1B: Making Net Zero Buildings: MEP Design Criteria for Reducing Emissions in High Performing Buildings

The built environment is responsible for more emissions than any sector accounting for 40% of global GHG emissions. In order to meet the current GHG goals and avoid catastrophic climate change, the building industry has responded developing zero net energy (ZNE) buildings, efficient buildings powered by renewable energy that consequently, reduce typical operational carbon levels. Regardless of the increasing interest on emissions during the operational phase of ZNE, embodied carbon- the total amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to produce building products – has remained unexamined.  Mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems are a critical component of zero net energy buildings, and many efforts have been developed over the last decades to improve integrated systems design. This session will present MEP design choices that contribute to reducing the emissions related to operation of buildings and also the future challenges in understanding the embodied carbon of MEP systems.

Panel Lead

Monica Huang graduated with a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering from UW, and she currently works as a research engineer in the UW Department of Architecture with Dr. Kate Simonen exploring the environmental impacts of buildings. She has worked on diverse research topics such as astronomy, electronic waste, sea level rise, and building life cycle analysis. She developed the Port of Seattle’s first study on the impacts of sea level rise, and most recently worked as the lead researcher on a FEMA project compiling the largest known database of environmental impacts of seismic damage of buildings.


Mechanical System Selection for Net Zero Energy Buildings using Driver Analysis

Brian Griffith, Integral Group

Most buildings we construct utilize conventional mechanical systems across a variety of uses. They are a known quantity, contractors are familiar with them and the pricing is understood and used to cost the building. They are reasonably efficient (not extremely efficient), and are fairly comfortable. However, a Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) has a critical need for energy reduction, without compromising the comfort of the users. Additionally, the only reason any building exists, is to provide for the function within that building. Therefore, understanding the functions that occur within the building, what their specific energy needs are, how the building interacts with its environment and what the actual comfort needs of the users are is the critical pathway to selection of the proper mechanical system(s) for a NZEB. These energy needs and interactions are what we call “drivers”. Examples of these drivers are; plug loads, occupancy, building loading, climate type, building location, owner desires, future building use, etc. Understanding what these drivers are, and what systems best accommodate these drivers, is the most important step in realizing a NZEB. This presentation will explore those drivers, how they interact, and what are appropriate system choices based on analysis of those drivers.

LCA for MEP in Commercial Office Buildings in the Pacific Northwest: Characterization of typical MEP Systems

Barbara Rodriguez, University of Washington

The project entitled “Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for Low Carbon Construction of Commercial Office Buildings MEP & Interiors Data”, conducted at the University of Washington, led by Associate Professor Kate Simonen, Assistant Professor Hyun Woo Lee aims to provide estimates of the range of material quantities and life cycle assessment impacts resulting from mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems and interior tenant improvements (TI) for typical commercial office buildings in the Pacific Northwest. This presentation will expand on the“Characterization Stage” where we will identify representative office buildings and typical MEP systems.

Speaker Bios

Brian Griffith has almost 30 years of experience in the design and construction industry, 18 years in HVAC and Plumbing design, and 10 years exclusively in Sustainable Design. He is responsible for developing sustainable strategies for a variety of projects, coordinating energy and other modeling efforts such as daylighting analysis, comfort analysis using CFD, renewable energy availability, shading studies, and thermal comfort. Additionally, Brian has experience providing education on systems and strategies including radiant heated and chilled ceilings and floors, chilled beams, ground source heat pumps, phase change materials, natural ventilation, heat recovery chillers and others. Previous employers include SOM and Affiliated Engineers in Seattle. His project experience cover offices, hospitals, labs, city halls, libraries, community centers, higher education facilities and K-12 schools. Projects have included technologies such as chilled beams, ground-source heat pumps, Bio-Fuel boilers, solar-thermal, and radiant heating and cooling systems.

Barbara Rodriguez Droguett is a PhD student and graduate research assistant in the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington. Her research is focused on whole building life cycle assessment and building materials supply chains.

Previously she was the Chief Sustainability Officer at the Center for Innovation, Research and Development of Building Structures and Materials at the Universidad de Chile. While there she led research and collaboration efforts between academia, industry and government in order to develop technically feasible and cost effective industrial ecology solutions for private and public organizations.