Is There a Place for ‘Design Freedom’ in Performance-Driven Design?

Originally published on March 13, 2015 by BNP Media through the Walls & Ceilings Blog.

Increasingly, I see design professionals leveraging energy modeling in the design process. This is a very good thing. We are going beyond mere design rules-of-thumb toward performance-based decision-making. However, during a recent design review at Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning, there was a discussion about the degree to which building systems optimization should dictate design decisions. This is a notion that many of my students have question about. They are concerned about their ‘design freedom,’ as one referred to it. Architecture is a creative field and designers have a right to express their point of view through their respective medium.

However, the stakes are staggeringly high related to the built environment. We have all heard the stats: buildings account for 48% of all energy use, 75% of all electricity consumption, and 45% of all CO2 emissions in the U.S. The design and construction industry is committed to charting a course toward a sustainable future.

Unequivocally, we should constantly pursue building performance optimization. On the other hand, if empirical evidence is being leveraged in design decisions, then perhaps we are approaching the slippery slope toward strictly engineered outcomes. If so, then what is to stop engineering from supplanting design and taking priority over architectural outcomes? Where should adherence to optimized system strategies and energy initiatives be curtailed so that architectural design can still occur? …Is there a place for design freedom in performance-driven design?

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Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Promotes Chris Haskett to Project Manager

BDMD_FINAL-0236Chris has more than 14 years of experience in Architecture and is recognized for his work on the IU Global and International Studies Building, Elanco Global Headquarters Expansion, State Fairgrounds Coliseum Renovation, and Indy Bike Hub YMCA. Chris first joined Browning Day in 2001 and returned to the firm in 2011. “His skill, dedication, and attention to client service have been exemplary and we acknowledge his continued leadership in these areas,” said Browning Day President and Principal, Jonathan Hess. Chris is currently providing great leadership on the Construction Administration effort for the IU Global and International Studies Building project.

Chris is a graduate of the University of Illinois School of Architecture, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies, and had the opportunity to spend a year studying abroad in Versailles, France

Congratulations Chris!




Gauging the Seasonal Efficiency of Air-Source Heat Pumps

Originally published on February 23, 2015 by BNP Media through the Walls & Ceilings Blog.

Recently, I was working on an energy model for a high-performance housing prototype. Mostly, I apply energy modeling to non-residential structures. I did not have a coefficient of performance (COP) at my fingertips for the air-source heat pump (ASHP) used in my baseline model.

In this context, the COP is the ratio of the amount of thermal energy (heat) delivered by a heat pump to the amount of energy expended.

COP = heat delivered / energy expended

The COP is kind of like gauging the efficiency of a piece of equipment. However, heat pumps can be over 100 percent. In other words, it is possible for 1 unit of energy input to result in over 1 unit of heat being “pumped” from one environment to another.

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Air Source Heat Pump Capacity vs. Heating Requirement.Adapted from Air Source Heat Pump Efficiency Gains from Low Ambient Temperature Operation Using Supplemental Electric Heating (Franklin Energy, 2011).

The 2030 Challenge Ratchets Up

Originally published on February 6, 2015 by BNP Media through the Walls & Ceilings Blog.

In the new year, project teams committed to the 2030 Challenge are being asked to kick their performance goals up a notch. As of January 1, 2015, the energy performance target for new buildings, including major renovations, has increased from 60% below the regional average to 70% below the regional average.

For project teams looking to possibly commit to 2030 Challenge for the first time, the performance target may seem daunting, if not at least a bit unclear. What is the 70 percent reduction based on? Considering ever-increasing stringencies of energy codes, standards, and green building rating systems, a 70 percent improvement may initially feel like an unattainable goal.

Let’s clear the air.

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The Truth About Spray-Foam

Originally published on January 26, 2015 by BNP Media through the Walls & Ceilings Blog.

Spray-foam has a reputation of providing superior insulating qualities compared to fiberglass batt, mineral wool, cellulose, and other insulation alternatives.

The truth is that spray-foam does not necessarily perform better than other types of insulation when it comes to conductive heat transfer. Think about the insulation products you’ve seen at your local home-improvement store. Remember that big number on the label that started with an ‘R’ (the roll of batt insulation might have read R-13, for instance)? That number identifies the thermal resistance value – or R-value – and it is used to communicate the rate of heat flow through a material. The greater the R-value, the smaller the rate of heat flow (but beware, this is not a linear relationship).

