Jessica Alcántara Rivera BIM Coordinator
Aranza Ayala Amador Talent Research Program

What can buildings with good energy performance offer to the real estate development industry?

According to studies by SuME, Sustainability for Mexico, buildings in Mexico generate 38% of greenhouse gas emissions in the country while consuming 14% of water, 25% of electricity, and 80% of LP gas. Therefore, buildings generally are responsible for 40% of total energy consumption.

Energy prices have increased considerably in recent years, and variations in the prices of oil, coal, and natural gas have an economic impact on the construction sector since they are the most used energy sources both in the extraction process and construction logistics. Additionally, the energy consumption during the operation of the buildings throughout their useful life must be taken into account, which can reach 30-50 years.

According to various studies, during a nominal life of 30 years,  design and construction costs represent 5-10% of the investment, while operation and maintenance costs will comprise the highest percentage representing between 60% and 85 % of the total cost of the investment, whereas renovation processes can be considered between 5-35%.


In other words, we can understand the total investment in a building as an iceberg; frequently, we only consider its peak for our purposes, but we don’t stop to think about how design decisions will impact future operation and maintenance costs.

Above all, as real estate developers, we frequently are our clients and are dedicated to the administration of the properties we build. The decisions we make at the beginning will disturb us and have an economic impact for many years after the building’s construction.

Can I reduce operation and maintenance costs to achieve higher profits while being friendly to the environment?

What is Evidence-Based Design?

It is defined as the deliberate attempt to base design decisions on the best research evidence available.

During a building’s life cycle, there are nine stages; programming, conceptual design, detailed design, analysis, documentation, fabrication, manufacturing logistics, operation and maintenance, and finally, demolition/renovation. The stage in which the Evidence-Based Design is found is in stage number 4, “Analysis”.

In the Analysis stage, different tests are carried out on the architectural project to know the behavior that the building will have in its environment. To know if its performance is according to design goals and to observe the latent problems that it could have in the future, to give clients the best optimal and sustainable solution.

What methodologies do we use to elaborate these simulations?

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a methodology that allows us to manage the information involved in an architectural project. It focuses on efficiently enabling the transition of information throughout a project’s life cycle.

How do we perform these simulations at Cafeína Design?

At Cafeína Design, we use BIM software to answer different questions: How much radiation does the building receive in a year? Is it convenient to receive more or less radiation?

In the case of warm contexts: Is it possible to reduce radiation to improve the performance of the cooling systems? Is it possible to increase the reception of radiation to reduce the use of heating systems? What will energy costs be in one year according to the current design proposal? Is it possible to improve the architectural proposal regarding its climate performance?

The idea is to depend less and less on active conditioning systems and more on passive conditioning systems. The simulations help understand where adjustments need to be made and by what magnitude.

"Manzana 114" Project

The “Manzana 114” project is a recent project where these tests were applied. Located in the city of Tulum, Quintana Roo. In this project, we carried out solar radiation analysis in the conceptual masses in the design stage to verify the changes and bioclimatic strategies required to achieve a comfortable environment within the space, reducing energy costs in operation. Modifications were made in the volume, dimensioning of openings, and changes regarding incorporating vegetation.

In the case of hot climates where there is a significant need for cooling, the determination of solar protection elements and the choice of materiality become fundamental criteria. If the radiation inside the building increases the temperature beyond human comfort by 25-26 °C, we can incorporate protection elements that block radiation and avoid using active conditioning such as air conditioners. These strategies will directly lead to annual energy savings, and it is possible to reduce the energy consumption of a building according to the combination of strategies and the developer’s goals between 10, 20, 40, 50, and up to 100% in the case of zero energy consumption buildings.

A zero energy building (ZEE) or zero net energy building is applied to buildings with close to zero net energy consumption in a typical year.

For the simulations, the specific dates and times that we required were:

Hot season

March 14 to Oct. 14 – 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Summer solstice

June 21 – 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Winter solstice

December 21 – 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm


These simulations provide us with the information necessary to develop appropriate strategies for the situation in which the building is located. The strategies used help us keep the building comfortable, increasing the vegetation as protection against solar radiation while providing a sustainable space that maintains a pleasant temperature without the need to use air conditioners, achieving considerable electricity savings.

As designers, we make more informed designs by collecting data, with analysis and necessary studies to provide the real estate developer with the best alternatives to reduce their risks and make more accurate decisions based on the best available information.

Want to learn more about this topic?

Contact us.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.