March 30 2021
Getting to Net Zero with Salah Imam
Building Performance Analysis Lead Salah Imam recently joined our Vancouver office. We sat down with him to get to know him a bit better. We chatted about how we can get to net zero and what he sees for the future of building performance.
Welcome to Entuitive, Salah, and thanks for sitting down with us today. What made you decide to join Entuitive?
Entuitive builds for a sustainable future which directly aligns with my passion for a sustainable built environment. Recent data show that we have just over a decade to get climate change under control. And in our transition to net zero, I believe Entuitive is where I need to be to make a difference.
It’s great to work with a group of creative, purpose-driven engineers and designers and to already be diving into challenging, high-profile projects across multiple sectors and regions.
What’s it like being part of our Advanced Performance Analysis (APA) team? Are there any other teams you’re working closely with?
The APA team experience so far has been rewarding. They’re a talented and innovative group of people who have a creative approach to problem solving.
Our APA team focuses on reducing the energy consumed in the lifetime of a building. This is where we make (by far) the largest carbon savings—a necessary step to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Because of Entuitive’s One Company philosophy I work closely with lots of teams throughout the organization and across our seven offices. The other team I work most closely with is the Building Envelope team.
This makes sense because a performance-driven, envelope-first design approach is not an optional extra in a low-energy build. It is a matter of health, comfort, and wellbeing.
Our integrated Building Envelope and APA teams are on a mission to revolutionize the construction quality of buildings. A low energy design scope drives construction towards better fabric performance: minimal air leakage, minimum thermal bridging, and optimized continuous insulation of the thermal envelope. If we get this right it also brings many associated benefits—health (indoor air quality), material preservation (avoiding moisture damage) and indoor comfort (consistent temperatures with no draughts).
What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to building performance and how can we solve them?
The biggest challenge when it comes to building performance is the building performance gap. Unfortunately, there’s a proven gap between the energy use predicted by models (those used to ensure compliance with national building codes), and the monitored energy consumption once built. Many researchers claim that the measured energy consumption is frequently twice or more than that of the design stage prediction.
Our APA group is helping to close this gap through innovative workflows and an iterative performance-driven feedback process. We’re also conducting research towards using proper post-occupancy evaluation data, so that we can continuously build our models with more robust design stage assumptions.
Climate change and rapid urbanization demand a paradigm shift in the architectural, engineering and construction industry toward data-driven design processes to produce cost-effective, low-carbon buildings.
Holistically, there are two main changes that can have immediate influence on the economic sustainability of high-performance buildings.
First, incentives can and should be incorporated into new public policy directed at sustainable urban development.
Second, businesses should commit to the basic principles of sustainability and adjust their behavior accordingly—a mindset shift to prioritize both the health of people and the environment over profit.
A design team that is committed to sustainable, environmentally-sound building needs to take the extra effort to identify opportunities for enhancing flexibility (designing for the long-term) as well as estimating the related cost and environmental advantages. And we’re here to help design teams do just that.
What’s next for you?
Some key targets are defined to transform sustainable architecture from a mere occasional intervention to an opportunity for environmental, social and economic development. Through my Ph.D. studies, I’ll continue to research ways in which cities and communities can adapt as new industries emerge and as the demand for housing and the nature of the workplace changes. I believe that achieving meaningful sustainability in our built environment lies in a broadening of perceptions through a more balanced and integrated approach.
In this new reality we live in, where work and living patterns are rapidly changing, we are at the dawn of a revolutionized architecture. It is our challenge to do our part to help create a functioning society that supports people without threatening life on Earth, including our own.
Any final thoughts?
The climate crisis has already demonstrated that the way we currently live, on a planet of finite resources, is unsustainable.
The economic and social disruptions caused by the coronavirus, and the uptick in the health of our planet that resulted, proves that we have the capacity to fundamentally adapt our living patterns in a way that prioritizes sustainability over profitability.
We need to change the way we design, construct, and operate our buildings. But there is no magic bullet—no single person, policy, or technology can do it alone.
At Entuitive, we’re doing our part to bring people together in a collaborative way to build a better future and I’m proud to be part of this.