Inch-per-inch, the R-value of spray-foam insulation is not much different than some other common alternative insulation options. Spray-foam helps a structure perform more efficiently because it reduces another form of heat gain/loss – air leakage.

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When Will LEED v2.2 and 2009 Expire?

This column was updated on November 19, 2014 (it was first published on October 13th, 2013).

Out with the old, in with the new.

With the rollout of LEED v4 currently underway, LEED project teams should be mindful of the LEED-NC v2.2 and 2009 sunset dates.

As every new version of LEED launches, USGBC initiates a process to phase out the previous version of the rating system. This process begins by establishing a date for closing registration. After the registration closure date, GBCI will no longer take new project registrations under the previous version of LEED.

Once the registration closure date is established, all projects registered under the previous version of LEED become subject to a deadline for either achieving certification or upgrading to the new version of LEED.

Figure from the LEED® Certification Policy Manual (issued January 1, 2012).

Source: Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI)

In accordance with the latest version of the LEED Certification Policy Manual (issued January 1, 2012), “After the close of registration of a rating system, projects that are registered under a particular rating system shall be allowed to proceed through the LEED certification process until the occurrence of the rating system sunset date…”

After the sunset date, projects registered under the previous version of LEED are no longer active in the LEED project database and their registration status is no longer valid.

The LEED Certification Policy Manual also states, “The sunset date for any rating system shall occur no sooner than six (6) years after the close of registration for that rating system.”

Moreover, GBCI “reserves the right to cancel any registered project that remains inactive, as determined solely by GBCI.”

So, what are the registration closure dates and certification sunset dates for LEED NC v2.2 and 2009?

The latest version of the LEED Certification Policy Manual states the following:

LEED-NC v2.2 – Registration Opened: November 15, 2005
LEED-NC v2.2 – Registration Closed: June 27, 2009
LEED-NC v2.2 – Application Sunset Date: June 27, 2015

LEED-NC 2009 – Registration Opened: April 27, 2009
LEED-NC 2009 – Registration Closed:  TBD
LEED-NC 2009 – Application Sunset Date: TBD

Moreover, on October 29, 2014, USGBC announced that it will allow LEED users to register projects under the LEED 2009 rating system until October 31, 2016. (The original date for LEED 2009 registration to close was June 15, 2015.)

In accordance with the LEED Certification Policy Manual, the sunset date for LEED 2009 would presumably occur no sooner than October 31, 2022.

However, according to, the sunset date for v2009 rating systems will NOT change with the LEED v2009 extension. So the last day projects registered under v2009 can submit for certification remains June 30, 2021.

Therefore, we can lean on the following dates:

LEED v2.2 – Application Sunset Date: June 27, 2015

LEED 2009 – Registration Closed: October 31, 2016

LEED 2009 – Application Sunset Date: June 30, 2021


Union Station to Undergo Repairs

Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects (BDMD) recently completed a study of Union Station that identified nearly $7 million in needed repairs and improvements. The building is structurally sound and emergency repairs have already been completed.

Greg Jacoby, BDMD Principal, and Adam Thies, director of the Department of Metropolitan Development, led members of the media on a tour of the building on August 20, 2014.

Watch Jacoby and Thies discuss the results of the study and the City’s plan to repair and upgrade Union Station.


Every Energy Model Is Wrong – And Here Is Why They Are Indispensable

LEED has taken some heat for buildings that do not perform as they were modeled, yet energy modeling is an essential tool for any high-performance building project.

Originally published in the August 2014 issue of Environmental Design + Construction (EDC) magazine.

Recently, LEED has come under fire for accounts of certified buildings not performing as well as their energy models predicted. Frequently mentioned amongst the antagonistic “gotcha” coverage is an out-of-context 2007 quote by the USGBC Research Committee acknowledging: “Buildings have a poor track record of performing as predicted during design.”

Within context, the research committee clarifies the reasons for the frequency of underperforming energy models, citing “inaccurate or improperly used analysis tools, lack of integration of complex interconnected systems, value engineering after design, poor construction practices, no building commissioning, and incomplete or improper understanding of operations and maintenance practices.” Not nearly an exhaustive list, but all legitimate considerations.

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CityWay YMCA Groundbreaking

Groundbreaking of CityWay YMCA

The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis has broken ground on its newest center in the CityWay complex!

