Key Actions in Selecting a Design Team
- Work with project energy lead to include renewable energy provisions when procuring architectural and engineering services. List specific requirements, including:
- Energy-related requirements from building program.
- In-depth energy efficiency and renewable expertise on team.
- Ability to integrate renewable energy and custom control strategies into energy modeling.
- An integrated design process and coordination with other contractors.
- History of verifying building performance.
- Determine selection criteria ahead of the RFP, including the ability to judge on best-value versus lowest-cost.
- Create design review team across disciplines, including project energy lead, commissioning agent, and facility staff.
The success of any building design depends on bringing the right team members onto the project. For projects with integrated renewable energy, any successful design team must bring specific renewable energy experience to the table.
Team experience should not be limited to knowledge of the relevant renewable energy technologies, but should also include how to integrate these systems into a building project, how to properly assess renewable energy, how to incorporate renewable energy into energy simulations, how to leverage policies, incentives and project funding for renewable energy, and how to design successful measurement and verification (M&V) systems. In addition, the design should be accomplished using an integrated design process.
- Procuring Architectural and Engineering Services
- Why Experience is Necessary
- Other Design Team Members
Procuring Architectural and Engineering Services
Whether architectural and engineering (A&E) services are in-house or procured externally, Federal agencies need to specify that these abilities be available in the design team. While some professional accreditations, such as Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED®), are complimentary, they are not a replacement for demonstrated successful project experience with integrating renewable energy technologies.
Energy-related design requirements and expectations for an integrated design process should also be included in the request for proposals (RFP) for A&E services. If they are not included at this stage, the agency will not have leverage to ensure they are included in the resulting design. Although less common in Federal procurement, provisions allowing for performance-based fees can provide incentives for A&E firms to think outside the box to reach additional energy targets.
The project energy lead can be an invaluable resource in reviewing request for qualifications (RFQ) and RFP documents to ensure they will result in firms with the skill sets necessary and designs needed to meet the project's energy goals.
Prior to finalizing any procurement process, the agency needs to establish selection criteria. While the integration of renewable energy is still a less-common skill for A&E firms, many firms might bid on a project such as this without full understanding of the associated costs or issues. The RFQ should be developed to identify and qualify design teams with specific experience across energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies, and whole building energy simulation experience. Critical to creating a successful project, design team selection should be based on best value rather than simply lowest cost.
If an A&E firm does not have proper experience with the potential renewable technologies designated in the RFP, they should team up with experts with this experience. Simply stating that they will bring on subcontractors with relevant experience is not sufficient.
The proposal should include key personnel on the project, including documented renewable energy experience as well as potential industry certifications.
Since traditional energy simulation models do not easily incorporate renewable energy, the bidding teams should be asked to detail their approach, process, and anticipated software in reaching the correct simulations. Teams should also demonstrate experience with verifying building performance of their built projects to show the ability to benchmark actual energy performance versus design estimates.
The project energy lead should be involved in the review of procurement specifications and should be on the selection committee for the design team. Detailed information on this topic is available in the FEMP guide on the Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services for Sustainable Buildings.
Why Experience is Necessary
Architects with adequate experience with renewable energy technologies will be able to understand the importance of siting a building and any related renewable energy systems. This includes considering the climate zone, local site characteristics like shading from other structures, and the building's overall environmental impact on the site.
Depending on the project's climate zone, strategies like passive heating and cooling, natural ventilation, wall and roof assemblies, glazing selection, and associated solar control (overhangs, vertical fins) should all be part of the design considerations even before the addition of power generation technologies. The design and integration of renewable energy technologies is a very complex and specific skill, and it is less common to have a designer with skills that span across multiple renewable energy technologies.
Many times, engineers will be asked to design systems to fit into a particular project's architecture as discussed in the various design phases of this guide. Engineers should be familiar with incorporating renewable technologies into projects, but may also rely on the expertise of professionals dealing specifically with any particular technology. While there are opportunities for incorporating design strategies from engineers that can help minimize the project's energy use (thereby increasing the impact potential of any renewable energy technology), having their input early in decision making process will be a benefit to the project moving forward.
From the early stages of a project, experienced energy analysts can provide helpful input on a project design to inform of the impacts of various strategies that can help optimize energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies. Simulation programs, such as, eQUEST (DOE-2) and EnergyPlus, along with other hourly simulation programs are commonly used during this and subsequent phases of the design. A description of these and other simulation programs used in whole building analysis can be found on the EERE building energy software tools directory. Working with architects and engineers allows energy analysts to not only evaluate these strategies, but to also get feedback from these professionals as to potential aesthetic or equipment costs associated with such strategies.
Other Design Team Members
In addition to the outside design firm, it is essential to have members on the design team who will be able to evaluate the progress of each stage of design in reaching the project's energy goals. Other members of the design team include:
- Agency representatives
- Energy project lead
- Building siting
- Structural and energy engineers
- Energy analysts
- Commissioning agents
Maintaining communication between and engagement with all team members will help ensure a successful project.
Commissioning agents and building maintenance personnel, in particular, can add value throughout the life of the project if included on the design review team. Since they will play a critical role in ensuring that the building's primary and renewable energy systems are operating as intended and designed, these professionals can provide a wealth of knowledge on issues the design team must consider that may not initially be obvious. Integration of renewable energy system controls into other components of the building system, as well as ongoing maintenance that could result in significant operational costs, are just some of the issues that can be identified and remedied early.