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Keynote Speakers

2023 ASHRAE Building Performance Analysis Conference

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Meet the 2023 BPAC Keynote Speakers

Duncan Cox  |  Dr. Jason Degraw  |  Alejandra Menchaca

Bio: Duncan joined Thornton Tomasetti in 2011 and leads the sustainability practice in London. Utilizing his experience on a variety of high-profile projects he works closely with TT's structural and facades teams to incorporate sustainability into the design from concept through to delivery.

Duncan uses parametric design tools to consider the whole life carbon impacts of different iterations. This approach allows the team to consider both the operational and embodied carbon impacts of a design as well as daylight, glare, comfort and energy. Duncan has emerged as a leading voice on whole life carbon in the industry with over 10 years experience in embodied carbon data collection, R&D, tool development, and specification & procurement strategy. He is often invited to present, peer review and lead industry guidance on embodied carbon and is currently helping to develop the UK's net-zero carbon standard. He also serves on the LETI steering group where he recently led a team to produce low embodied carbon specification and procurement guidance.

Whole Life Carbon, is This the Right Approach?
Abstract: Life Cycle Assessments are being embraced throughout the construction industry, and it is exciting to see the positive impacts these assessments are having on reducing embodied carbon in design and delivery on site. However, to date, they have typically focused on the upfront embodied carbon associated to structural material choice and design. As knowledge in this field increases it has become evident that there has been an underestimation of the carbon emissions associated with the building enclosure, as well as the commonly missing elements such as MEP systems and internal building architecture.

The choice of materials and systems for these elements can significantly influence a building's energy performance and, consequently, the amount of operational carbon emissions. In this session, Duncan will present a whole life carbon approach to consider both embodied and operational carbon during the early stage of design. This whole life carbon approach not only considers upfront embodied carbon, but also the carbon associated to construction, building use and operation as well as end-of-life scenarios. Furthermore, he will delve into the discussion of whether we are adopting the right approach when it additionally considering decarbonizing the grid and understanding the time value of carbon.

Bio: Dr. Jason W. DeGraw is a member of the research and development staff of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Prior to joining ORNL, he was a mechanical engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO. He holds mechanical engineering degrees from the University of Houston and the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. DeGraw’s research work has focused on the numerical simulation of thermo-fluid flow phenomena at a variety of scales and in several different application areas. His recent work in building performance simulation has applications in indoor air quality and building security and resilience. He has also done consulting in scientific computing and geographical information systems and collaborated on several BIM-related projects. Dr. DeGraw is currently a member of the development team of EnergyPlus, the U.S. DOE’s flagship building energy simulation engine. He is an active member of ASHRAE, was chair ASHRAE TC 2.10 Resilience and Security, was a member of the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force, was a voting member on ASHRAE Standard 241, Control of Infectious Aerosols, and is currently chair of MTG.RES.

Extreme Events and the Role of Modeling in a Resilient Future
Abstract: Resilience failures of systems are often associated with an extreme event – an event that was not imagined by the designers of the system. It was once logical to expect that the interruption of the proper operation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment in an area with a milder climate (e.g., San Francisco, CA) would be much less serious than the same failure in an environment given to extreme conditions (e.g., Anchorage, AK). However, a power outage that knocks out HVAC systems on a relatively mild day during wildfire season may be just as disruptive to the operations of a building as a similar event in the middle of winter in a northern climate. Thus, the overall scenario is as important as the event itself when it comes to assessing the impact of an event. Computer models are the one tool that offer access to a near limitless variety of scenarios and can deliver results in a timely manner, but current tools are limited and cannot always represent the scenarios that will be needed to truly work toward a resilient future. The talk will present an overview of extreme events and how these events relate to the built environment. The related concepts of return to functionality and passive survivability will be presented in the context of modeling. Finally, the relationship between practical building-level resilience and modeling will be discussed, with emphasis on avoiding failures in imagination.

Bio: Alejandra is a Principal at AIRLIT studio, an environmental design consultancy with a design-centric approach rooted in technical excellence. Alejandra combines expertise in mechanical engineering and building science to give clients a clear understanding of the impact design strategies and innovative solutions have on long-term building performance. Alejandra’s expertise includes passive design, visual and thermal comfort assessment, and indoor air quality. She’s an advocate of the power of early design analytics and is passionate about finding new ways to quantify energy, comfort and air quality quickly and simply. She is a co-founder of Project StaSIO, a community of building performance simulators (consultants, architects, in-house building scientists) that strives to teach others how to ask the right building analytics questions and convey the results in ways that are beautiful and impactful. She holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and has lectured at MIT and the Harvard GSD, where she’s had the good fortune to mentor several brilliant students who have become inspiring disruptors in the building simulation industry.

Early Design: The greatest opportunity to influence performance