July 29 2020
Advancing Sustainable Design with In-House R&D
Entuitive’s commitment to delivering uncompromising performance through sustainable designs has led to the research and development of in-house tools that enable high-performance, low-carbon solutions for our clients.
Recently, members of our Sustainable Performance Group and Computational Design Team collaborated to develop a process to measure embodied carbon early in the concept phase of a project. They analyzed current embodied carbon software and designed a script to compliment and optimize those analyses.
Below, the developers highlight how this new process came to be, how it works, and how it enables Entuitive to design with sustainability in mind.
How is Entuitive’s Sustainable Performance Group tackling climate change?
When Entuitive created the Sustainable Performance Group, our company was effectively drawing a line in the sand on climate change and our role to play in it. Buildings and construction are responsible for 39% of global emissions, indicating that the AEC industry must be held accountable for making the change we want to see in the world.
Of those emissions, 28% comes from building operations, with the remaining 11% coming from the materials required to construct those buildings and infrastructure, also known as embodied carbon.
As green standards become the norm across the developed world, building operations will continue to become more efficient, meaning embodied carbon will become a more prevalent issue that cannot be ignored. The Sustainable Performance Group is working to get ahead of any incoming regulations on embodied carbon and support our clients in their pursuit of sustainable design solutions.
How does this process help Entuitive’s Sustainable Performance mission?
We are specifically tackling the problem of embodied carbon. As with most performance-based designs, decisions made in the early stages of concept design can have a significant impact on the final performance of the structure and envelope. The script we have developed can accept an architectural form from Rhino and generate a concept level design of the structure and building envelope to estimate its embodied carbon.
In its simplest application, we can utilize a single architectural form and test a variety of structural and envelope options to determine the embodied carbon potential. Below are two examples of testing our script to create a concept level concrete design for 16 York Street and a concept level steel design for 191 Bay Street. The tool is also being expanded to allow for concept level timber design.
Alternatively, we can apply this within the Grasshopper environment, so if a client has developed their own scripts to quickly generate options of their desired building form, we can run each of those options through this process to see what drives the embodied carbon of their design.
What makes this approach unique?
The world is now waking up to the carbon crisis. We are currently seeing governments and third-party organizations developing laws and guidelines for designing low-carbon structures. However, there is no global standard we can follow. As such, we are carving out a place in sustainable design as this new paradigm is being shaped by governments and scientists.
We are investing resources into combating climate change and offering our clients high-impact solutions they can turn to when making their own sustainable design decisions.
How was this new approach developed?
We developed the script around three key goals:
1. It must be easy to use for our clients and generate results quickly.
2. It should calculate the embodied carbon of both the structure and the building envelope.
3. It should complete concept level design checks to ensure the generated structure is valid.
To meet the first goal, we designed a user interface. Grasshopper is a very powerful environment for generating parametric designs, but it can be overwhelming to even those familiar with the program.
The user interface is clean and intuitive, with all the required inputs on display, ensuring the user will never have to enter the Grasshopper environment.
Our second goal ensures that the structure and envelope of the project are considered hand-in-hand. For example, if you add another floor to the building via the user interface, it will quickly adjust all column rundown calculations while adding another level to the building envelope.
If you pick a heavier cladding option, the structure will adjust accordingly. This gives our clients a holistic understanding of the project while also seeing the embodied carbon adjusted in real time.
The third goal is accomplished by running a variety of finite element models in the background. With the goal of being able to support our clients seeking to reduce the embodied carbon of their project, we wanted to ensure it would be as user-friendly as possible.
As such, the script will warn the user if certain inputs are invalid. In this way, the user can ensure that the concept level design is both structurally viable and that the embodied carbon analysis is accurate.
How does this evolving process build on the Sustainable Performance Group’s work?
The Sustainable Performance Group is developing systems to calculate the embodied carbon of our designs on any project. To do that, we use OneClick LCA to analyze our REVIT models to create a detailed breakdown of the structure’s embodied carbon.
However, to produce a REVIT model with sufficient material detail in concept design for use in OneClick LCA is uneconomical when those concepts can change rapidly. While both OneClick LCA and EC3 have concept level tools for estimating embodied carbon, we developed our script to be a parametric tool with a 3D representation of the structure that will be able to interface with OneClick LCA and EC3 to allow for rapid testing of options with verifiable results.
As mentioned previously, we can use a Grasshopper script or Rhino model developed by the client, with a simple form that approximates the building shape. And given Rhino’s extensive library of plugins, options to import building geometries from other pieces of design software also exist.
This simplicity ensures that we can rapidly test different options and building forms without spending time creating a detailed model. Once an architectural form is chosen and the design is further developed, we can improve our embodied carbon estimate with OneClick LCA, examining our more detailed Revit models as they are developed.
For more information about our Sustainable Performance tools, reach out to Emily King.