Framework for Design Excellence: Design for Energy

Good design reduces energy use and eliminates dependence on fossil fuels while improving building performance, function, comfort, and enjoyment.

  • How can passive design strategies contribute to the project’s performance and form?
  • How can the project exceed building code efficiency standards to approach net zero energy and net zero carbon?
  • Can the project be powered by clean, renewable energy sources?
  • How can the project provide for continuous performance improvements over its lifetime?

Focus topics

  • Passive design strategies
  • Energy benchmarking and goal-setting
  • Eliminating fossil fuels
  • Energy modeling
  • Commissioning
  • Net zero energy (NZE) building
  • Net zero carbon (NZC) building
  • Building grid integration

If you can do only one (or a few) thing(s):

  • ZERO CARBON: Reduce building energy use and carbon impact by benchmarking, setting targets, and performing iterative energy modeling throughout the design process.  
  • RESILIENT:  Design all-electric buildings with grid interoperability to take advantage of distributed energy sources.  
  • EQUITABLE: Design to achieve passive survivability without the use of grid energy. This supports low-income residents by reducing operating costs and providing safety in the event of grid interruption or termination.  
  • HEALTHY:  Transform energy use by promoting renewable energy and embracing building electrification to improve indoor air quality for occupants.

Additional information

This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published and distributed with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering professional services. If professional advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.

AIA does not sponsor or endorse any enterprise, whether public or private, operated for profit. Further, no AIA officer, director, committee member, or employee, or any of its component organizations in his or her official capacity, is permitted to approve, sponsor, endorse, or do anything that may be deemed or construed to be an approval, sponsorship, or endorsement of any material of construction or any method or manner of handling, using, distributing, or dealing in any material or product.

Image credits


Kevin Scott

Federal Center South Building

Benjamin Benschneider

COTE Amherst College3_reduced

Chuck Choi

Ortlieb's Bottling House

Christopher Leaman