Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Khee Poh Lam

Second Advisor

Vivian Loftness

Third Advisor

Chris Hendrickson


Energy and cost performance optimization for commercial building system design is growing in popularity, but it is often criticized for its time consuming process. Moreover, the current process lacks integration, which not only affects time performance, but also investors’ confidence in the predicted performance of the generated design. Such barriers keep building owners and design teams from embracing life cycle cost consideration. This thesis proposes a computationally efficient design optimization platform to improve the time performance and to streamline the workflow in an integrated multi-objective building system design optimization process. First, building system cost estimation is typically completed through a building information model based quantity take-off process, which does not provide sufficient design decision support features in the design process. To remedy this issue, an automatic cost estimation framework that integrates EnergyPlus with an external database to perform building systems’ capital and operation costs is proposed. Optimization, typically used for building system design selection, requires a large amount of computational time. The optimization process evaluates building envelope, electrical and HVAC systems in an integrated system not only to explore the cost-saving potential from a single high performance system, but also the interrelated effects among different systems. An innovative optimization strategy that integrates machine learning techniques with a conventional evolutionary algorithm is proposed. This strategy can reduce run time and improve the quality of the solutions. Lastly, developing baseline energy models typically takes days or weeks depending on the scale of the design. An automated system for generating baseline energy model according to ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1 performance rating method is thus proposed to provide a quick appraisal of optimal designs in comparison with the baseline energy requirements. The main contribution of this thesis is the development of a new design optimization platform to expedite the conventional decision making process. The platform integrates three systems: (1) cost estimation, (2) optimization and (3) benchmark comparison for minimizing the first cost and energy operation costs. This allows designers to confidently select an optimal design with high performance building systems by making a comparison with the minimum energy baseline set by standards in the building industry. Two commercial buildings are selected as case studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of this platform. One building is the Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh, PA. This case study is used as a new construction project. With 54 million possible design solutions, the platform is able to identify optimal designs in four hours. Some of the design solutions not only save the operation costs by up to 23% compared to the ASHRAE baseline design, but also reduce the capital cost ranging from 5% to 23%. Also, compared with the ASHRAE baseline design, one design solution demonstrates that the high investment of a product, building integrative photovoltaic (BiPV) system, can be justified through the integrative design optimization approach by the lower operation costs (20%) as well as the lower capital cost (12%). The second building is the One Montgomery Plaza, a large office building in Norristown, PA. This case study focuses on using the platform for a retrofit project. The calibrated energy model requires one hour to complete the simulation. There are 4000 possible design solutions proposed and the platform is able to find the optimal design solution in around 50 hours. Similarly, the results indicate that up to 25% capital cost can be saved with $1.7 million less operation costs in 25 years, compare to the ASHRAE baseline design.