Preparing Young Engineers for Industry Challenges

Case studies and exercises are dispersed throughout High-Performance Buildings Simplified to help students glean information and strategies used in example buildings. The Omega Center for Sustainable Living at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, the first building to achieve both the Living Building Challenge and LEED Platinum certification, is used as an example.

Fifteen years ago green design practices seemed a bit out there. Today, they have gone mainstream. Now, new ways to apply existing concepts, new industry partnerships, and new urgency to protect the environment has led to a new sort of engineering student. Today’s students must master skills to create high-performing and resilient buildings.

Once a high-performing building is constructed and commissioned it must be able to withstand natural disasters to protect its occupants. From building systems to overarching community needs, increasing resiliency in the overall built environment is a growing industry challenge, said Tom Lawrence, Ph.D., P.E., Fellow ASHRAE.

To help students prepare for these challenges, Lawrence and Julia Keen, Ph.D., P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, BEAP, HBDP, wrote the forthcoming High-Performance Buildings Simplified: Designing, Constructing, and Operating Sustainable Commercial Buildings book to provide information on high-performance buildings from a holistic perspective by covering more than the technical aspects for design. This book is intended as an accompaniment to ASHRAE GreenGuide. It is structured as a textbook for use in a college-level course but also is practical enough to be used as a reference by an early career professional.


The primary flows of the building—air, energy and water—are illustrated in this section perspective that shows photovoltaic collectors, green roof, constructed wetland, aerated lagoons and daylighting strategies.



The book covers vital concepts such as integration of on-site renewable energy systems in building and power systems and model predictive control concepts for individual equipment, buildings or a campus setting.

“Besides having a solid coverage of all the aspects and topics in the design, construction and operation of a typical high-performance building, I wanted to make sure the reader was made aware of trends and areas that will grow in importance in the coming future,” Lawrence said. 

There is more to high-performing buildings than energy, so the book includes information on the design and delivery and commissioning processes and on design, construction and operation considerations for sites, water, materials and more, Lawrence said.

High-Performance Buildings Simplified and the ASHRAE GreenGuide parallel each other in many ways, but High-Performing Buildings Simplified covers the future trends topics more in-depth than the latest edition of the GreenGuide, said Lawrence, the chair of the committee that produced the latest GreenGuide.

High-Performance Buildings Simplified is targeted to students and early-career professionals and covers most topics with less detail and depth, compared to the GreenGuide, which is being restructured to be targeted to the more experienced, practicing professional, according to Lawrence.


Contract power workers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reconnect power lines in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria destroyed about 80% of Puerto Rico’s power in September 2017. 

© U.S. Army photo by Preston Chasteen


“For students and young professionals, I think the most important (lesson) is to give the reader an understanding of the holistic nature and integrative process that is necessary to design, construct and operate a truly high-performance building,” he said. “Most chapters contain a brief section that outlines how the topics of that chapter would apply to a future career oriented toward high-performance buildings.”

Lawrence and Keen wrote the book from an engineering-centric focus as other textbooks on this topic tend to focus on the architectural perspective, Lawrence said. But he said it is important for non-engineers such as government officials and building owners to know about high-performing buildings. Because of this, the book was designed to help instruct and guide students from all disciplines in the principles of high-performance building design, construction and operation.

The textbook also supplies discussion questions, exercises and more that aid a “flipped” course format, he said. In a flipped course format, students learn concepts and topics outside the classroom to reserve class time for instructor-facilitated discussion. •

View the PDF: 43-45_HPB Summer 2019_McGowan_High Performing Book.pdf