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
  • energy modeling
  • commissioning
  • net zero energy (NZE) building
  • net zero carbon (NZC) building

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

  • Benchmark and set an energy use intensity (EUI) and/or lighting power density (LPD) goal and work towards that goal throughout the design process. ​
  • Incorporate passive design strategies based on the project’s climate and program opportunities.
  • Model for energy performance, iteratively, throughout the project.
  • Establish an optimum window-to-wall ratio and building orientation for the project.
  • Design solar-ready and all-electric buildings.
  • Conduct post-occupancy evaluations and commissioning.

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