Building Science Fundamentals

High-performance buildings use far less energy, water, and money to run them. Building science is fundamental to high performance building design. Learn building energy fundamentals and how to apply strategies like passive heating and cooling to your projects. This will provide a strong foundation for getting the most out of building performance analysis software.

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Green Building Goals & Process

To design high performance buildings, you need to set concrete goals and follow a sound design process. Along the way you’ll need to optimize for both resource use and human comfort. Usually energy use is the largest environmental impact, and Net Zero Energy is an increasingly popular design goal.

Climate & Site Analysis

Energy use is often the largest source of a building’s environmental impact. To improve your building’s energy efficiency, you need to understand its site, program, and energy loads.

Building Energy Fundamentals

Understanding heat transfer fundamentals and how they translate into energy flows in a building is critical when designing high performance buildings. Learn about the different forms of heat transfer, material properties like U-factor and R-value, heating and cooling loads, energy use intensity, and the difference between site and source energy.

Building Envelope

The building envelope is the physical separator between the interior and exterior of a building. Components of the envelope are typically: walls, floors, roofs, windows, and doors. The design choices that you make and materials that you use for the envelope have a big impact on the building’s performance.

Passive Design Strategies

Passive design strategies can help reduce your building’s energy demands by using energy available from natural sources such as geothermal heat, sunlight, wind and cool air. Learn how to use convection, conduction, and radiation to design passive systems.

Lighting and Daylighting Design

Getting smart about lighting is an important step to designing energy efficient buildings. Learn how to use daylighting, achieve proper light quality, and provide good controls to reduce energy demands and make people happier. The sun is predictable and daylight can be a very reliable source of light. Sunlight, views, and daylight are different though, and need to be carefully managed.

Electric Lighting and Controls

Good lighting is usually an intelligent blend of natural and artificial light. Specifying the right lights and fixtures, laying them out well, including good controls, and making the system easy to maintain are all crucial for energy efficiency.

Active HVAC Systems

Mechanical Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems help keep building occupants comfortable when passive design strategies aren’t enough. To design efficiently, don’t oversize the system, choose efficient components, and optimize the whole system.

Water Resources in Buildings

Water is used inside a building for drinking, cleaning, and sanitation, and outside of a building for landscaping.  In addition, wastewater and runoff must also be managed for a sustainable building site.

Green Building Materials

Material selection is full of trade-off decisions, and effective strategies vary widely based on your goals and situation.  Sustainable materials can mean many things, and this page explains some considerations besides the materials’ energy performance.

Indoor Air Quality

Besides considerations of thermal comfort, indoor air quality means that the chemical composition of indoor air is clean and fresh.  This means avoiding chemical pollutants, particulates, pollen, mold and mildew, pathogens, and other unwanted substances in the air, as well as bringing in new air at an adequate rate.  

Clean Energy

Once you've utilized passive design strategies to the best of your site's ability, you can start to look at clean energy resources, or renewable energy resources, to supply any energy demands your building might have.


University of California, Berkeley
Jeremy Faludi is a sustainable design strategist and educator.  He has taught green product design at Stanford, Minneapolis College of Art & Design, and elsewhere.  He has contributed to six books on sustainability, including Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century, and various academic journals and conferences.  A bicycle he helped design appeared in the Cooper-Hewitt Museum's exhibit "Design for the Other 90%", and he designed the earliest version of
Adam is a designer and educator who focuses on systems, knowledge, and experiences to make the world a better place.  Adam managed the creation of educational content on sustainable engineering and design at Autodesk between 2010 and 2014. He has worked as a design strategist at Jump Associates and holds both a mechanical engineering degree and an MBA from Vanderbilt University. He is a LEED accredited professional and has taught a course on Net Zero Energy Building design at the UC Berkeley extension.