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Striving to Create the Best Buildings Possible

ARTICLE POSTED BY: GEORGE M. MORRISSEY, PE, LEED AP BD+C

Consulting Engineers have often considered themselves generalists with a good basic knowledge of the systems that they specify.  More and more though, our clients need a deeper understanding from us in order to create the best buildings possible.  Morrissey Engineering has always had a Research and Development effort underway in order to deepen our knowledge base of important building elements and enhance the work product we deliver to our Clients.  Examples of the research we have pursued to grow our expertise in areas important to our field include:
Achieving LEED Certification Levels Efficiently through Detailed Modeling – Clients need better information on the cost of LEED points and the return on investment that accompanies LEED points in order to make the most informed decision on these building features.  This project analyzed the most efficient path to attaining LEED certifications from Energy and Atmosphere and Indoor Environmental Quality criteria.  We conducted extensive modeling of the 4940 building and used the model as a decision tool for selection of HVAC systems, lighting strategies, and building components such as wall and roof insulation and glass performance.  The end result provides information that our Engineers use to accurately communicate to Owners and Architects the most cost effective approach to achieving LEED certification with the highest resulting building performance.
Post Occupancy Review of the 4940 Building’s Energy Performance – We are often asked about the accuracy of our energy models and simulations.  We determined the accuracy that we were able to achieve from our design model by comparing the theoretical performance of the building to its actual results using real weather data and actual utility and occupancy data over a 12 month period.  While we strive for accuracy in the building simulation models we create, the only way to really know the accuracy is to go back and test the model with actual data.  The results of this effort have improved how we use energy modeling as a useful tool in the design process.
Performance of Open Plan Office Lighting Systems – With ever increasing restrictions from Energy Codes on lighting density, we wanted to compare and analyze efficiency and lighting quality for different types of office lighting.  With the workplane illuminance held constant,  direct, indirect and direct/indirect configurations were studied in regard to quality of light and lighting power density to determine which configuration is optimal.  We use the results to provide the highest performing lighting solutions to our clients.
Modeling the Effect of Building Orientation on the Quality of Daylighting – Daylighting is a feature that is often implemented with less than perfect outcomes.  We took an in-depth look at factors involved in creating Daylighting solutions beyond just the application of sensors and light fixtures.  The intent was to develop daylight feature design recommendations for a variety of building orientations.  Daylight features including glass type, window sizes and locations, exterior and interior light shelves and shades were considered in the study.  We use the results to assist our architectural clients in creating buildings that maximize the benefits of natural light.
Availability Analysis of a Conceptual Data Center’s Electrical Distribution System – A significant number of our projects have high reliability requirements for the mechanical and electrical systems.  This project calculated the availability (percent uptime) of various electrical distribution configurations.  Clients often hear about 5 nines reliability (99.999%) but few truly understand how changes to the utility, generators, and electrical distribution impact this.  We use the results to affect our designs on all high reliability projects such as data centers, call centers, and corporate offices.
Rating of Data Center Features – We are currently under way with this effort.  The end result will be a software tool that our Clients can use to rate their data centers in a points based manner similar to LEED Certification or Energy Star.  The software will be a decision tool to assist in creating a masterplan for future facility improvements, purchase of new facilities, moving part or all of a clients computing environment to managed collocation service, or Disaster Recovery needs.  Our goal is to provide our clients with the best data center facilities in the most cost effective ways possible.  This requires better decision making tools that can be used to socialize and identify the highest priorities for Clients moving forward.

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