Harmonizing Design and Function with AutoDesk’s Insight

Good architectural design requires deep knowledge, discerning judgement and solid analysis. Take one of these away and design can be awkward, inefficient or unappealing. Bring them all together and architecture can be an artful expression of the human experience, our firm’s belief of what it should be.

Our recently completed addition to the Santa Fe Public Safety Complex put to test our ability to strike a balance between the many factors in good design: human needs, energy use, and budget. The question before us was, how can we create a space that fosters concentrated computer work but allows natural light and a feeling of connection to the outdoors?

This project included a renovation of an existing police dispatch room, essentially an office space where dispatchers receive calls and alert officers to situations. Designing a fenestration system for this south-facing room that could moderate the light to achieve these goals required the use of lighting analysis software. Our use of building information modeling with AutoDesk’s Revit enables this kind of analysis using Insight, a sophisticated software package with a suite of energy, performance, lighting, and other analysis tools.

Various design iterations were developed investigating the resulting interior lighting effects of various windowsill heights and various horizontal sunshade depths. Insight uses the building’s location to accurately model sun position and intensity throughout the year, outputting various data for each variation. Architects know intuitively that more solar exposure means more daylighting, which reduces the need for interior lighting but also introduces unwanted heat gain in the summer. Striking a balance between the needed amount of light in the space, an acceptable amount of heat gain, views to and connection with the outdoors, and aesthetics from the exterior was made possible once the data was in. Reviewing the data with our electrical engineers and client enabled us to select a sill height and sunshade depth that was the right balance for the building’s location and type of activities taking place within.

Good design matters, since after all, as Winston Churchill said more than 70 years ago, “We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.”

Steven Mattern, AIA – Studio SW Architectural Project Manager