Sarah Hanson

Through a series of publications focused on energy optimization, four industry groups and the U.S. Department of Energy are providing guidance to help move the building industry toward market-viable net-zero energy and carbon-neutral buildings.

Over the last decade, ASHRAE (which changed its name from the longer American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) has published 10 separate Advanced Energy Design Guides (AEDGs) for six different building types. The first group of guides, published in 2005 (and with nearly 600,000 downloads to date), targeted a 30 percent savings beyond ASHRAE Standard 90.1-1999 and covered small offices, small retail, K–12 schools, small warehouses, highway lodging, and small hospitals and healthcare facilities.

The most recent group of guides, published in 2013, targets a 50 percent energy savings over ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2004 and covers small-to-medium offices, medium-to-big–box retail, K–12 schools, and large hospitals. A 50 percent savings AEDG for grocery stores is now in development.

“The AEDG is one of the few interdisciplinary resources that receives both equal input and significant use from multiple disciplines and professional organizations—engineers, architects, lighting designers, and green-building professionals,” says Dan Nall, FAIA, the AIA’s representative on the AEDG Steering Committee. “As such, AEDG is a widely recognized and respected brand across the industry that cuts through what can be challenging communication between team members and clients.”

The development committee for AEDGs, formed in 2003, is comprised of representatives from the AIA, ASHRAE, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the U.S. Department of Energy. As new benchmarks and best practices have evolved in different sectors of the AEC industry, the AEDG development team members have integrated those changes into the planning for successive guides.

Other changes have addressed cultural concerns within architecture centered on design autonomy. The most recent series of guides, for instance, recognizes that not all architects will want to (or be able to) use such a prescriptive design solution as the AEDGs outline. To that end, the guides also provide performance standards to direct teams toward an integrated methodology for their building. Decisions made during the design phase can be critical to achieving advanced energy savings.

“Anything like the AEDG series that can help architects understand the value of energy modeling—to use it up front as a design tool, which can aid collaboration—is most welcome,” says Helen J. Kessler, FAIA, LEED Fellow, founder of Chicago-based HJKessler Associates and a pioneer in energy modeling. “Architects don’t need to ‘do’ energy modeling per se, but they need to care about it deeply, and engage their engineering consultants in using models starting in the earliest phases of design.”

Nall sees the AEDG series as a starting point for that upstream conversation.“Many architects try to drive energy-efficiency conversations on their projects, but often lack the technical understanding to push engineers in that direction,” he says. “The AEDGs help to empower architects to move the conversation forward. They can serve as a conversation starter on teams that might not otherwise know how to think about energy issues as well as highly experienced teams who rely on high-level guidance to vet all possible solutions.”