The Effects of Site-Specific Climate Data and Climate Change on Resilient Buildings: A Case Study in the Bay Area

Paul Erickson, Affiliated Engineers Inc.
Xin Qiu, Novus Environmental Inc.

As codes, standards, rating systems, and organizations press towards the goal of net-zero energy, many lab building design teams must strive to satisfy the need for safety, maintainability and, adaptability in light of the increased demand for resilience and aggressive innovation. The teams often turn towards design optimized for place, capitalizing on strategies that maximize energy efficiency opportunities in that climate or micro-climate. Availability of weather data, or lack thereof when it comes to local data, not only can limit how aggressive the designs can be, but can also be misleading. To address the uncertainties associated with ‘nearby airport' data in many areas of the US, ASHRAE Technical Committee 4.2 (Climatic Information) is currently developing a protocol for calculation of site-specific climate data. The protocol will involve the use of historic data and advanced Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) modelling to compute site-specific climate data at high resolution. Among the many benefits of having such data include the potential for better-informed energy strategies, improved control of energy costs, and robust building designs. These data can also be used as inputs to Climate Change models for the development of ‘future weather files' that will feed in to effective strategies for developing greater capacities for resilience to the future impacts of Climate Change.

In this presentation we will provide background on site-specific climate data and ASHRAE's current research project (for which one of the presenters is a selected consultant engaged in the work), providing insights on how designers can quickly assess the likelihood for concern/need to use site-specific data by demonstrating how using local airport data may not be the best approach. A case study involving a representative biological lab building located at three different sites in the San Francisco Bay Area will be presented to illustrate the impacts of site-specific climate data on building loads, natural ventilation and types of cooling equipment - considering the implications of energy-water nexus as well. The impact of Climate Change on the case study scenarios and on life cycle costing will be discussed together with the possibility of using ‘future TMY3 data' to inform resilient laboratory building design. The presentation will conclude with thoughts on future developments related to these matters.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn about ASHRAE's motivation to develop a protocol for computing site-specific climate data, and recent efforts on this front.
  • Learn how one can assess the concern/need to use site-specific data for a project.
  • Learn through illustrative example how site-specific climate data may impact design decisions related to natural ventilation and central cooling plant.
  • Learn about current research in Climate Change and how it might be applied for the development of resilient building designs.


As AEI's Sustainable Practice Leader, Paul Erickson manages the firm's sustainable design services, acting as a project consultant and as the firm's internal coordinator of sustainable technology and strategy training. Mr. Erickson's participation in the design and analysis of high-performance labs, hospitals and other building types has led to significant experience in mechanical system design, lighting, daylighting, renewable energy, and building performance simulation.

Dr. Xin Qiu is a founding Principal and board chairman of Novus Environmental. He has over 20 years of experience in meteorology, climatology and air quality studies. He has led 100+ projects focusing on meteorology, extreme weather, climate change, air quality, resilience of cities and adaptation. Dr. Qiu is an IPCC Expert Reviewer on the latest AR5's Reports. He certified as an Accredited Consulting Meteorologist by CMOS, a Professional Meteorologist and an Environmental Professional by ECO Canada.


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