Kim Shinn — Guru Uses 'Wizard Show' To Change Designers' Mindsets
ENR Southeast 5/16/16 p. SE22
Developed long-running energy-modeling game, “The Wizard Show,” that seeks to correct industry peers’ mistaken assumptions about sustainable building design.
Since Kim Shinn’s first presentation, more than six years ago, of “The Wizard Show”—an audience-participation contest in which two teams of architects use a live building model as they compete to design the most energy-efficient building possible—the game has revealed how many designers still work under flawed assumptions.
For example, “architects have a blind spot in the role windows play in the energy of a building,” Shinn says. Today, Shinn, whose title at the Orlando-based firm TLC Engineering for Architecture is “chief sustainability wizard,” continues to educate architects and other industry peers about how greater reliance on energy modeling can transform building design.
The educational campaign has made a difference, says Kirk Teske, of HKS Architects, who helped create the first show. The collective effort by Shinn and TLC Engineering, he says, “has done more to educate the architectural profession on the impacts of architectural decisions on energy consumption than any other firm I know.”
Changing mind-sets hasn’t been easy. The main takeaway that “The Wizard Show” hopes to conjure—that energy modeling can so reduce a building’s energy consumption that the size of MEP systems can be similarly scaled down—still runs counter to many designers’ thinking. For example, instead of pitching more expensive systems to achieve lower annual energy costs, as Shinn says many advocate, building designers should employ energy modeling toward simpler, more efficient designs that “decrease capital costs so greatly that they dwarf the savings over the life of the building.”
Before Shinn could convince others, though, he first had to sell his own company on the concept’s business merits.
“It was kind of a shock to a 55-year-old MEP structural engineering company to say that we were going to start doing energy consulting and sustainable design and commissioning,” says Brian Lomel, Shinn’s manager and director of TLC’s sustainability advocacy arm. “Changing a whole company of engineers to stop thinking about what size the air conditioner is and, instead, to think about how much it costs per square foot to run the design is a big shift. But he has been steadily pushing us in that direction.”