Guide to Sustainable Design for Architecture, Engineering & Construction


Consider alternative concepts for the project to achieve requirements and minimize environmental impact.

Decisions made early in a project life cycle can have the greatest impact on the durability and efficient performance of any project. The building information modeling (BIM) process can help to inform better sustainable design decisions. With a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a project, architects, engineers, builders, and owners can simulate real-world performance and construction processes for more efficient delivery and reduced environmental impact.

Design DecisionsHow ToAutodesk Tools

Site Planning

  • Consider manmade and natural features of the site and adjacent areas, including structures, geology, and hydrology.
  • Plan the location of all elements of a project design, such as the building, structure footings, catchment, parking, and landscaping.
  • Promote biodiversity with a site layout that provides a high ratio of open space to the development footprint.
  • Estimate cut-and-fill requirements.

Surface Material and Layout

  • Maximize groundwater recharge and storage and minimize runoff.
  • Consider possible heat island effects.
  • Determine landscape and hardscape layouts.

Review different design alternatives using integrated analysis and simulation tools:  

  • Solar and shading studies
  • Storm water design and analysis
  • Soil types
  • Geospatial buffering
  • Steep slope analysis and modeling
  • Floodplain analysis  
  • Surface analysis

AutoCAD Civil 3D

  • Design and analyze more efficient stormwater management systems.
  • Incorporate GIS data into the design environment and conduct overlay, network, buffer, and other types of geospatial analysis to help optimize site layout and avoid sensitive wetlands and floodplains.
  • Conduct surface analysis to evaluate various grading schemes and identify steep areas prone to erosion.
  • Compute percentage of paved surface area on the site and visualize shaded areas.

Autodesk Ecotect Analysis

  • Display the sun’s position, path, and shadows relative to the model at any date, time, and location.
  • Generate geometry and analysis grids for export directly into computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools.
  • Calculate solar availability over the spaces around buildings and in highly overshadowed urban sites.

Building Form & Orientation

  • Balance design to achieve energy efficiency requirements and optimize views, lighting, ventilation, and comfort.
  • Maximize the natural energy benefits of the site, such as passive solar or natural ventilation.
  • Understand rainwater catchment requirements related to roof area.


  • Consider building form, openings, glass amounts, and glazing types.
  • Consider required or desired views, ventilation, and comfort.
  • Explore automatic lighting controls and energy cost benefits.

Envelope Type & Performance

  • Consider regionally available materials and regulatory requirements.
  • Determine thermal and mass requirements of materials that maximize performance.

Consider alternative concepts for the project to achieve targets for energy efficiency and water efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and minimized environmental impact:

  • Energy use and efficiency potential
  • Water use and efficiency potential
  • Estimated carbon emissions
  • Weather
  • Natural ventilation potential
  • Daylighting potential
  • Solar and shading

Autodesk Revit Architecture

  • Evaluate the building orientation that will better take advantage of solar access for balanced natural lighting and energy conservation.
  • Conduct 3D massing studies and explore floor area allocation and use assignments at an early schematic design phase.
  • Perform basic daylighting and sun studies to more quickly analyze sun positions and solar effects.

Autodesk Green Building Studio

  • Pinpoint weather data within a few kilometers of virtually any building location using one of the most extensive global collections of hourly weather data.*
  • Estimate carbon dioxide emissions for nearly all aspects of the building, including regional electric grid carbon emissions by fuel type.

Autodesk Ecotect Analysis

  • Calculate solar availability, daylight factors, and luminance levels at any point in the model or over the analysis grid.
  • Visualize incidental solar radiation on windows and surfaces.
  • Import results for display within the context of the original model.

Structural System Selection

  • Determine material for structural elements and evaluate environmental impacts.
  • Consider embodied energy, resource management, and recycled material content.

Structural engineers can benefit from integrated modeling for design, analysis, coordination, and documentation. In this phase, conduct structural analysis on the model.

Consult Resources:

  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for information on embodied measures
  • Building for Environmental and Economic Stability (BEES)
  • Athena Institute Impact Estimator

Autodesk Revit Structure and Autodesk Robot Structural Analysis Professional
Analyze design alternatives and help optimize the structure to minimize material use and waste.

Internal Equipment

  • Estimate building-wide energy and water use for appliances and equipment.
  • Specify target performance to meet building water and energy requirements.

HVAC Class

  • Determine type and approximate size of HVAC systems.
  • Estimate water use in HVAC systems.
  • Consider night ventilation options while balancing envelope and structural mass elements.

Water Fixture Performance

  • Determine fixture class for water use.
  • Estimate building-wide potable and nonpotable water demands.

Materials Selection
Consider embodied energy, resource management, and recycled material content.

Whole-building analysis helps you better understand:

  • Energy use and efficiency potential
  • Water use and efficiency potential
  • Estimated carbon emissions
  • Natural ventilation potential

With this information, designers and MEP engineers can benefit from BIM for additional analysis, improved coordination, and better informed design decisions.

In this phase, conduct load analysis on the model.

Consult Resources:

  • Energy Policy Act of 1992
  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for information on embodied measures
  • Building for Environmental and Economic Stability (BEES)
  • Athena Institute Impact Estimator

Autodesk Green Building Studio

  • Analyze the potential for natural ventilation to handle building cooling load on an hourly basis.
  • Estimate the number of hours your building design could use outdoor air to cool the building and help determine if mechanical cooling is necessary.
  • Estimate amount of mechanical cooling required.*
  • Estimate water use based on building type and number of occupants. Evaluate measures to help reduce water use.*

Autodesk Ecotect Analysis
Calculate heating and cooling loads for models with any number of zones or type of geometry.

Autodesk Revit MEP
Perform calculations to help determine peak heating and cooling loads and measure the impact of varying amounts of outside air, filtration levels, and other HVAC analysis functions natively.

HVAC Load Calculation Extension for AutoCAD MEP 2009
Measure the impact of varying amounts of outside air and filtration levels and perform other HVAC analysis functions.

Autodesk Seek
Search for, select, and specify manufacturer-specific building products and associated design files based on relevant performance attributes, such as:

  • Lighting
  • Windows
  • Doors
  • HVAC systems

* This capability provided by Autodesk® Green Building Studio® web-based technology is available with and during the term of your Subscription to Autodesk® Ecotect® Analysis software.