High Performance Building Design

As the design of buildings evolves to integrate users’ demands to reduce the environmental impacts of construction, conserve energy and improve safety and security, the design community has shifted from looking at individual building systems and components to a holistic approach to building design. The products of this design approach are described as “high performance buildings” by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The design of a high performance building requires collaboration and integration of the entire project team from the designers to the contractors and the owner. Planning is required between the building owner and design team to address operations and maintenance impacts, energy use, space comfort for occupants and long term operational performance and impacts.

In addition to the National Institute of Building Sciences, many other organizations provide information for designers and owners about high performance buildings. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED certification program provides a metric to compare high performance building designs and operation to more traditional buildings. Starting in 2012, the International Code Council started publishing the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) to provide enforceable language on the design and construction of high performance buildings. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) started publishing Standard 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings, in 2009. Standard 189.1 is a compliance option for the IgCC. ASHRAE also has a quarterly publication, High Performing Buildings, to promote practical and cost effect designs and lessons learned on case studies of high performance buildings.

Your MEP engineers should focus on providing energy efficient solutions that address and impact many of the opportunities associated with high performance buildings. These include:

  • Providing HVAC solutions that utilize heat recovery technologies or utilize geothermal energy as a heating and cooling source to reduce energy consumption
  • Utilizing higher efficiency plumbing fixtures to reduce building water consumption and harvesting daylight for occupant comfort as well as reduced energy consumption
  • Using an integrated design approach that considers building orientation and the thermal building envelope can also reduce energy consumption and HVAC equipment capacity requirements
  • Reducing HVAC system sizing leads to overall building operational savings
  • Integrating and collaborating with the owner, architect and contractor are key to achieving success when constructing a high performance building.

If you would like more information regarding the design of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems for high performance buildings or if you would like assistance with an upcoming project, please contact Douglas C. Barnhart, PE at (717) 845-7654 or dcb@ba-inc.com.