Balancing Visual Comfort and Energy Efficiency

Integrating environmental performance and aesthetics in an office building in South East Asia



Photo of Berardo Matalucci PhD

Berardo Matalucci PhD

Director, Environmental Design

SHoP Architects

Photo of Edward Palka AIA LEED AP BD+C

Edward Palka AIA LEED AP BD+C


SHoP Architects

Photo of Jennifer Siqueira LEED AP

Jennifer Siqueira LEED AP


SHoP Architects

Photo of Jenny Lin

Jenny Lin


SHoP Architects

Photo of Coles Jennings PE, BEMP, LEED AP BD+C

Coles Jennings PE, BEMP, LEED AP BD+C

Sr. Energy and Sustainability Engineer

Mason and Hanger

Photo of Alex Chapin

Alex Chapin

Energy Engineer II

Mason and Hanger

Photo of Sameer Kumar AIA

Sameer Kumar AIA

Director, Enclosure Design

SHoP Architects

Photo of Nadine Bergen AIA LEED AP

Nadine Bergen AIA LEED AP

Project Director

SHoP Architects

Photo of Christopher Sharples AIA

Christopher Sharples AIA


SHoP Architects



With increasing interest in wellness and human-centric design in workplaces, the design of building enclosures is predicated on optimizing competing performance criteria, including visual comfort, thermal behavior, maintenance, and cost-effectiveness simultaneously. Managing this varied set of indicators, while integrating them into a cohesive design, is challenging on many fronts, particularly regarding the quantification of a design’s value proposition. Here, we present a case study for a large office building in South East Asia; a climate characterized by hot air-temperatures, high humidity, and intense solar radiation. The design of the building envelope takes inspiration from the vernacular architecture of local temples and shading elements while being charged with a performance-driven approach to minimize the impact of solar radiation and maximize visual comfort. Iterative design propositions were evaluated through the lenses of energy efficiency, daylight optimization, and visual quality to determine the optimal design approach, based on an exterior shading system of aluminum extrusions with a ribbon-window back-up wall. Our analysis indicates that the exterior shading system is able to reduce glare discomfort by 78%, increase time when interior blinds are raised, reduce overall energy consumption by 7%, require 5 fewer air handling units, and reduce the chiller capacity by 200 tons, resulting in a 300 ton reduction in CO2 emissions when compared to the same building without exterior shades. As a result, the simple payback of the exterior shading system is estimated at 12 years when productivity gains are factored in along with environmental benefits. Thereby, within the early design stages, the exterior shading strategy offered an opportunity to integrate a re-interpretation of local architecture with the environmental and financial performance for the design of a building enclosure that can address both energy efficiency and user experience.


This paper presents a case-study focused on the development and presentation of a cohesive performance framework and value proposition for a high-performance building enclosure early in the design process. Importantly

Members Only

Design Intent

The overall building design takes cues from local architecture, particularly centered on scale, proportions, and materiality. From this research, important themes have been incorporated into the design, such as human

Members Only


To evaluate the performance of the external shading system, the following cases have been used for comparative analysis. Case 1: Design Case, as submitted for the Schematic Design phase. This

Members Only

Results and Discussion

Energy Efficiency

A whole-building energy model has been generated to estimate the energy and operational cost savings associated with the façade and other energy conservation measurements. The energy model considers the

Members Only

Conclusion and Future Work

The results of the various performative analyses shown in this paper illustrate that the Design Case outperforms the Baseline Case - the Schematic Design backup wall with no exterior shading

Members Only


The authors would like to thank the client, the design team at large, and all consultants involved in the project.

Rights and Permissions

Al Horr, Yousef, Mohammed Arif, Amit Kaushik, Ahmed Mazroei, Martha Katafygiotou, and Esam Elsarrag. "Occupant productivity and office indoor environment quality: A review of the literature." Building and environment 105 (2016): 369-389.

ASHRAE, ANSI. "ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2013, Energy Standard for Buildings except Low-Rise Residential Buildings." American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers Inc., Atlanta (2013).

Bluyssen, Philomena M., Sabine Janssen, Linde H. van den Brink, and Yvonne de Kluizenaar. "Assessment of wellbeing in an indoor office environment." Building and environment 46, no. 12 (2011): 2632-2640.

Boyce, Peter, Claudia Hunter, and Owen Howlett. "The benefits of daylight through windows." Troy, New York: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2003).

Cision, “Study: Natural light is best medicine for the office”, (accessed July 31, 2019)

Harvard Business Review, “The #1 Office Perk? Natural Light”, (accessed July 31, 2019)

Kohler, Christian, Yash Shukla, and Rajan Rawal. "Calculating the Effect of External Shading on the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient of Windows." Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (2017).

Reinhart, Christoph Frank. Daylighting Handbook: Fundamentals, Designing with the Sun. Christoph Reinhart, 2014.

US Green Building Council. "LEED v4 for building design and construction." USGBC Inc (2014).