Integrating renewable energy within Federal new construction or major renovations is critical at each phase of the design process. This overview covers considerations for renewable energy in the design phases of a construction project, including choosing the design team, the design team charrette, preliminary design, schematic design, design development, and construction documents. Information on this page introduces each of the design phases and provides a link to deeper-level information.
Key Actions in Building Design
- Require specific renewable energy experience and skills for design team.
- Prioritize energy-related program requirements and an integrated design process in the RFP.
- Consider strategies for energy efficiency first to optimize renewable energy in design.
- Ensure project energy lead is involved in each phase of design review and has access to data on renewable energy decisions/economics.
- Substantiate performance for each design criterion to ensure established goals are met.
- In value engineering, ensure that renewable energy is not the "easy cut." Assess life-cycle costs and run new energy simulations.
After planning and programming is complete, the project moves into the design phase. In building design, the appropriate people must be at the table and work together in a well-coordinated effort. This begins as soon as project requirements are determined and the team is in place.
Renewable energy considerations must be integrated into each design phase, including:
- Selecting the Design Team
- Design Team Charrette
- Preliminary Design (15%)
- Schematic Design (35%)
- Design Development (65%)
- Construction Documents (100%)
Depending on project needs, the agency could use a conventional design-bid-build or a design-build approach (or acquisition strategy). In both scenarios, attention to assessing the appropriate renewable energy technology and evaluating its integration throughout the design and construction process is critical to ensuring that project goals are met.
The following sections focus on the more common design-bid-build approach. Integrating renewable energy into a design-build (or turnkey) strategy involves a few different approaches, which are covered in the section on design-build projects.
Selecting the Design Team
The first step in designing renewable energy into Federal new construction or major renovations is to identify team members with adequate renewable energy skills and experience. This is necessary at the earliest stage of team selection to ensure renewable energy is properly included and integrated into the project design. Strategies for including those skills vary depending on whether the team is formed from in-house architects and engineers or through a contract with an outside design firm. The agency's project energy lead can be helpful in specifying and reviewing necessary qualifications.
Ideally, the team should have experience with all technologies identified by the renewable energy screening to ensure all viable options are adequately considered. This knowledge should include experience with designing, modeling, and estimating the outputs of the renewable energy systems as well as an understanding of applicable incentives and funding, interconnection requirements, and other issues related to the viability of the technology.
For details on the skills needed and how to specify them for both in-house and procured design services, see selecting the design team section.
Design Team Charrette
After the design team has been selected, the project goals identified during planning and programming must be disseminated to the team members. The information on renewable energy gained from the screening can inform the early discussions on the potential mixes of technologies that could be integrated into the design.
A design charrette facilitates these discussions and allows the entire project team to discuss the options for ensuring that the goals will be met. The charrette is also an opportunity to define team member roles, facilitate coordination, and clarify who has responsibility for particular renewable energy issues.
For more information on team member roles, see the design team charrette section.
Preliminary Design (15%)
During the preliminary design (or early schematic design) phase, which is approximately the first 15% of the building design process, the high-level ideas initiated during project planning and developed in the design team charrette are further refined to incorporate the strategies required to meet the overlying project goals.
Considerations for glazing, wall and roof assemblies, lighting, mechanical, and plumbing systems are evaluated with the concurrent energy analysis. This informs decisions beyond first costs, including durability and long-term energy performance. Early choices for renewable energy technologies can be assessed as part of this analysis.
Learn more about the preliminary design (15%) phase.
Schematic Design (35%)
During schematic design, the design team develops a general idea of how the design will be approached along with notes and references on how the proposed renewable energy systems will be incorporated.
The schematic design phase is informed by the renewable energy feasibility study, which analyzes the performance, economics, and options of the potential technologies.
During this design phase, the design team selects the set of renewable energy technologies for the project and gets a preliminary idea of appropriate system sizes. The team develops initial energy models to assess technology performance in conjunction with the rest of the building design.
When schematic design is finished, the building design process is approximately 35% complete.
Learn more about the schematic design (35%) phase.
Design Development (65%)
During the design development phase, most of the architectural components and primary energy systems are selected. Energy systems are modeled in greater detail, and renewable energy components are sized and designed in detail. Renewable energy systems should be evaluated again during this phase to ensure project goals are being met and that the systems remain feasible. In this phase, renewable energy system controls should be integrated with the overall building automation systems.
In design development, any comments from the agency are combined during internal collaboration with the architectural and engineering team with regard to meeting the project's goals. One example might be changes to primary building systems that may warrant considering other renewable energy technologies.
When the design development is finished, the building design process is approximately 65% complete.
Learn more about the design development (65%) phase.
Construction Documents (100%)
The construction documents phase involves designing and developing the building's architectural and engineering systems to the extent that contractors can bid on the work and construct the project.
If contractor bids exceed those estimated by the design team, value engineering can be used to bring the project back within budget. Although renewable energy systems are an easy target to reduce costs at this phase, opportunities also likely exist within other disciplines. Project energy goals need to be considered throughout the building design phase to ensure renewable energy is not left on the cutting room floor during any cost cutting.
When construction documents are finished, the building design process is considered 100% complete.
Learn more about the construction documents (100%).
The following resources offer additional information:
- Whole Building Design Guide Discussion of Design Disciplines
- Whole Building Design Guide Discussion of the Role of Buildings and the Case for Whole Building Design
- Whole Building Design Guide Information on Specific Building Projects
- U.S. Air Force Project Manager's Guide for Design and Construction