SUS 7300A Low Energy Buildings

Fall 2017. Subject to refinement/updating.

Instructor: Alan Barlis
Schedule: Tuesday 5:00 p.m. to 7:50 p.m.
Location: Spitzer Building 3M23
3 credits 3 hours/week


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Assistant: Ben Leer


The aim of the course is to introduce state-of-the-art methodologies and tools for integrated design and optimization of energy efficient buildings with a good indoor environment. Focus is on the first part of the design process. The methodology for integrated design is based on listing of the functional requirements of buildings, preparation of space of solutions, generating of design proposals, and optimization analyses and decision processes. The participants will, on individual basis, work on development of the integrated design processes in relation to their own research projects.


The emphasis of this course will be on energy conservation, performance optimization, cost effectiveness, innovation in construction technologies and metrics to measure success in building. It will provide the student with the tools and a framework needed to approach the fundamentals of architectural design with sustainability, particularly energy-efficiency, in mind. We will utilize principles of the Passive House design standards as outlined by the Passive House Institute as a way to not only learn how best to achieve those standards, but also to develop a framework for thinking about sustainable architectural design in general. We will cover the five main principles of Passive House design: compact form, solar gain calculation, insulation and thermal bridging, air and vapor envelope control, and energy-recovery ventilation. These principles represent the most effective approach available today to minimize energy use in buildings. The fundamental thinking behind this approach is also varied enough to encompass many other beneficial methodologies being tested in current building design. The course will engage students to think critically about techniques being tested in the built environments of their hometowns as well as their current town, New York City. We look back at a bit of history for context, at the current state of practice by various related industries, as well as theories of what may be possible in the near future. Concurrent with lectures and discussions, we will test what we learn in a design exercise at the scale of an urban residential project on a site near the City College campus.


We will strive to understand how, by working with the site and climate, the design of a building can improve its performance with regard to energy use. We will improve our ability to achieve sustainable goals in the built environment by including envelope and systems capabilities in fundamental schematic level design. We will become fluent in the basics of Passive House design principles, and test their application through design exercises.

Course Requirements


Reading assignments and some questions to guide your thinking about these assignments are given in the class schedule for each class session. You are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the reading and respond when called on for questions. Your individual class participation grade will be based upon your in-class presentations and remarks during discussions.

Attendance is mandatory and will be recorded. Each unexcused absences will lower your grade by 1/3 of a letter (B+ to B, for example.)

Required Reading

Required readings are noted in the schedule and are available on BlackBoard, or on reserve in the Architecture library.

Suggested Readings

The list below is for additional reading as for your interest and for context for class discussion.
Moskovitz, Julie Torres. The Greenest Home.
James, Mary. Recreating the American Home.
Heschong, Lisa. Thermal Delight.
Moore, Fuller. Environmental Control System.
Lechner, Norbert. Heating, Cooling and Lighting.
Grondzik, Kwok, Stein, Reynolds. Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Building.
Bielefeld, Bert. Detail Green Books, Passivhauser entwerfen.
IBO. Details for Passive House.
be.passive, Brussels
Anderson, Ray C. & White, Robin. Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose—Doing Business by Respecting the Earth.
Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins. Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution.
Benyus, Janine M. Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.
McDonough, William & Braungart, Michael. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.


Your course grade will be determined as follows:

Class Participation:50%
Final exam:25%

Course Outline


Date TBA






Intro to LEB/HPA

Conceptual design for low energy use

Moskovitz and James and Bere intros



Thermal comfort and Energy use in Buildings

Historic Precedents in Building Types or construction methodology 

Psychometric chart and Fundamentals of Energy




Intro to Passive House

Design a net-zero coffee cart

Passivhaus primer and

IPHA paper



Integrated Design, Construction Methodologies, Energy Modeling


FHB Article, HCL chapter 1




TRIP to 475 and PHA


Moore, chapter 24




PH technique #1 – The Role of Form - compact form

<teams of 4 or 5>

Microclimate hike

 ARCH140 #25: Processes Affecting the Climate on the Building Site



PH technique #2 – The Role of the Sun - orientation, other site considerations, windows

<teams of 2 or 3>

Shading survey (from transit exercise)

ARCH140 #5: Intro to Solar Geometry, ARCH140 #6: Solar Transit



PH technique #3 – The Role of the Blanket - insulation, materials, intro to WUFI software

<teams of 2 or 3>

Series & Parallel Heat Flow

ARCH140 #9, Heat transfer mechanisms, Insulation materials from an ecological viewpoint



PH technique #4 – The Role of Air & Water - air tightness, understanding details

<teams of 2 or 3>

IAQ, spec products

ARCH140 #14: Thermal and Atmospheric Control, MEEB 8.6, PH details (airtightness)



PH technique #5 – The Role of Systems - ventilation systems, monitoring/use/systems…

<teams of 2 or 3>

Ventilation & Infiltration Losses

HCL chapter 15, ARCH140 #12: Heat Transfer in Series and Parallel



TRIP to PH under construction

<teams of 5 or 6>

design a small HP building in 4 different climates

MEEB Chapter 4.1 and 4.2



PH challenges in application

Continue design





Juried review




Exam prep, recap of class





Final Exam

Similar to PHA/PHIUS CPHC tests