Building Simulation

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 435–438 | Cite as

The impact of building massing on net-zero achievability for office buildings

  • Demba Ndiaye
Research Article Building Thermal, Lighting, and Acoustics Modeling


The simultaneous impact of massing on both energy consumption and renewable energy production potential is studied by taking the case of office buildings in Washington D.C. A Baseline design with a square footprint is compared with eleven massing alternatives: three rectangular parallelepiped designs with aspect ratios of respectively 2, 3, and 4, along the east-west orientation; three rectangular parallelepiped designs with aspect ratios of respectively 2, 3, and 4, along the north-south orientation; two H-shaped designs; one cross-shaped design; and two pyramidal buildings with wall slopes of respectively 86° and 83°. With differences between the best performing massing alternative and the worst performing massing alternative of more than 10% in terms of energy consumption, and more than 20% in terms of renewable energy production, massing is found to significantly impact both energy use and energy production. Consideration of both energy consumption and renewable energy production potential suggests that, for temperate climates such as Washington D.C., buildings with H-shaped footprints, buildings with crossshaped footprints, and buildings with high aspect ratio footprints are preferable when targeting net-zero energy status.


building massing building shape net-zero energy building renewable energy production building energy consumption dense urban environment 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. ASHRAE (2007). Standard 90.1-2007 User’s Manual. Atlanta, GA: American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.Google Scholar
  2. ASHRAE (2010a). Standard 62.1-2010: Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality. Atlanta, GA: American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.Google Scholar
  3. ASHRAE (2010b). Standard 90.1-2010: Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. Atlanta, GA: American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.Google Scholar
  4. ASHRAE (2013). Handbook of Fundamentals. Atlanta, GA: American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.Google Scholar
  5. Cheng V, Steemers K, Montavon M, Compagnon R (2006). Urban form, density and solar potential. In: Proceedings of the 23rd Conference on Passive and Low Energy Architecture, Geneva, Switzerland.Google Scholar
  6. Chin N, Franconeri P (1980). Composition and heating value of municipal solid waste in the Spring Creek area of New York City. In: Proceedings of the 1980 National Waste Processing Conference, Washington DC, USA.Google Scholar
  7. Compagnon R (2004). Solar and daylight availability in the urban fabric. Energy and Buildings, 36: 321–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Crawley D, Pless S, Torcellini P (2009). Getting to net zero. ASHRAE Journal, 51(9): 18–25.Google Scholar
  9. Depecker P, Menezo C, Virgone J, Lepers S (2001). Design of buildings shape and energetic consumption. Building and Environment, 36: 627–635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. DOE (2015). A Common Definition for Zero Energy Buildings. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Energy.Google Scholar
  11. EIA (2016). Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey—2003 Survey Data. Available at commercial/data/2003/. Accessed 05 Feb 2016.Google Scholar
  12. EO (2015). Executive Order 13693—Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade. Federal Register, 80(57): 15871–15884.Google Scholar
  13. EU (2010). Directive 2010/31/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 on the Energy Performance of Buildings (Recast). Official Journal of the European Union, 153: 13–35.Google Scholar
  14. Granadeiro V, Duarte JP, Correia JR, Leal VMS (2013). Building envelope shape design in early stages of the design process: integrating architectural design systems and energy simulation. Automation in Construction, 32: 196–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gratia E, De Herde A (2003). Design of Low Energy Office Buildings. Energy and Buildings, 35: 473–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hachem C, Athienitis A, Fazio P (2011). Investigation of solar potential of housing units in different neighborhood designs. Energy and Buildings, 43: 2262–2273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hemsath TL, Bandhosseini KA (2015). Sensitivity analysis evaluating basic building geometry’s effect on energy use. Renewable Energy, 76: 526–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hirsch JJ (2014). eQuest v3.65. Available at Scholar
  19. Kämpf JH, Montavon M, Bunyesc J, Bolliger R, Robinson D (2010). Optimisation of buildings’ solar irradiation availability. Solar Energy, 84: 596–603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kanters J (2015). Planning for solar buildings in urban environments— An analysis of the design process, methods and tools. PhD Thesis, Lund University, Sweden.Google Scholar
  21. Marks W (1997). Multicriteria optimization of shape of energy-saving buildings. Building and Environment, 32: 331–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Masa-Bote D, Caamaño-Martín E (2014). Methodology for estimating building integrated photovoltaics electricity production under shadowing conditions and case study. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 31: 492–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mermoud A, Wittmer B (2014). PVSyst6—User’s Manual. Satigny, Switzerland: PVSyst SA.Google Scholar
  24. Montavon M (2010). Optimisation of urban form by the evaluation of the solar potential. PhD Thesis, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland.Google Scholar
  25. Norton B, Eames PC, Mallick TK, Huang MJ, McCormack SJ, Mondol JD, Yohanis YG (2011). Enhancing the performance of building integrated photovoltaics. Solar Energy, 85: 1629–1664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. NRCan (2013). RETScreen v4. Varennes, QC, Canada.Google Scholar
  27. NREL (2015). System Advisor Model v 2015.6.30. Available at Scholar
  28. NREL (2016). Best Research-Cell Efficiencies. Available at http:// Accessed 05 Feb 2016.Google Scholar
  29. Pessenlehner W, Mahdavi A (2003). Building morphology, transparence, and energy performance. In: Proceedings of the 8th International Conference of the International Building Performance Simulation Association, Eindhoven, the Netherlands.Google Scholar
  30. Phillips D, Beyers M, Good J (2009). Building height and net zero—How high can you go? ASHRAE Journal, 51(9): 26–36.Google Scholar
  31. PVEducation (2016). Shading. Available at pvcdrom/modules/shading. Accessed 05 Feb 2016.Google Scholar
  32. Ross BM (2009). Design with energy in mind: Toward a low-load and high satisfaction civic architecture in the great lakes basin. Master Thesis, University of Waterloo, Canada.Google Scholar
  33. Samsung (2016). Solar Modules Products. Available at http:// Accessed 05 Feb 2016.Google Scholar
  34. Scartezzini JL, Montavon M, Compagnon R (2002). Computer evaluation of the solar energy potential in an urban environment. In: Proceedings of 2002 EuroSun, Bologna, Italy.Google Scholar
  35. Vanek FM, Albright LD, Angenent LT (2012). Energy Systems Engineering—Evaluation and Implementation. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  36. Wang W, Rivard H, Zmeureanu R (2006). Floor shape optimization for green building design. Advanced Engineering Informatics, 20: 363–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Youssef AMA, Zhai Z, Reffat RM (2015). Design of optimal building envelopes with integrated photovoltaics. Building Simulation, 8: 353–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Tsinghua University Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Setty & AssociatesFairfaxUSA

Personalised recommendations