Were you in Atlanta for the 2015 AIA Convention? About 18,000 people attended, plus exhibitors. It was huge. I coulda missed you.

Here’s the headline news: If you are really, seriously committed to doing sustainable design, the Design Data Exchange (aka the DDx) – the new AIA 2030 Commitment reporting tool – will light up your life. The AIA COTE and a 2030 Commitment Working Group worked with the US Department of Energy for almost a year on DDx. It was unveiled at Convention with dramatic flourish at an open public forum.

Andrea Love, AIA, and Greg Mella, FAIA, provided the dramatic flourish. They masterfully demonstrated the features of DDx’s streamlined user interface. But I stopped listening when Andrea said this:

“We have a few laptops over there with dummy logins so you can try DDx yourself.”

I’m a visual and kinesthetic learner. I need to see something and get my hands on it to understand it. Being inclined to break things, I also found the term “dummy login” very attractive. As soon as the presentation was over, I made a beeline for the work station.

But . . . rather than just reading about what I discovered, why not see it yourself?

Do this: Follow this link to the AIA 2030 Commitment home page. Click the URL for the AIA 2030 DDx. Enter the email address 2030Tester1@gmail.com with the password AIA2030DDx and watch DDx in action. Without flying to Atlanta. Or leaving at 5:30 AM. With a change in Charlotte.

The AIA 2030 DDx home screen is a sleek, clean user interface. Very unintimidating. When you log in, you’ll be looking at the fictional projects of imaginary firm Acmeview Architects. See the four main tabs? Portfolio, Inputs, Reports, and Research. You know what those mean. The five little buttons on the side are what you use to add data on a new project. One button even lets you duplicate a project record for those multi-site commissions. So far so good.

In the “Summary” pulldown box, select 2014 as the Reporting Year. The list edits to show 55 projects by building use type, location, and predicted, baseline, and target EUI. Acmeview Architects’ 55 projects comprised 15 million GSF of total floor area. They must do some pretty big buildings!

Next, pick a project at random and check out the “Inputs” tab. Here’s where data gets entered. Again, there are easy pull-downs for everything. The “Target Certification” menu includes LEED levels, Energy Star, and many others. The “Design Energy Code” menu includes many active versions of ASHRAE, IECC and California Title 24. Go ahead, poke around. You can’t break it.

The “Building Envelope” tab asks for broad brush R Values and U Factors. Not too hard. But I opened the “HVAC Systems” tab with some hesitation. When confronted with “Zone Equipment”, the “Heating” tab asks to select from 16 choices that include radiant floor, fan coils, VAV, package terminal heat pump . . . heck, even I know what those things are. Not a problem.

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Back to the main menu. The “Reports” tab is where it gets exciting. This firm has four offices: North Bethesda, Atlanta, Jacksonville, and Houston. Look again at the 2014 reporting year. Combined, all four offices reached a 46.5% reduction in PEUI and a 14.4% reduction in LPD. Nice. But as you click though each office’s individual reporting, you see the Houston office pulled the numbers down. Houston reported one project and only achieved a 28.1% reduction in PEUI. Houston, we have a problem.

Go back to Portfolio, 2014, and sort by Building Use Type. There it is: a 1.7 million GSF inpatient hospital in Louisiana. Its 202 kBtu/sf/yr. compares to a baseline of 281 kBtu/sf/yr. But Acmeview Architects’ North Bethesda office designed inpatient hospitals in 2014 at 83 and 95 kBtu/sf/yr, far better than Houston’s job. Maybe it’s time for a trip to Houston to see what’s going on. Let’s see. Lots of direct flights from Atlanta . . .

There was much more to see, but a restless crowd had formed around the work station. And my next seminar was about to begin. Besides, after only 10 minutes of study I had a good grasp of what DDx could do. Seeing was believing.

As I bolted for room B406, I couldn’t help thinking that convincing architects to sign the AIA 2030 Commitment would be a little easier now.

This post is republished from the AIA 2030 Commitment blog of Principal Mike Davis, FAIA.

Published Jun 12, 2015