Energy Modeling Early in a Project: Why It Makes Dollars and Sense for Lab Projects

Paul Erickson, Affiliated Engineers, Inc (AEI)
Dirk von Below, Flad Architects

As the bar for performance gets higher and higher due to code updates, standards improvements and more aggressive target setting by owners and government entities, design teams seem face increasing challenges, particularly for labs. ASHRAE 90.1 and IECC propose reduced energy use every 3 years, Title 24 also sets ambitious new goals on a recurring basis, and University/State/Fed energy savings targets of 20%, 30% to net-zero energy drive the need for an analytical confirmation of design.

Old solutions no longer meet these new targets for the following reasons: staff expectations of past system solutions are off the mark; new systems challenge operation norms and often require organizational transformation; and project planning and budget setting often fail to account for the shift in design solutions. Flad and AEI are firms that have been designing high performance laboratories for over two decades. Dirk von Below and Paul Erickson will visit the importance of timing, scope, integration, and interpretation in the modeling process. This includes suggestions for owners on what to expect from their consultants. We will discuss the integration of the investment decisions with the design and modeling activities. Like many, our clients are working towards how to measure a successful project and figuring out how they balance the complexities of modern HVAC systems with operational costs and expertise.

The presentation will discuss what can and what shouldn't be expected of energy models and the modeling process. It will discuss the value proposition of modeling at different stages of the planning and design process, covering elements such as the following: program-based modeling used to evaluateátheámajor energy drivers for a lab building; project costs informed and tested by early modeling; evolution into more detailed models (i.e. life cycle cost analysis, fašade optimization, hood selection, etc.); and later-stage decision making (VE, submittals) and post-occupancy evaluation (performance calibration).

The paradigms of sustainable operations, financial reward and environmental goals are influencing the design of research, development and manufacturing facilities in ways that show the way towards a more pragmatic, goal oriented and effective use of energy modeling.

Learning Objectives

  • Discussion of key considerations to get the most value out of energy modeling on a lab project
  • Economic paybacks from using energy modeling
  • Key areas of opportunity that can lead to enhanced collaboration between designer, owner and operational stakeholders during planning and design phases
  • Introduction to and emphasis on effective ways to integrate energy modeling in the design process and what outcomes to expect


As AEI's Sustainable Practice Leader, Paul Erickson, LEED AP BD+C, 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 experience in mechanical system design, lighting, daylighting, renewable energy, and building performance simulation is leveraged to champion and lead the design of high performance labs, hospitals and other building types.

Dirk von Below, AIA, LEED AP BD+C Mr. von Below has 25 years of comprehensive architectural experience delivering science buildings to private and institutional clients. He has managed large projects that balance state-of-the-art design, efficiency, and environmental design within a tight financial framework. Mr. von Below's experience includes cost estimates, planning, and quality assurance. He has worked for international clients on projects that were managed in German and English.


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