Designers in KPF’s New York office gather for an energy modeling competition.

Designers used a simplified energy modeling software to study their proposals.

Working in pairs, KPF staffers competed to see who could design the most efficient and cost-effective structure.

Energy modeling software is a crucial tool for designing more efficient buildings that are better for the environment.

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KPF Staffers Test Their Skills in an In-House Sustainable Design Competition

This summer, designers from the firm’s New York office participated in KPF’s third annual Great Energy Throwdown, competing to see who could design the most efficient building possible.

Designing a green building is a balancing act; architects must navigate a list of client demands and come up with a scheme that keeps energy use to a minimum, all while keeping costs under control. Even with today’s advanced design software and energy modeling programs, it’s a challenge. That’s the premise of KPF’s annual Great Energy Throwdown, a competition organized by KPF’s Environmental Performance group (KPFep), which invites designers from across the firm to join in a 1-hour design competition to test their sustainable design chops.

Working in pairs, designers were given a project brief; their task was to develop a massing for an office building in hot, humid Miami that met requirements for floor area, cost per square foot, and site usage while using the least amount of energy possible. After a brief introduction to the energy modeling tool, a simplified version of tools that sustainability analysts at KPF use on projects, competitors got to work. By adjusting the massing, shading, insulation, and window-to-wall ratio of their building and running the simulation to see how their projects performed, they were able to make tweaks and find an optimal balance.

Through the competition, KPF architects and designers got an opportunity to learn firsthand about the tradeoffs of different sustainable design moves, and gained experience weighing factors like pricey high-efficiency mechanical systems and buildings that optimize solar heat gain but don’t allow much space for offices. Through this exercise, they’ll be able to bring what they learned about weighing these challenges to bear on real projects.