Q: How do minor orientation changes impact the building EUI?
Short Answer: It depends significantly on your glazing percentage. If you have a glazing percentage of 60% or less, and you are making orientation changes of less than 45°, on average, it leads to an impact of less than 1.2 Kbtu/sf/yr. In the broad picture, that impact is quite minimal with the uncertainty at play for early-stage energy modeling. Of course, these are the “cliff note” version of the study, read the full study below.
Building Energy Modeling (BEM) is a physics-based computer simulation of a building that can be used to analyze and predict energy consumption, HVAC component sizing, and utility bills. BEM is used in new building construction and retrofit designs to achieve compliance with the energy code standards (ASHRAE 90.1, Title 24, NECB), different green building certifications like LEED v4 & Green Globes. BEM input parameters that are taken into consideration for running the simulation include but are not limited to building geometry, construction material properties, glazing ratio, lighting, HVAC system, refrigeration, service water heating, component efficiencies, control strategies, and renewable generation system configurations. The purpose of this study is to observe the sensitivity of building rotation on Energy Use Intensity (EUI). All simulation parameters are kept constant except the site orientation to record the impact on energy consumption. The study is conducted using the small office building prototype provided by Pacific National Northwest Laboratory (PNNL).
The Energy Usage Intensity (EUI) is observed for single-zone small office PNNL prototype model for 10°, 20°, 30°, and 45° rotated clockwise as well as anticlockwise. The EUI difference for Miami, Florida (ASHRAE Climate Zone 1A), Atlanta, Georgia (ASHRAE Climate Zone 3C) and Denver, Colorado (ASHRAE Climate Zone 5B) was observed to be 0.63 kBtu/ft2, 0.72 kBtu/ft2 and 0.92 kBtu/ft2 respectively for the rotation range described earlier. Furthermore, the next iteration was done by adding 20% more glazing on all sides and rotating the single zone small office PNNL prototype model by 10°, 20°, 30°, and 45° clockwise and anticlockwise. After running the simulations, the EUI difference for Miami, Florida (ASHRAE Climate Zone 1A), Atlanta, Georgia (ASHRAE Climate Zone 3C), and Denver, Colorado (ASHRAE Climate Zone 5B) was observed to be 1.05 kBtu/ft2, 1.10 kBtu/ft2 and 1.33 kBtu/ft2 respectively for the considered rotation range.
The selected building is a small office prototype described by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Some of the building parameters are mentioned below:
Total Area of the Building (Sqft)
Number of Floors
24.4% for South, 19.8% for other three orientations
Single Zone Model
Floor to Floor Height (Ft)
HVAC System Type
Air-source heat pump with gas furnace as back up
75°F Cooling/70°F Heating
85°F Cooling/60°F Heating
Lighting Power Density (LPD) (W/Sqft)
Equipment Power Density (W/Sqft)
Domestic Hot Water Consumption Rate (gal/ft2-day)
Heating System COP
Cooling System COP
Rotation, Range, and Glazing Variation:
The single thermal zone is considered for running the simulations. The PNNL small office model is created utilizing DesignBuilder (EnergyPlus) and rotated along the North-South axis by 10°, 20°, 30°, and 45° in a clockwise and anticlockwise sense as shown in the following figure. The next step involved adding 20% more glazing on all sides of the prepared model and rerunning the simulation.
Figure 1 Rotation Range for Single Zone PNNL Small Office Prototype along North-South Axis
Comparison of Energy Usage Intensity:
The following cities are used to study the impact of rotating the single zone PNNL small office prototype:
ASHRAE Climate Zone
Zone 1A Miami, Florida:
Figure 2 Miami PNNL Small Office Rotation Comparison for Different Angles
Figure 3 Miami PNNL Small Office with 20% more Glazing Rotation Comparison for Different AnglesThe highest EUI difference of 0.63 kBtu/ft2 is recorded by rotating the model by 45° anticlockwise along N-S axis. When the glazing is increased by 20%, the highest EUI difference became 1.05 kBtu/ft2 for 45° anticlockwise rotation along N-S axis.
Zone 3A Atlanta, Georgia:
ECM Bundle that will hit the EUI target of 30 kBtu/ft2/year.
Figure 5 Atlanta PNNL Small Office with 20% more Glazing Rotation Comparison for Different Angles
The highest EUI difference of 0.72 kBtu/ft2 is recorded by rotating the model by 45° anticlockwise along N-S axis. When the glazing is increased by 20%, the highest EUI difference became 1.1 kBtu/ft2 for 45° anticlockwise rotation along N-S axis.
Zone 5B Denver, Colorado:
Figure 6 Denver PNNL Small Office Rotation Comparison for Different Angles
Figure 7 Denver PNNL Small Office with 20% more Glazing Rotation Comparison for Different AnglesThe highest EUI difference of 0.92 kBtu/ft2 is recorded by rotating the model by 45° anticlockwise along N-S axis. When the glazing is increased by 20%, the highest EUI difference became 1.33 kBtu/ft2 for 45° anticlockwise rotation along N-S axis.
The time invested in adjusting the building orientation and thermal zone manipulation for every design change can be eliminated with the proposed method described in the study. Moreover, the project team will be able to perform more simulations to test out different design options to choose the best design without worrying about specific building orientation. The facts presented will surely help to optimize the conceptual design phase and thereby save a huge amount of money and time for the owner and the project team.