including materials and thermal properties)
    • Green Roofs

Recommended Approach

At this point in our design process, we’ll be adding the details to flesh out our initial building design ideas.

You should already have a well-formed idea about the overall building form and understand the spaces that will be contained within each part of the building form.  Now, we’ll start articulating the details -- the geometry, the materials, and the properties -- of all the surfaces of that form.

Why is Envelope Design So Important?

The details of your building envelope can have a very big impact on the user experience and energy performance of your building.  If you’re using passive design strategies to improve the energy performance, you’ll want to carefully consider:

  • the location of solid walls and glazing with desired thermal properties (to prevent or promote conduction, radiation absorption, and heat storage)
  • the location of windows and skylights that can provide natural daylighting and natural ventilation
  • the location of shading features that can moderate the effects of the sun at specific times of the year

Does the Envelope Affect Other Systems?

The performance of your building envelope will also have a big effect on the design work that will be required for HVAC systems (in upcoming Module 9).

Your building’s envelope performance (in combination with the internal loads generated by the building users) will determine the heating and cooling loads on your HVAC system.  If you can reduce the heating and cooling loads through building envelope features, the HVAC system can be smaller -- easier to design and implement.

Similarly, if you can provide good daylighting through your envelope’s glazing features, the loads generated  by your lighting system will be smaller and the lighting design may be simpler.

How Detailed Should This Version of Model Be?

At this stage, you’ll want your building model to accurately reflect the locations of walls versus glazing features and the thermal properties of envelope surfaces, so you can use analysis tools to make accurate predictions of the expected performance.  The more accurate your model, the more useful the results will be for informing your design choices.

What Type of Analysis Should I Do?

Once you’ve articulated the features of the envelope surface, you’ll probably want to evaluate:

  • the predicted building energy performance using the Insight web interface
  • the predicted daylighting levels using the Insight Lighting Analysis tool in Revit

You could also confirm the PV potential of the building and roof surfaces using the Insight Solar Analysis tool, but that result won’t be as critical to your HVAC and lighting designs.

Thinking Ahead

In the weeks ahead, we’ll continue to develop the details of this initial building model as you design each of the major building systems.  If it helps your creative process, you can start thinking ahead to:

Structural Systems (Module 8)

  • Designing the structural framework to support the gravity and lateral loads that your building will experience.
    • Where will the columns be located? Where can they be closely-spaced, and where would you like large open spans with few columns?
    • Do you want to showcase the structural frame as a feature of the user experience? Or hide it from view?

HVAC Systems (Module 9)

  • Designing the heating, cooling, and ventilation systems to provide the fresh air required and handle the heating and cooling loads predicted for your building.
    • Where can you use passive heating or cooling through the building envelope?
    • Where will active heating and cooling systems be required?

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: Building Envelope Systems

Your Design Journal entries for this module should highlight your design thinking and analysis results that influenced your decisions about:

  • the features of the building envelope
  • the locations and properties of the wall surfaces
  • the locations and properties of the window, glazing, and skylight surfaces
  • the locations of shading features

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.