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Energy Efficient Building Design

Lee Layton, P.E.

Course Outline

The course begins with an overview of the technology and a few of the items to consider in designing an energy efficient building.  Chapter two explains the issues affecting new building designs as it relates to specific types of buildings.  Chapter three then discusses ways to introduce energy efficiency into the design process and chapter four discusses the computer modeling involved in energy efficiency designs.  Finally, chapter five provides details on two projects that have successfully implemented the concepts explained in this course.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

After taking this course you should:

Intended Audience

This course is intended for anyone who is involved in the design and operation of a commercial building.

Benefit to Attendees

There is a lot of discussion about “sustainability” in everything we do.  Reducing the energy consumption of commercial buildings fits into the definition of sustainability and yields lower energy costs, and in many cases, a more pleasant working environment.  This course gives you tangible concepts to apply to new building designs.

Course Introduction

Incorporating energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable green design features into buildings has become a top priority in recent years as building owners seek to develop environmentally friendly facilities.  Because energy-efficient buildings reduce both resource depletion and the adverse environmental impacts of pollution generated by energy production, it is often considered to be the cornerstone of sustainable design. In this course, we will be looking at what low-energy design means, specific strategies to be considered, when and where to apply these strategies, and how to evaluate their cost effectiveness.

Low-energy building design is not just the result of applying one or more isolated technologies. Rather, it is an integrated whole-building process that requires advocacy and action on the part of the design team throughout the entire project development process. The whole-building approach is easily worth the time and effort, as it can save 30% or more in energy costs over a conventional building design.  Moreover, low-energy design does not necessarily have to result in increased construction costs. Indeed, one of the key approaches to low-energy design is to invest in the building’s form and enclosure (e.g., windows, walls) so that the heating, cooling, and lighting loads are reduced, and in turn, smaller, less costly heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems are needed.

In designing low-energy buildings, it is important to appreciate that the underlying purpose of the building is neither to save - nor use - energy. Rather, the building is there to serve the occupants and their activities. An understanding of building occupancy and activities can lead to building designs that not only save energy and reduce costs, but also improve occupant comfort and workplace performance.

The low-energy design process begins when the occupants’ needs are assessed and a project budget is established. The proposed building is carefully sited and its programmed spaces are carefully arranged to reduce energy use for heating, cooling, and lighting. Its heating and cooling loads are minimized by designing standard building elements— windows, walls, and roofs—so that they control, collect, and store the sun’s energy to optimum advantage. These passive solar design strategies also require that particular attention be paid to building orientation and glazing. Taken together, they form the basis of integrated, whole-building design. Rounding out the whole-building picture is the efficient use of mechanical systems, equipment, and controls. Finally, by incorporating building-integrated photovoltaics into the facility, some conventional building envelope materials can be replaced by energy-producing technologies. For example, photovoltaics can be integrated into window, wall, or roof assemblies, and spandrel glass, skylights, and roof become both part of the building skin and a source of power generation.

This course has been prepared primarily for energy managers to provide practical information for applying the principles of low-energy, whole-building design in new buildings. An important objective of this course is to teach energy managers how to be advocates for renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies, and how to apply specific strategies during each phase of a given project’s time line.

Course Content

This course content is in the following PDF document:

Energy Efficient Building Design

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Course Summary

Since the beginning of time, people have designed shelter for the local climate, taking advantage of natural daylight and prevailing winds. Today, these same principles apply to low-energy building design but are combined with what we have learned about energy conservation; advanced materials, products, and mechanical systems; renewable energy; and energy performance design tools. When designed in tandem, technology, such as energy-efficient lighting, occupancy sensors, and daylighting strategies, can reduce a building’s energy load and improve occupant comfort.

Energy managers can be assured that a climate-responsive design will yield long-term energy savings regardless of fluctuations in energy prices and will serve as the basis for durable, comfortable, environmentally sound buildings. Advances in other key technologies will further transform the building industry. New design and analysis tools have greatly improved the designer’s ability to predict building energy performance, while giving energy managers better control over operations and maintenance costs. As these tools continue to be refined and their use becomes more commonplace, low-energy building design will emerge as the only logical approach to new construction and renovation.

The technologies, systems, and design strategies discussed in this course are helping to ensure a bright future for low-energy buildings and at the same time making them more comfortable and attractive than their conventional counterparts.  When starting a project, remember that an accurate assessment of low-energy design features and technologies comes from a clear understanding—not just of how the many components of a building work—but of how they work together. This often begins with awareness that the current, highly fragmented building process is not producing the best results, and that a new view of the building as a system of interdependent components is required.


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.