Today’s Global Engineering Themes
These are three of the most significant themes shaping the engineering design industry and, subsequently, our practice:
- There has been a noted shift from prescriptive-based to performance-based design.
- The next evolution in sustainable building design is WELL Building standards, embracing fresh air, natural light, health, and wellness.
- Technology and engineered systems are playing a much larger role in a building design than ever before.
Whether driven by architectural intent or an owner’s interest in tighter indoor air temperatures, more project teams are embracing performance-based design (PBD) over prescriptive-based codes. Providing designers with a greater palette of tools to meet code requirements, PBD embraces innovation, freeing building teams from the design restrictions imposed by a prescriptive approach.
However, taking the PBD route requires a very different project process, necessitating a certain level of skill and expertise on the part of designers and engineers.
As opposed to the traditional approach, which verifies code compliance at the building design phase, PBD approval is deferred until after the building is already operational, at which point measurement and verification must be performed to validate that the facility is performing as intended. This, in effect, is bringing designers to a new phase of post occupancy involvement with building owners through the process of monitoring performance, energy consumption and operations.
To avoid costly adjustments or changes to the original design, accurate assumptions must be made in order to model the building as closely as possible to how it will ultimately be built and operated. To achieve this delicate balancing act, the engineering team must possess an in-depth understanding of anticipated building operations. Furthermore, it takes experienced and skilled building designers to navigate the subtleties of building infiltration rates, control setpoints, hours of operation, and more.
Successfully executing this performance pathway requires a greater understanding of buildings in all aspects including design, construction, and operations, but this is the future of code compliance, and one that DLR Group embraces as an additional way to design and verify building compliance.
All is WELL
Bringing sustainable building design to the next level, WELL Building standards are prioritizing the health, satisfaction, and wellness of building occupants.
In response to the green building movement, the design industry has become adept at tightening up the building envelope and ramping down energy consumption, but building occupant performance has not always been the focus—until now.
Backed by recent scientific studies establishing the fact that employee and student alertness, productivity, and performance is directly linked to fresh air, views, daylighting, and thermal comfort, WELL Building Standards are shaping the way today’s buildings are being designed from a health and wellness perspective.
Essentially “codifying” the aspects of buildings that can’t be seen, DLR Group is engaged with these evolving building metrics and embraces a designer’s obligation to design spaces which prioritize occupant wellbeing and performance. Championing this cause, knowledgeable DLR Group professionals are on hand to help owners figure out how to best invest their building facility dollars to achieve these important standards.
Technology’s Growing Role
As the third leg of the major themes influencing the engineering industry, technology is playing an ever increasing role in building design. Contrasted with the master architect dictating the vast majority of building design in past decades, the technical and engineering aspect of building design now encompasses a much greater share of today’s building designs.
With growing prominence of the Internet of Things, wireless and wired low-voltage technology, rapidly advancing audio-visual systems, acoustics and lighting—namely programmable LED lighting systems and controls—having experts who intimately understand these individual pieces of technology is essential for today’s building design teams.
Consequently, A/E firms must provide a wide range of specialists who can help navigate the increasingly sophisticated, complicated and interrelated building system designs for today’s modern facilities.