Practicing ArchitectureMember Groups & Communities
About David Altenhofen, AIA: Mr. Altenhofen is a building enclosure consultant and manager at the The Facade Group East. His project types range from residential to high-tech, with an emphasis on pharmaceutical and applied research facilities. Rounding out his experience, Mr. Altenhofen has been a developer and a licensed general contractor. He is active in the architectural community at several levels, focusing primarily on reinforcing the architect’s role in building science and integrated design.
Mr. Altenhofen, you have been involved in the formation of the Technical Design for Building Performance Knowledge Community (TDBP KC). What inspired its formation, and what were the steps to develop this new professional interest group?
From within the profession there is grassroots pressure for more technically knowledgeable architects to address architecture’s unique leadership role in the delivery of buildings. Examples of this grassroots pressure producing results include the network of local chapter Building Enclosure Councils, and the collaboration between the National Institute of Building Sciences and the AIA on issues of building science and high-performance design.
In addition, national energy-saving initiatives about building performance, including the AIA’s 2030 Commitment and the International Green Construction Code, clearly reflect the need for advanced expertise.
During an AIA visioning session last November, it made sense to address the need by creating a knowledge community.
How must the architecture profession change to meet the technical needs of the clients?
In order to deliver buildings suited to current energy and environmental criteria early and in-depth scientific analysis is necessary. Some worry this constrains design—I believe it adds content and value.
The profession needs to review performance issues throughout the design process. Energy modeling during massing and conceptual design optimizes for heat gain/loss and daylighting. Construction and operational costs will be reduced when mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems are fine-tuned to the enclosure.
As the design develops, analysis of the thermal performance and wetting/drying potential of enclosure assemblies will deliver energy savings and avoid durability and indoor air quality problems. During construction testing will ensure the finished project matches design predictions.
We have the tools to do most of this, but we need to adjust our design processes to include the scientific analysis.
What will the TDBP Knowledge Community offer to assist AIA members and allied professionals in meeting the demand for technical knowledge for designing high-performing buildings?
It is the intent of the TDBP KC to help architects grow in technical expertise by demonstration of best practices, and to provide access to the building science knowledge that is available. We are planning for a regular newsletter and we are planning workshops to be presented at next year’s AIA convention in Denver.
After the recent Knowledge Leadership Assembly our knowledge community began working with many other knowledge communities to provide continuing education about the building enclosure on various building types. Also, we highlight technically skilled architects as role models for others to follow.
The building enclosure is a significant determinant in the energy consumption of a building. What role does the TDBP KC play in bridging the gap between what graduates theoretically learn about building enclosures in school, and the applicable knowledge they need to design high-performing buildings?
As should be expected, most graduates know little about how to select a wall system, how to evaluate materials, or how to detail. Architecture programs are not and should not be trade schools.
We are working with the National Architectural Accrediting Board and other academic groups to help ensure graduates possess the foundational knowledge of building science and professional practice issues necessary for high-performance design.
Of course, architectural graduates are well equipped in problem-solving. Architecture’s role for interns and emerging professionals is to show them the critical issues for energy efficient design, provide the analytical tools, and connect the knowledge learned through practical experience.
The more technical side of practice has been dominated by seasoned architects, but now digital modeling is essential. Emerging professionals have the digital expertise. It is a combination of both seasoned architect and emerging professional skill sets that are necessary to deliver high-performance buildings.
Our knowledge community is working through the AIA’s emerging professional and associate activities to help draw in those architects who might not have the years of experience, but are passionate about energy savings, and are intellectually challenged by the integrated design process.
A project—particularly a high-performance building—requires a project team that is typically more varied than it has been in the past. The team may include energy modelers, enclosure consultants, commissioning agents, and other allied professionals. The architect will be the project leader and act as the conduit between the project team and the client. How should architects prepare for this leadership role? Is this a new role for architects?
Project teams work the best when the architect is knowledgeable enough to collaborate with, and challenge the consultants. Building high-performance buildings requires that architects have this knowledge.
What conversations need to happen at the local level between AIA members and allied professionals to facilitate better communication between architects and members of a project team?
Architects need to demonstrate that they are serious about energy-efficient design through their actions on individual projects. They need to meaningfully involve other design consultants, and respect their input. Perhaps the most important thing that architects can do is to manage the process to be efficient and productive.
How has your involvement with AIA’s knowledge communities elevated the value of your membership? What would you say to someone who is wondering about joining a knowledge community?
My time spent in the former professional interest areas and now in the knowledge communities has provided access to a world-wide network of colleagues that I don’t think I would have found any other way. The knowledge communities have allowed me to work with peers possessing similar interests, skills, and expertise.
I have learned a great deal from people through the knowledge communities and their professionalism has challenged me to be a better architect. I would recommend that every architect get involved with a knowledge community that matches his or her interests.
While you help mentor other architects, and raise the value of the profession, you will also greatly add to your own personal knowledge and expertise.
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Founded in 2000, The Facade