Design analytics optimizes the performance of districts, enhances the quality of space between buildings, develops climate-responsive building skins, and drives whole building performance. At our IG VISION webinar in June 2020, David Barker talked us through the ins and out of design analytics drawing on his extensive experience with comprehensive analysis and empirical modeling.
There were a lot of great questions as a part of the Q&A, we asked him to revisit the session and answer some of the questions he didn’t get answer live.

Explain the scaling effort of your analytics in the schematic vs preliminary vs CD phases.

The beauty of engaging analytics early in the design process is that it can be used to pre-empt requirements of future design phases, such as code compliance submittals. By capturing these requirements within our analytics workflows, we can nudge the design in a direction that is not only more likely to meet compliance or certification thresholds but also to perform more holistically in terms of energy, comfort, daylight, etc. There are also opportunities to re-use early-stage analytical models during subsequent phases, so there are definitely some efficiencies to be explored.

How do you measure success in design analytics?

Post occupancy analysis gives a real insight into how facilities are operated, and if they are matching design intent. It also validates Integral’s analytical exercises, for example, visual environment renders. High Dynamic Range photography in completed projects so we can go in and recreate the virtual simulation of the real world and we can start to look at how well we have predicted the visual environment in relation to the brightness of surfaces and such things. It is a valuable exercise to validate our analysis with reality.

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Is there a place for Virtual Reality tools in design analytics and client design charrettes?

There certainly is, and we’ve used VR in the past to communicate analytical findings to the design team and stakeholder group. It’s a particularly useful tool to communicate phenomena that are difficult to interpret from 2D drawings due to their inherent three-dimensional characteristics, such as wind flow and insolation. Our focus for any immersive visualization is to make it meaningful and impactful, rather than just a gimmick. So instead of just creating a virtual environment that our clients can walk around, we’d rather give them the opportunity to comprehend the invisible, whether that be the annual path of the sun, or the air and contaminant pathways through space.

How do you link information on fenestration and façades, for example, to the mechanical equipment in the mechanical room? Can this level of analytics be applied to MEP systems to get optimal HVAC solutions?

This is something that we’re constantly exploring due to the significant impact the façade has on mechanical system sizing, occupant comfort, and building energy performance. There are well-understood relationships between façade design and the envelope energy transfers that are ultimately dealt with by the building’s MEP systems. So it’s relatively easy to provide façade design advice that will open up opportunities for high-efficiency MEP technologies and arrangements. More challenging is the holistic assessment of facades and MEP systems with a view to not only minimize energy demand, but also provide extraordinary levels of comfort, daylight, and connectedness to the outside world. That’s where I see the best use of Design Analytics.

If you were designing a commercial building from scratch post-COVID, what are your analytics suggesting you change or do differently?

We’ve seen guidance from international industry bodies that highlights the need to consider the risk of Covid-19 infection through airborne transmission, not just through close contact and fomite transmission. This makes it clear that we need to consider how air moves through building spaces and how our ventilation system designs can reduce the risks associated with infectious diseases. We’re currently using our analytical tools, particularly computational fluid dynamics, to assess droplet movement under various ventilation and workspace layout arrangements, and I would expect this to inform workplace design as it shifts towards a new, more resilient, norm.

What is the impact of natural and artificial light on our circadian rhythm, and do you see hospitals adopting this technology?

Circadian rhythm is front of mind, not just in healthcare but in all sorts of built environments. It is discussed quite a lot in both the natural and artificial lighting design and really it comes down to the synchronization of the human body and the environment around us. Our bodies are used to 12 hours of daytime and 12 hours of the night, but the right light, at the right time of day can make a big difference to how patients feel. In our American University of Beirut Medical Center project, we considered circadian lighting, tuning the temperature, and repositioning the lighting throughout the day to reflect the natural position of the sun, which our bodies are designed to expect.

The replication of natural lighting reduces stress on patients’ bodies, although nothing is as good as the real thing. Designing facades to allow for optimal lighting to enter the building has the positive implication of better views to the outside world.


If you missed our IG VISION on Design Analytics, watch the recording below: