Space Programming and Energy Savings

I recently performed an energy model for one of our clients to analyze the load profile for a higher education building. The main objective was to determine if space programming played any significant role on the building’s yearly energy consumption. The building consisted of laboratories, classrooms and faculty offices. Since yearly occupancy can be variable for schools, my first thought was to locate classrooms, which typically become unoccupied in the summer, along the south perimeter and offices, which remain occupied, along the north to reduce the summer cooling loads. It turned out that this particular building had no occupancy reduction in the summer, so I turned my attention to other programming decisions that could potentially reduce energy consumption.

The architect submitted three program layouts for consideration. This information was used to create an energy model for each scheme. Two of the models had very similar results but the third model reduced the building’s EUI by approximately 5%. I realized that the energy savings could be attributed to a perimeter corridor running along the east side of the building on each floor. The other two schemes included central corridors.

Corridors, not being regularly occupied spaces, can always be in cooling/heating setback mode. By placing the corridor along the perimeter, it acts as a buffer zone between the exterior and interior that can be 3 degrees warmer or cooler all year long, without anyone’s comfort being compromised. A small difference like that can have a big impact over the course of a year.

While this solution cannot always be implemented, it’s important to be considerate of all of the energy repercussions in a design. By not taking the occupancy schedule into account when determining program space, architects could be missing out on free energy savings. This kind of holistic approach to building design is imperative in net zero buildings where every reduction percentage counts. If we truly care about saving energy we need to start thinking this way for all building designs.

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