2022 Performance Huddle Speakers


Workshop: Designing Day-lit, Glare Free, Energy Efficient Buildings in Budget

Zahra Zolfaghari| Cove.Tool

Zahra is a parametric designer and researcher interested in sustainable and data-driven design.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering from the National University of Iran and a master’s degree in architecture from Virginia Tech. During the 7 years of learning experiences in school and architectural firms, Zahra has gained a comprehensive skill set in design, building science, and graphics. Zahra currently works as a researcher and parametric designer at cove.tool helping the team with conducting research for new features, writing articles, and troubleshooting
users’ questions.

Workshop: Designing Day-lit, Glare Free, Energy Efficient Buildings in Budget

Shifting energy codes are challenging architects with a wide array of parameters to balance like energy, cost, daylight, views, and embodied carbon. Hiring a consultant for every kind of analysis is a burden on fees. Many architects are harnessing simulation to shape the design and details of their projects. To be
successful, teams must understand the levers that impact the performance and set up processes for success. Join this session diving into two case studies to generate beautiful analysis graphics and see how to shape the narrative in a data driven design process.

Keynote: Natural Ventilation in Post Pandemic Times

Alejandra Menchaca| Thornton Tomasetti

Alejandra is a Vice President in the Sustainability practice for Thornton Tomasetti.  She combines expertise in mechanical engineering and building science to give clients a clear understanding of the impact design strategies and innovative solutions have on long-term building performance. Alejandra leverages research and simulations to provide project teams with sustainable design knowledge and energy expertise. She is experienced in the design of both passive buildings and energy- and carbon-intensive structures such as laboratories and healthcare facilities. Her expertise also includes thermal comfort, energy modeling, daylighting, embodied carbon, and computational fluid dynamics. Alejandra holds a PhD from MIT in Mechanical Engineering, and has taught courses on natural ventilation and energy in buildings both at MIT and the Harvard GSD.

Presentation: Natural Ventilation in Post Pandemic Times

Natural ventilation is an essential element of passive design. However, our society has come to believe that thanks to the reliability of mechanical systems the use of operable windows is no longer needed, and even, a risk. The pandemic forced us to question these beliefs. Schools with operable windows were easily able to provide more fresh air to students. Windows in our homes were never opened as frequently. Where do we stand now? How can we design for adequate natural ventilation? How can we simulate for it?

Keynote : Equity and Thermal Comfort

Nathaniel Jones| Arup

Dr. Nathaniel Jones is a leading expert in visual and thermal comfort analysis, and he develops several widely used tools for daylight and thermal experiential design. He is a senior building scientist and regional research specialist at Arup, an architecture professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology, and the secretary of IBPSA-USA. His portfolio at Arup includes numerous daylighting, visual and thermal comfort, microclimate, air quality, and COVID-19 disinfection projects. Nathaniel created comfort.arup.com, Arup’s advanced online comfort modeling tool, and Accelerad, a suite of open-source GPU-based lighting and daylighting simulation tools used by architects, engineers, and educators around the world. He is the author of over twenty peer-reviewed papers related to occupant health, comfort, and building energy use, including two on advanced thermal comfort simulation.

Presentation: Equity and Thermal Comfort

What assumptions do we make about building occupants when designing systems for them? How are these assumptions related to our own biases? Who decided that 72 °F was the perfect indoor temperature, anyway? This presentation looks at how we design buildings for occupants, in particular to provide thermal comfort, from both a historical / cultural perspective and a scientific / physiological lens. By understanding where some of our assumptions about design come from, including sometimes the misapplication of science, we can start to question some biases and – hopefully – design more inclusive spaces.

Topic: Modeling for Successful Embodied Carbon Analysis

Jacob Werner, Elizabeth Mikula, Katherine Hart,| Perkins & Will

Jacob Werner, Senior Project Architect, AIA, LEED AP® BD+C, WELL AP®, PHIUS CPHC®, LFA

Fascinated by the evolving world of scientific education and research, Jacob has devoted his career to designing intuitive environments for those at the cutting edge of discovery. He believes that lab design is not just about accommodating pipes and wires: his design philosophy focuses on shaping space—and creating beautiful, inspiring workplaces. Jacob is passionate about sustainable design and design research. He has authored several academic papers and spoken at national conferences, about both lab design and sustainable design. He currently teaches architectural design at the Boston Architectural College and is the recipient of several academic fellowships. Outside the studio, you’re likely to find him swimming, hiking, or skiing in New Hampshire with his wife and three children.

Elizabeth Mikula, Technical Coordinator, LEED Green Associate

Coming from a family of sailors, Liz’s deep appreciation for being on the water is the reason for her rigorous but agile approach to work. She is a versatile asset to the teams she’s worked on throughout her career, having contributed to projects of varying scale in many market sectors, including functional lab, research, and teaching spaces. Her design interests lie at the intersection of Healthcare and Research, and her project work reflects this. Liz takes both a macro- and micro-level approach to her work, considering how a project will contribute to the larger community and the narrative it will tell before narrowing the design lens and diving into the specialized intricacies that will make it a success. In her view, the most successful projects are those that enable users to produce their best work. When a project becomes the setting for something even bigger – that’s when she’s confident she’s hit the mark.

