“It’s great that the firm’s senior leaders are so committed to sustainable design. But it’s hard to see how I connect to that mission in my day-to-day work.”

I’ve recently become president of Bergmeyer, my architecture and interior design firm. With this new position, I have set an ambitious goal: to have lunch with each and every member of our staff. It’s been great so far! But that first statement has come up a few times.

How can we address this? How can we be sure that everyone in our organization feels like they are connected to the sustainable design mission?

That’s where the AIA 2030 Commitment comes in. Allow me to elaborate.

Bergmeyer has been doing this AIA 2030 Commitment thing for about five years now. We signed in 2011, created our first Sustainability Action Plan, and reported the aggregated design energy use of all our projects in 2012. With this first report, we could see that the sum floor area of our interiors-only work was twice that of our whole-buildings work. Our lighting power density (LPD) for these projects was pretty good in year one: 19.5% better than baseline.

Over the years, our annual LPD for interiors-only projects has improved to 29.4% better than baseline in 2013 and 32.9% better in 2014. We’ve been encouraged, but we suspected a lot of our energy efficiency gains came from the greater commercial acceptance of LED lighting and tougher energy codes. Plus, we were getting LPD calculations from our engineers after we were done designing, so we had little influence over them. And there has been a baffling spread of LPDs within these projects from 0.50 to almost 5.00 watts/SF, well over the 1.5 watt/SF baseline. Something was not right.

Last year we gave ourselves a challenge. With the AIA 2030 Commitment providing the framework for our sustainable design mission, we knew we needed to be smarter about lighting power density. We wanted our designers to have a tool that would let them make real-time LPD calculations and drive consistently better energy efficiency during the design process.

So we developed a plug-in for our design software. Then we identified a beta project and let the team run with it.

Two weeks ago, I was in a meeting as one of our designers demonstrated this tool. She was projecting a reflected ceiling plan on the conference room wall. Next to the ceiling plan was a schedule with a bunch of what she called “fields”. She was also using words like ”model space” and “parameters”. I was nodding as if I understood what she was talking about. But what I did understand was this: she had developed a lighting schedule, populated it with light fixtures that had wattages “built into the families”, and was able to generate lighting power density calculations instantly. Every time she made changes to the ceiling plan. Victory!

We plan to train people with this tool over the course of this year. Our SMART goal is to have someone on every design team who can calculate and understand how to improve a project’s lighting power density. These folks will also be trained to enter data into the new AIA 2030 Commitment DDX database and play a hands-on role in the further reduction of the designed energy use of all Bergmeyer’s projects.

Connecting people to the organizational mission is critical. The AIA 2030 Commitment is helping us make it happen.

This post is part of an ongoing series from Principal Mike Davis, FAIA on our progress toward the AIA 2030 Commitment.

Published Feb 29, 2016