ReLink: High Performance Building Design Process
This project won third place in the Transformation 2030 student design competition in 2014. The design process is robust and well explained, and led to a compelling, high performing design that would help strengthen the community in the South Bronx.
The designer’s clear use of energy targets and benchmarks throughout the project helped justify and explain his design decisions.
Project Title: 
Project Designers: 
Jacob Van de Roovaart, California Polytechnic
Project Date: 
Apr 2014

Project Goals

About the design competition

The Transformation 2030 design competition challenged students to design a large mixed use development at the site of a former juvenile detention center in the South Bronx of New York City. The building program includes residential apartments, a nursery school, a fresh foods grocer, an office space, and a performing arts space, an event center, and a commercial kitchen. 

Phase 1 of the competition is a conceptual design of the overall site, and Phase 2 dives deeper into the design of the event and culinary center. See the competition website.

See a write-up on all of the finalists.


The EUI-METER to track energy goals

One of the main goals of the competition was to optimize energy use and reach the 2030 Challenge targets for energy use intensity (EUI – see Measuring Building Energy Use ). To visualize this, an “EUI-meter” was used that had:

1. The benchmark EUI value (from

2. Reduction targets (2030 Challenge is 60% in 2014 – based on carbon emissions)

3. The current EUI of the design as calculated by Autodesk Vasari

This meter was an effective device for tracking and visualizing the effects of design changes throughout the design process.

Note that this EUI meter is missing units. The units here are kBTU/sf/yr.

Other design goals

A development this large can be used to jump start new growth, and reverse the tide of declining health in the neighborhood. Due to this, another important goal of the project was to provide a safe and compelling environment where the residents could interact, work, and live together through a series of protected courtyards, green roofs, and negative spaces. Providing an affordance for education and also for a farmer’s market were aspects of this goal.


Design Process

2030 Pallete

The 2030 Pallete was used to provide design inspiration, guidance, and best practices for sustainable design strategies. See below for the strategies employed in "Phase 1" of this project.

Analyzing Physical and Digital Models

During initial concepting, a mixture of physical modeling and Vasari computer modeling & analysis was used.  This provided the flexibility to quickly design and flesh out ideas, that could then be tested with energy analysis.  

During this form-finding stage, the building program and energy settings were held constant. The idea was to focus on how massing and form alone would affect the resulting EUI. 

Once a scheme was selected that seemed to perform the best, more detailed studies on building heights, solar access, materials, and window placement were done. Solar access was one of leading factors in how the final form was developed.


The Design

The images below explain the design decisions made as the design evolved, and how those decisions affected the energy performance via the EUI-METER. 


The numbers in the EUI-METER above were provided by whole building energy simulation using Autodesk Vasari and Green Building Studio. Below are some artifacts from that analysis.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The explanation below was not included in design deliverables. Nor was which building form/configuration these analysis results map to. The explanation for these results is speculated below and provided for clarity and educational purposes. (The PDF attached has these charts in higher resolution.)

Using higher performance glass and changing the form of the building reduced annual energy cost by 8%. 

This cost savings was driven by: 1) reducing cooling loads in the summer by up to 25% through reducing unwanted solar heat gains, and 2) reducing heating loads in the winter by up to almost 50% through reducing heat loss through windows. 

Assuming the design has PV panels on the roof surfaces, these energy savings only resulted in a 1% reduction in projected annual carbon emissions because the higher performing form also had less roof area.

Below is the overall site plan.

Below is a detail of the façade for the residential units, showing both fixed shading features and operable screens to block or allow solar heat gain.

For “Phase 2” of the competition, a similar process and set of images was used (and is explained in the full documentation, downloadable below).

The event space and commercial kitchen are shown here. The kitchen is located underground in the northeast corner. The event space features a view window on the Manhattan skyline. There is an additional education space above the kitchen and adjacent to the event space. The educational and event spaces flow into the adjacent green space, accommodating space for gatherings, a farmer’s market, and outside events.

Quotes from Transformation 2030 judges

“Re-Link’s analyses were performed at all scales. Their concept addressed a difficult issue, the food desert/ food distribution hub irony inherent in this competition. The design was sensitive in its planning of public areas and courtyards.” - Edward Mazria, Architecture 2030

“Very strong graphics, especially as they related to the sustainability analysis. The pictograms and the EUI-meter were very engaging. Exploration of various iterations of design with performance analysis was appreciated and helped make this a better design.” - Scott Schiamberg, Perkins Eastman

About the Designer

 Jacob Van de Roovaart did this project as a fourth year student at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. He studied architecture because it gives him the ability to explore new ideas and create spaces that promote positive change in our everyday lives. He entered the Transformation2030 design competition to help improve his ability to design formally while simultaneously looking at and testing how each form affects the buildings performance, creating a balance between a beautiful building and a building that is finely tuned to perform.