Smart Architectural and Engineering Teaming for Sustainable Projects

Amber Sausen, Alliiance
Laura Halverson , Affiliated Engineers, Inc.

How can design teams manage widely varying project demands including schedule and construction costs while meeting sustainability performance goals and user needs? What are the critical moments when architects and engineers need to engage in dialogue, analysis, and whole-team decision-making for a successful project? Using projects at the University of Minnesota (UMN) as case studies—encompassing complex laboratory programs, high flexibility needs, historic renovations, and new construction—we will provide an overview of the Minnesota Buildings, Benchmarks, and Beyond (B3) sustainability guidelines and how they compare to nationally recognized sustainability standards, such as LEED and Architecture 2030.

Case studies discussed will include UMN Tate Hall, a renovation of an historic 1926 beaux-arts building accommodating modern lab needs; UMN Bee Lab, a new biological research lab; and UMN Physics and Nanotechnology, a new building that includes nanofabrication clean rooms. Topics addressed will include: Daylighting, Lighting, Views: Architectural daylight modeling for user comfort, glare prevention, and energy use reduction. Energy modeling for electric lighting builds from reduced need established by architectural solutions. Balancing views for inhabitant wellness and lab performance. Acoustics and ventilation: Architectural and engineering work creating higher efficiency and better user experience and environmental quality through the creation of equipment zones. Noise- and heat-producing equipment co-located in areas isolated from bench/work zones to improve acoustic environment for users. Engineering effectiveness minimizing exhaust runs. HVAC: Energy modeling for technically complex spaces including nanofabrication clean rooms. Architectural and engineering team use of 4D modeling to verify constructability and construction sequencing. B3 and Green Rating Systems: The Minnesota B3 program mandates state-funded buildings comply with comprehensive sustainability guidelines. The program adapts and pushes beyond Architecture 2030 goals for greenhouse-gas emissions reductions. The clear advantage of B3 projects is that, from the outset, it is known that the project will need to meet the guidelines; the team is not waiting for a decision on whether or not to pursue a green rating system, positioning the project to make critical sustainable design decisions in early phases.

Learning Objectives

  • Be able to identify key areas for architectural and engineering coordination and collaboration in the pursuit of integrated sustainable solutions;
  • Understand how regionally specific sustainability guidelines compare to nationally recognized rating systems and can be successfully implemented;
  • Learn about evaluation tools and team processes used to maximize early sustainable decision-making for project success; and
  • Explore sustainable solutions for daylighting, HVAC, and acoustics from both an architectural and engineering perspective.


Amber is a strong advocate for thoughtful design and integrated sustainable strategies as Alliiance. Amber quickly sees the big picture and engages all opportunities for project success. She is a member of Alliiance's Green Team; a former board member of the Minnesota Environmental Fund; and president of Urban Sketchers, an international non-profit dedicated to fostering a global community of artists who practice on-location drawing.

Since joining AEI in 1995, Laura has made significant contributions to designs spanning pharma/biotech, healthcare, university, and research markets. She works with users, lab planners, and manufacturers to reduce the associated water and energy use and environmental impact of scientific equipment. Laura regularly shares insights as a speaker at Tradeline and AALAS conferences, and previously, as an instructor for Univ. of Wisconsin Department of Engineering's Professional Development series.


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