Northeastern ISEC: Integrating Design and Performance for a High Performance Façade

Julian Astbury, Arup
Wes Schwartz, Payette

Northeastern University Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC) a 236,000-square-foot research facility that provides state-of-the-science infrastructure, and increases the university's capacity to hire top faculty and academic leaders. The new facility will support teaching and interdisciplinary research programs fostering collaboration across disciplines in the College of Science, the College of Engineering, the Bouvé College of Health Science, and the College of Computer and Information Science.

The organic architectural form is intrinsically linked with high performance architecture through parametric design and energy modeling along with the implementation of innovative energy conservation strategies to drastically reduce the building energy usage. One critical component to realizing this high performance lab, was the design of its façade.

The articulation of the façade is not just about the architectural expression, but is also an integral part of the building performance. Working together the design team, building scientist and engineers were able to tune and optimize the façade's performance so that it became an integral part of the building's mechanical system. From the start of the development of the façade, iterative analysis was conducted using CFD, daylight simulation, radiation analysis, heat flow simulation, and energy modeling were integrated into the design process to make informed decisions on energy and occupant comfort. In order to optimize the profile, form, and performance of the sunshade system a parametric iterative model was developed along with custom written compositing software that allowed the team to perform simulations accurately predicting solar performance of the screen to tune the system balancing view and performance and feeding directly into the building energy model. Ultimately this detailed model was integrated directly with the fabrication models allowing for the complex elements to be unitized and prefabricated for rapid on-site installation.

This holistic approach to integrating design and building systems has allowed the building to achieve both its sustainability and architectural goals. This session is case study of the iterative process and integration of tools that were used in the development of this high performance façade.

Learning Objectives

  • By the end of the session, participants will be able explain the factors in façade design that impact thermal comfort.
  • Participants will be able to implement an iterative approach to optimize façade performance
  • Participants will be able to discuss synergies between façade design and mechanical systems
  • Participants will be able to summarize tools that can be utilized to help make more informed design decisions.


Julian Astbury is an Associate Principal in Arup's Boston office and is the Boston buildings practice leader. With 23 years of experience at Arup, Julian came to the Boston office in 1999 after gaining international experience with the firm. He was Arup's project manager for the Northeastern ISEC project and has led multidisciplinary engineering design teams on projects covering a wide range of building types across the public and private sectors.

Wesley Schwartz AIA, is a Senior Associate at Payette and has been a key contributor to numerous projects ranging from Translational Research, Academic Science, and Healthcare architecture. Wes has been particularly influential in the design, technical development and documentation of highly complex facade systems. He has experience in all facets of design from master planning, detailing, BIM integration and coordination.


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