Katherine Hart, Technical Coordinator, Fitwel Ambassador

Kate plays an integral part of any team she joins, happily diving into the design of intricate and active environments where people live, work, heal and discover. To her, the most challenging and enjoyable part of any project is solving the puzzle and reaching the end goal: a beautiful design that enables client teams to thrive. This often includes the intersections of wide-ranging disciplines, which she helps blend and work together over the course of a project. Her patience, attention to detail and determination to get it right allow her to coordinate even the most complex of projects. Kate is a true team player – she’s there for every step of the process, from conceptual design kickoff to construction administration, ensuring that each piece of the puzzle is completed successfully and with intention. A nature-lover at heart, Kate enjoys as much of her time city-living as she does exploring her native Colorado and the natural world beyond.

Topic: Simulating the Surroundings

Navaz Bilimoria| Kirksey

Navaz is a Building Performance and Sustainability Specialist at Kirksey Architects. She holds a Master’s in Environmental Building Design (MSD-EBD) from the Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Balwant Sheth School of Architecture – NMIMS, India. Prior to her graduate studies, she practiced as an architectural designer at the Studio for Environment and Architecture in India, and worked on bamboo construction and design at Vo Trong Nghia Architects in Vietnam. During her time at graduate school, she published a collaborative research paper on Carbon Economy and Urban Agriculture with Planet Reimagined, New York, under the United Nations Development Program and worked on research publication and media at the Thermal Architecture Lab. She combines expertise in building performance and architectural design, to guide the design team in creating climate responsive spaces and sustainable healthy communities. She is a member of AIA Houston COTE, IBPSA Board, Spec Matters Fellow, and Kirksey’s Material Committee.

Topic: Simulating the Surroundings

This presentation outlines the importance of simulation not just for occupants within buildings, but how the exterior environment is influenced by buildings. As architects, we need to be conscious of context, the choice of materials, the shape and orientation of the massing, and vegetation. These attributes, among others, contribute to the microclimate around our buildings. Where do we place entrances, breezeways, terraces, balconies, outdoor seating? These decisions are vital to ensure outdoor thermal and wind comfort. Simulating, analyzing and making informed decisions while designing the site result in positive impacts on the building and its users.

Topic: Designing the process: a novel generative workflow for façade design

Michael Frederick| Gensler

Michael is a Computational Design Leader for the Southwest Region at Gensler and is a member of the LA Design Technology Studio. He developed a passion for computational driven design while previously working at Gehry Technologies developing software plugins and geometric optimization routines to direct and facilitate communication between the design and delivery teams during design and construction administration. Michael is a licensed architect with 14 years of professional experience. He has spent the majority of his career in Los Angeles with previous work experience in Seattle and Ohio

Michael received his Master’s degree from UCLA and Bachelor’s Degree from Miami University. In addition to his M. Arch degree, Michael also has a minor in structural engineering and has completed certificate programs in real estate development participating in the NAIOP design competition for two consecutive years while at UCLA.

Topic: Designing the process: a novel generative workflow for façade design

Sustainable design rules of thumb are easy to follow when buildings are on a orthogonal orientation and when the team is only trying to optimize a design for a single objective.  However when orientation isn’t idea and there is a desire to optimize divergent variables generative algorithms paired with climate analysis tools can help designers and architects discover novel solutions that would be difficult to achieve through more traditional iterative methods.  We will explore one example of this in practice and demonstrate how to use genetic algorithms plus climate data to generate façade design options which are beautiful, performative and address the concerns of multiple stakeholders. 

Topic: Assembly Performance Analyzer Tool: Understanding the carbon footprint (A1-A3) of building assemblies

Kritika Kharbanda | Harvard Graduate School of Design

Kritika Kharbanda is a master’s in design studies candidate (‘23) at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, specializing in Energy and Environments, and an Adrian Cheng Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her current work as a Research Assistant is funded by the Google Data Commons project and is focused on residential retrofitting for future grid scenarios. As a Cheng fellow, she aims to digitize the building industry to introduce sustainability as a key contributor to the design process. She acted as the lead researcher at Cardinal LCA, a plugin designed for early-stage embodied impact assessment. Before pursuing her graduate studies, she worked previously at Henning Larsen Architects in Denmark as a sustainability engineer and was a part of key projects like Seoul Valley in Korea, Cockle Bay Park in Australia, and Harvard University’s new Enterprise Research Campus (ERC) in the US.

Topic: Assembly Performance Analyzer Tool: Understanding the carbon footprint (A1-A3) of building assemblies

To establish local building standards, efficient, accessible, and transparent datasets within the industry are needed. This project focuses on partnering with the building industry for the collection, analysis, and augmentation of the data for external wall assemblies, focusing on embodied carbon and properties like R-Value, and potentially including operational carbon and cost in the future versions of the prototype. The end goal is to consolidate all the current industry data into a dynamic web application format that encourages architectural literacy on the carbon footprint of each assembly to enable conscious design. The application uses Machine Learning to predict the carbon footprint of each assembly based on its internal insulation thickness.