YMCA officials were joined by representatives from Eli Lilly and Company, the City of Indianapolis and Buckingham Companies at the groundbreaking ceremony, held on the site of the new 87,000 square feet full-service center that is also one of the largest in the country. Browning Day designed the $22 million facility that will be an exciting addition to this vibrant neighborhood in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.

Visitors view the towering Beacon of Hope as they approach the newest attraction at the Indianapolis Zoo.

A Sanctuary in the City

Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Star
Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Star

Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, Orangutans are currently found only in the rainforest of Borneo and Sumatra. The name Orangutan derives from “Orang” (people) and “Hutan” (forest) and literally means “people from the forest” in Mayan. Rob Shumaker​, Vice President of Conservation & Life Sciences at the Indianapolis Zoo, explained that Orangutans are one of the world’s most endangered species due to habitat loss and a slow reproductive cycle. Besides their size and long reddish hair, the most striking thing about Orangutans is their cognitive abilities.

“Look into the eyes of an orangutan, and a sentient being looks back” says Shumaker.

For Browning Day, the honor of being invited to be a part of this once in a lifetime opportunity to positively impact the world came with a big responsibility. Jonathan Hess, President of Browning Day and Lead Designer on the project went back to their natural environment for his inspired design:

“Because we had to give the Orangutans spaces that function as trees, we used materials that mimic the environment of a forest without trying to fake the look of the real thing. We had to go back to their original habitat to find inspiration.”

The design is unique and most intriguing. The challenge to maintain an architectural solution optimized for both humans and orangutans while keeping in mind the Polynesian vernacular that inspired the design – was great. Dave Long, the Project Manager, had the impossible task of coordinating all building systems – structure, circulation needs of humans and Orangutans, mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering – for a building entirely made out of concrete and steel, with no back side and exposed walls from both sides.

A landmark project in the arena of animal husbandry, the facility affords the primates the freedom to travel in and around the exhibit building with greater mobility than their human visitors. At nearly 16,000 square feet, the design allows its inhabitants to ascend a 75-foot tall climate-controlled interior viewing space, access three outdoor yards or oases where they can go to find solace, and freely traverse and nest about an outdoor network of masts, cables and platforms – collectively referred to as the Hutan Trail.

A 2,800-foot glass curtainwall “leans forward” to allow the Orangutans to climb above patrons sitting in the lowest parts of the 8,000 square foot plaza. Designed by Jon Hutslar, the Project Landscape Architect, the plaza serves the dual purpose of patron seating and Orangutan viewing, with additional space for education and kiosk set-up. Mid- and lower-level areas can be accessed via long graceful, arching accessible ramps on either side, designed to convey the image of arms reaching out from the main exhibit building into the landscape, and inviting visitors to come inside. While the native environment of Orangutans could not be replicated in Indiana, the planting scheme created a landscape reflective of their natural habitat. The Center boasts a 12,000 square-foot sedum green roof that offers many features to the client, not the least of which is storm water sequestration. In addition, the green roof will retain a natural habitat over the site’s footprint, reduce the heat-island effect, protect and extend the life of the roof system, and add a great deal of natural beauty to the site.

Beginning in July 2014, the exhibit will also offer zoo visitors the Skyride – an aerial gondola ride that will bring visitors within 25 feet of Hutan Trail components. Through state-of-the-art exhibits and interactive computer games, visitors inside the Efroymson Family Exploration Hub are offered an unprecedented intimate level of interaction with the Orangutans. While adults are in awe at the sheer intelligence of the Orangutans, kids get tickled by being able to get the attention of such giants, each with their own personalities. Azy’s stature, dramatic features and intelligence make him a powerful and formidable figure.

The stunning centerpiece of the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center is the iconic 150-foot tall Nina Mason Pulliam Beacon of Hope. This towering structure is illuminated each night by the orangutans with a tablet. Every time you see the lighted beacon, remember that a donation as little as $5 helps advance the Zoo’s conservation efforts in Borneo and Sumatra.

Daniel Overbey, the Project Architect, remembers when his 3-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son visited the exhibit on its opening day.

“It was especially fun for Norah – she doesn’t know what daddy does at work, but she knows daddy is helping the Orangutans with their new home. They were both excited. That morning will always be a special memory for me.”

Like most architectural projects, it was a dream, an idea, an aspiration. The task seemed huge, but Browning Day rose to the challenge. The design and collaboration between scientists and the overall project team turned an otherwise regular zoo exhibit into a classroom, a place of hope and a comfortable home for these primates nearing extinction.

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