January 12, 2009
Inside Out: Five AEC Challenges for 2009
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Inside Out: Five AEC Challenges for 2009

By Susan Smith

Moving forward, the AEC industry has some big challenges on its plate, and AECWeekly has identified those as being linked together, so the categories may overlap:
  • Energy efficiency and Sensors
  • Transportation
  • Infrastructure
  • Data Integration
  • 3D Visualization
  • In infrastructure design, several of these categories can be addressed at once. This week we take a look at the LEED-certified interior design of Microsoft Building 88 and extend outward with a look at three community wide projects that address energy efficiency, land use and transportation that impact the AEC industry.

    Among the winners of the American Institute of Architects 2008 Top Ten Green Awards, many addressed critical categories, namely, energy efficiency, infrastructure, transportation, sensors and in some cases data integration, 3D visualization and collaboration.

    One such winner is Microsoft Building 88. The interior design firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP submitted their design of Microsoft Building 88 completed in December of 2007. The building, located at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, is a 217,000 square foot interior structure aimed at demonstrating Microsoft’s commitment to environment and socially responsible business practices.

    The design utilizes an existing building which is now LEED CI Gold certified. The site offers great views of the natural environment plus a maximum amount of daylight for employees inside the building.

    In keeping with the scope of the design and to cut down on the number of employees driving to work, Microsoft offers a TDM incentive program, bicycle storage, showers and lockers for employees commuting to work via bicycle. Microsoft has a new Connector Transit service that links all Microsoft locations in the Puget Sound region, and the new building is also very close to bus lines. Covered parking structures have been designed to minimize surface parking coverage and reduce the heat island effect.

    Other efforts toward Zero Energy include the addition of energy efficient lighting and raised floors that increase mechanical efficiency and promise flexibility in the future. Lights are dimmed or turned off using occupancy sensors that reduce energy waste and also light the way for occupants along the building’s main circulation path. Fan-powered air terminals in the office perimeter spaces operate continuously when the building is occupied. The building also includes a “commissioned building system” to ensure that the mechanical system is operating with maximum efficiency, reduced energy and water waste, without compromising employee comfort.

    28% of materials used in the building were local and sustainable, manufactured within a 500-mile radius. Most interior finishes are made with material that is not found in the Northwest, which added to the challenge. 88% of construction waste was recycled during the construction phase, said to divert 1,450 tons of materials from local landfills.

    Remarkably, the project exceeded a number of USGBC credit thresholds which is attributed to team collaboration during the material procurement stage.

    The building made use of waterless urinals, low flow water fixtures and dual flush toilets which made it possible to save an estimated 667,876 gallons of water per year, thereby reducing the burden on the municipal water and wastewater systems.

    With the goal of making the workplace the ideal work environment for employees, Microsoft 88 provided ergonomic desk chairs, access to natural light and carbon dioxide sensors for monitoring air flow, with control of indoor pollutants and use of low VOC materials.

    Energy Performance Ratings and Sensors

    While LEED certification is the standard for green building, some experts say that the energy performance rating for buildings is “insufficient.” Modular wireless sensor platforms seamlessly integrated into future intelligent building management systems are touted as the way to go to improve building performance and support diagnostics and manage energy performance. In 2009 we will begin to see more sensors used for a variety of different things, from lighting, energy loads, to carbon dioxide and air flow.

    From Building to Community

    The advances that have been made in LEED certification and energy savings for individual buildings are being applied on a larger scale at the community or city level. Examples of this type of approach is embodied in the Digital Cities initiative from Autodesk. Autodesk’s out of the box product, LandXplorer, allows a city to create a city or infrastructure model in a very short time, according to Doug Eberhard, senior director and industry evangelist for Autodesk.

    This movement that was noted in 2008 will flourish in 2009 and thereafter, employing the use of both CAD and GIS to achieve an understanding of a larger data model through 3D visualization and data integration. These 3D models can embody even more infrastructure and include transportation, bridges, roads and other aspects that impact entire cities.

    Energy savings and GHG emissions produced by buildings and by their manufacturing processes inform a bigger picture when looking at an entire city or county.

    Jon Harrison, drafter of ESRI Local Climate Action plans, a member of the City Council and for the past three years, Mayor of Redlands, spoke at the ESRI User Conference 2008 on the topic “Climate Change GIS in Local Government.” He noted that, “Globally, cities produce 75% of the GHG emissions produced on earth, but occupy 2 % of the earth’s surface.”

    In Redlands, Harrison said their first user group meeting drew an audience of those interested in establishing a Climate Protection Data Model, and sharing what others are doing in areas such as local government, forestry, and transportation. The audience was concerned with issues such as running out of water, and how the numerous coastal cities in California will be affected by global warming.

    A local climate action plan was devised which

    Defines actions the local government will do to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions

    Defines actions for residents and businesses within the community to reduce their GHG emissions

    Set targets and establish tools and methods for measuring progress towards meeting those targets.

    “If we work on our cities one piece at a time we will effect a change,” stated Harrison. Governments are only about 6% inside their jurisdictional boundary, as other people also come from commuting and businesses.

    Harrison believes that by using GIS and tracking activity individually, local governments can achieve downward trends. California has the goal of attaining 80% below 1990 emissions by 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change.

    Major categories for local climate action include -

    Energy efficiency and conservation
    • Water and wastewater systems
    Green building
    • Waste reduction and recycling
    Climate friendly purchasing
    • Renewable energy and low carbon fuels (photovoltaics, etc)
  • Efficient transportation
  • Land use and community design
  • Storing and offsetting carbon emissions
  • Promoting community and individual action
  • Categories where GIS is most helpful
  • Land Use and Transportation

    Beth Jarosz, GIS Analyst for SANDAG, a planning agency for the San Diego region and county for 7 years, does regional analyses of different types.

    SANDAG is under contract with the California Energy Commission, doing a pilot project for developing a greenhouse gas reduction strategy using the techniques they use for Climate Action Planning (CAP).

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