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Modeling During Design Helps Energy Efficiency

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©2018 This excerpt taken from the article of the same name which appeared in ASHRAE Journal, vol. 60, no. 8, August 2018.

By Roland Charneux, P.E., HFDP, Fellow ASHRAE; Daniel Picard, P.E., BEMP, Associate Member ASHRAE

About the Authors
Roland Charneux, P.E., is a director and Daniel Picard, P.E., is a project manager and associate at Pageau Morel & Associates Inc., in Montreal

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) wanted their head office to embody their values and culture and be reflective of their well-documented environmental commitment, offering a space that is both healthy and inviting for their nearly 400 staff members.

This Canadian retail cooperative’s new head office building, located southwest of downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, includes administrative offices, a call center, a sewing room, a laboratory equipped with a fume hood to test products, a photo lab, a computer room serving all stores in Canada, employee recreational areas, a bouldering (climbing) room, an amenity room with gym equipment and space for daily fitness and yoga classes.

The 109,200 ft2 (10 152 m2) building has a wood structure with ample windows, and consists of a main four story wing intersecting at a 40° angle with a smaller three story wing. All desks in the office can be switched between seated and standing modes. To encourage vertical circulation in the building and employee interactions, a four story atrium is located at the intersection of the two wings and leads to the kitchen and lunchroom on the fourth floor. These spaces provide full access to the rooftop garden that offers beautiful views of downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and the surrounding mountains. The basement of the building is used for non-occupied functions, such as mechanical and electrical rooms, and storage, including bicycle storage.

The building was designed under an integrated design process and the entire design team, owner and contractor, were around the table before any lines were drawn. The client clearly expressed their design objective, to design an innovative building that would offer employees an environment with thermal, visual and acoustical comfort, high indoor air quality and energy efficiency within a defined construction and life-cycle budget. The building would include numerous collaborative spaces and have high floor-to-ceiling height to maximize space perception and daylighting.

The Impact of Modeling During Design

Early in the design process, different modeling tools were used to evaluate and design the various options proposed by the team. For example, a daylighting tool was used to determine optimal shading strategies, CFD software was used for the wind towers that power the natural ventilation system, and energy modeling software was used for the requisite energy simulations.

The passive reaction of the building was analyzed with IES software for winter and summer conditions as shown in Figures 1 and 2.

Next, energy modeling software was used to do a complete annual energy simulation. Many energy efficiency measures were implemented into the project, such as the natural ventilation system, geothermal wells and energy recovery systems.

Daylighting was simulated in detail to ensure IES recommended lighting levels of 27.7 footcandle (300 lux) were maintained in office spaces. Windows were equipped with overhangs on the South orientations and with interior motorized solar shades to limit unwanted solar gains. The solar shades are controlled with solar radiation detectors. The wood ceiling was whitewashed and all furniture was chosen with white color surfaces to ensure that daylight was reflected and able to penetrate deeper into the building. The desire to enhance daylighting throughout the building resulted in a narrower building, which increased the envelope surface area by 53% compared to a traditional square footprint building, thus increasing the heat transfers with the outdoor environment.


Figure 1

Figure 2

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