Greg Mella
Sustainable Design Director, SmithGroup
Washington, D.C. NASA Weather Data
The NASA weather service has detailed meteorological information for virtually any location in the world. “The truth is, we start to use this site before we even get the job,” says Mella. “When we talk about sustainable design in a client interview, we talk about how it is rooted in the [physical] site.” Mella cites this website as being “really good for 95 percent of the data we need.”

Power Profiler
This online tool takes a simple zip code and tells you the mix of fuels used to generate electricity in that area. “In the end, [with both LEED and the 2030 Challenge] what we’re interested in doing is reducing carbon emissions,” says Mella. “With this tool, we know that in California [which has relatively clean power], you might want to reduce heating, and in Minneapolis [which uses coal power], you had better look at reducing electricity consumption if you want to reduce overall emissions. It’s an important piece to have in the back of your mind.”

Lorax Pro
Designed as a supplement to the LEED online system, Lorax Pro consolidates all relevant information and charges a fee for access on a per-project basis. Mella’s team is testing this system with two projects currently under construction, and already the tool is proving useful: For the community connectivity LEED credit, team members simply typed the address of the building site into Lorax Pro to generate a map with all qualifying amenities—such as restaurants and retail—in a half-mile radius. “What used to take us four hours of Web searching now takes five minutes,” says Mella.

Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency
This online database includes state and utility company grants, rebates, and tax incentives that can be used to offset the cost of renewable energies in a project if the client doesn’t have the money upfront. On a recent project, the client wanted solar panels on its building, but a calculated 60-year payback was prohibitive. Mella’s team used this tool to help the client, a university, find a grant; the photovoltaics are being designed as an add-on and will go ahead if the grant comes through.

Craig Scranton
Principal, BNIM Architects
Kansas City, Mo. Green Building studio
A tool powered by Autodesk, Green Building Studio allows architects to upload a Revit model of their building during design development and get a sustainable analysis of the basic design. Noting factors such as heating and cooling degree days in the region, opportunities for solar energy collection, and whether major strategies like passive heating and cooling will be feasible, the tool will determine a very general energy estimate of how many Kbtus per square foot a building will consume based on its general massing.

PV Watts
An online calculator to help with the design of integrated photovoltaic (PV) arrays, PV Watts can help determine the solar energy–generating potential of a project location. Embedded with data about solar angles and locations, the tool will calculate the appropriate size of a PV array. Scranton’s team uses the tool to determine the square footage of panels required to generate the kilowatt-hours projects need to meet 2030 Challenge goals.

Tyler Krehlik
Associate Principal, Anshen + Allen
San Francisco Pharos
This new subscription-based tool from the Healthy Building Network provides a database of building materials, including information on any and all toxic materials used in their fabrication. Anshen + Allen’s clients often are concerned about materials toxicity, especially healthcare clients, who are faced with quite a conundrum: “When you are building a hospital that treats cancer [in California],” says Krehlik, “you have to put the Proposition 18 warning on the door that says the building can cause cancer because of the building materials used inside.” Previously, the information could be found either by scouring Material Safety Data Sheets or by checking with the individual independent testing laboratories. “It’s something that we have been doing manually,” Krehlik says. “But this site has consolidated all of that material.”

2030 Target Tables
This set of online information tables outlines the various benchmarks of the 2030 Challenge. “Since we’re trying to comply with the 2030 Challenge that says we have to be 50 percent better than a typical building, this allows us to pull up information about [the average standards] we’re comparing against,” Krehlik says.

Energy Star Target Finder
Often used by Krehlik’s team in conjunction with the 2030 target tables, the Energy Star Target Finder is the more comprehensive tool of the two and can be used to help determine the projected energy load of a building during the design process. Krehlik likes that this tool “allows you to make adjustments based on the size, typology, location—those inputs that adjust what the building will look like.”