Trevor Holt

Sponsored article: Trevor Holt, of USGBC Colorado partner TK-Architecture, LLC, discusses how energy modeling has changed the process of architecture.

Representation of Potential PV Energy Production


Gone are the days when buildings were designed solely upon an architect’s extensive experience. In the past, buildings provided the basic purpose of shelter while appealing to the cultural sense of aesthetics, but very little contributed to the occupants’ comfort level, and energy consumption was nonexistent. A specific example would be the Parthenon in ancient Greece. Building design has come a long way since then. Buildings have become extremely good at creating ideal lighting and air temperature levels at the expense of energy consumption. When energy was readily available and the effect of global warming was unknown, building design trended toward economic convenience of engineering systems. Today, the price of energy and sustainability has driven building design to take into consideration every aspect of design into an integrated process with the goal of reducing energy consumption while enhancing the occupants’ experience of the building.

In recent times, sustainability was achieved through a "best guess" practice and learning from past experiences. When a permanent structure was eventually built, and only built once, there was not a lot of room for trial-and-error testing on the building. There was no means of testing the structure before it was built. How would anyone know the results of building envelope manipulation?


Welcome to the era of energy modeling! Just as technology revolutionized the world and ushered in the information age, technology is having a profound impact on the design and construction industries and has introduced energy modeling to the profession of architecture. Now we can test a building's energy performance before it is ever built.

Energy modeling

How does energy modeling allow architects to design better buildings? It allows accurate simulations to run for all seasons and sun angles, and even takes into account the performance and efficiency engineered systems. These simulations can be run as many times as needed to fully understand what has been designed. The beauty of energy modeling is “testing” the performance of a building, thereby eliminating design flaws or just making changes early in the design process well before the building is ever built. This is a very powerful concept that was not available just a few years ago.

Total Energy (Dollars per month) and Annual Electric End Use

Daylighting simulation

An important aspect of energy modeling is daylighting simulations. The complicated formulas associated with daylighting would be almost impossible to calculate without the aid of technology and energy modeling. Now buildings can be analyzed for their daylighting performance and potentially improved upon early in the design process. Clients can now see how their building is performing and make informed decisions based on performance.

Daylighting Analysis Rendering

Natural Ventilation Potential and Daylighting Analysis


Energy modeling has opened up a whole new dimension of architecture. Clients are now given an extensive look at how their building is designed to perform. This allows clients to make design decisions early in the design process, long before the building is constructed. Buildings have been custom designed for interior finishes and layout—isn’t it about time buildings were custom-designed for energy performance?