Dylan Lamar from Green Hammer explains how design ideas are communicated in various different ways, from sketches drawn by hand to sophisticated computer models. He also shares the design process at Green Hammer, and how and why house plans evolve.
Interview with Dylan Lamar
Architect Dylan Lamar is one of the most experienced Passivhaus consultants in the United States. Whilst a grad student at the University of Illinois in 2003 he was taught for a term by Katrin Klingenberg, who is now the Director of the Passive House Institute US. It was at this point that he began to use the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) and he never looked back.
Dylan says: “I was really eager for something that was a good synthesis of sustainably oriented technical work with the design work of an architect and it was and has continued to be a perfect marriage for me in terms of my ambitions.”
The First Step of the Design Process is Establishing the Client’s Goals
The designers will work to find a middle ground between the client’s objectives, such as aesthetics and sustainability goals, and more general goals that are typical of a house, such as good daylight, comfort etc, to create a starting point in the design process. This would be done usually with a couple of interviews and a site visit, and result in some preliminary hand-sketched ideas.
An illustration of Ankeny Row Cohousing scheme
SketchUp is a Design Tool That Can be Used by Professionals and Non-Professionals Alike
SketchUp is free software that, if the client has an aptitude for geometry and 3D visualisation, can be a useful tool to enable them to create floor plans and basic 3D models. Because it is not one of the more sophisticated rendering software, it lends itself more to the novice user than other more advanced software like the Revit or ArchiCAD BIM (Building Information Modelling) platforms. BIM is an advanced and expensive software that gives a data point on every point of a building, which enables an experienced user to model it and produce it in a quantifiable schedule.
Ankeny Row was modelled in SketchUp
designPH has the Ability to Export Data from SketchUp into PHPP
Once the mass and detail of the building are modelled in SketchUp, a new plugin called designPH can be run to create a simplified version of the PHPP (Passive House Planning Package) analysis. This will give fairly basic results, however the information can be imported to populate the PHPP with the SketchUp data.
A Dream Client Will Have Clarity on What’s Important to Them
If the client has a strong idea of what they’re looking for and is honest about the budget they have, the project is likely to be a success.
Although in the first round of the design the costings will usually come out higher than the budget, discussions then can focus on whether the client wants to add more money or cut back the programme in order to design a Passivhaus that will fit the budget. One way simple way of bringing things back on track is to reduce the floor area of the project a little.
Creating the Final Design is an Iterative Process
Step 1: Often this begins with preliminary hand drawn floor plans that are intuitive for the designer and approachable for the client.
Step 2: These floor plans can then be created in SketchUp to render elevations and create massing models. Budget depending, interior modelling can also be done, but usually it’s just the exterior.
Step 3: A basic idea of the energy performance for the design can already be sensed, so when the client is happy with the design, designPH is run within SketchUp to give a basic energy analysis.
Step 4: The data is exported to PHPP where a detailed report of the energy analysis is generated.
Step 5: The clients will see a simplified version of the report, after which recommendations for improvements, perhaps window size or orientation, can be made.
Step 6: The steps might be repeated a couple of times following design changes and updating the energy model.
Step 7: A detailed cost analysis will be generated to show how much it is going to cost to build and this will be discussed at a review meeting with the client. At this stage if it is coming in over budget recommendations will be put forward to the client for ways of reducing costs without compromising on the quality of the house.
Goodspeed-Phillips exterior renovation
There are Multiple Reasons Why Plans Will Change Once On-Site
In a traditional process where the architects and builders are separate entities, there is an onerous process of legal documentation that needs to be provided for any changes.
For a design-build company the process is more fluid. At each stage the construction manager has been involved and lending valuable input so already has full knowledge of the building.
Changes to the design might be because a client changes their mind on something, a sub-contractor comes on board and with their specialist knowledge might suggest an alternative way of doing it, or there might be unexpected issues once digging on the site commences.
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