Course syllabus

ACE405 Design and performance optimization in architecture lp3 VT24 (10 hp)

Course is offered by the department of Architecture and Civil Engineering.


Contact details



  • Toivo Säwén (TS), PhD Candidate, Sustainable building research group, ACE,
  • Alex Gonzalez-Caceres (AGC), Postdoc, Sustainable building research group, ACE,, 031 772 40 18

External tutors and lecturers

  • Markus Gustafsson (MG), Architect, Kaminsky Arkitektur,
  • Gabriella Palmér-Elland (GPE), Project manager, Vasakronan
  • Robin Skantze (RS), Project executive, Vasakronan


Course aim

The aim of the course is to deepen the skills in using simulation tools for the integrated performance optimisation of an architectural design project. Performance criteria can include energy demand, daylight, thermal comfort, embodied carbon, amongst others. The students can choose to optimise an own design of a building or urban project that they developed in a previous course, or they can use the case study provided by the teachers. The design optimisation process will be based on and driven by knowledge gained using the simulation tools.



NB: The schedule is subject to minor changes.


Detailed schedule



Course literature

Building Optimization, Max Tillberg, Klas Moberg, Chalmers School of Architecture, ARK415 Building Design Lab, 2018 (PDF will be provided)


Course design

The course is divided into two phases: Phase 1, Analysis methods and tools, and Phase 2, Design.

Phase 1: Analysis methods and tools

In Phase 1, students work in groups of three-four to investigate specific building performance phenomena and their impact on design. Each week is assigned to a specific analysis topic:

  • Week 1: Holistic sustainability analysis and optimisation
  • Week 2: Daylight and environment
  • Week 3: Energy and power
  • Week 4: Life cycle assessment
  • Week 5: Multi-criteria decision making

After the introductory week with the course start, group formation, and study visit, Phase 1 follows a regular schedule each week. 

  • Wednesday morning: introduction of the analysis method
  • Wednesday afternoon: individual work collecting data and resources
  • Thursday morning: computer tutorial using provided Grasshopper analysis script
  • Thursday afternoon: group work
  • Friday morning: group work
  • Friday afternoon: digital pin-up and presentation (mandatory)

Phase 1 is concluded with a mid-critique when the analysis outputs are collected and presented during a 45 minute presentation as a framework for evaluating the design developed in Phase 2.

The assignments each week are described in the "Design brief" document in Canvas.

Phase 2: Design

Students work in groups of three-four to develop a design proposal, either for the case study provided in the course, or another design brief of the students' choosing. Each week follows the following approximate structure:

  • Tuesday (all day): group work
  • Wednesday (all day): group work
  • Thursday morning: tutorial with TS and MG (30-45 mins per group)
  • Thursday afternoon: group work
  • Friday morning: group work
  • Friday afternoon: group work/physical pin-up and presentation (mandatory, week 7)

Phase 2 is concluded with the final critique which includes a 60 minute presentation also including peer critique of one specific group.

For any questions on the course design, please contact Toivo Säwén ( For questions regarding examination/mandatory elements, please contact Alexander Hollberg (


Changes made since the last occasion

This is the first offering of the course.


Learning objectives and syllabus

Learning objectives:

Knowledge and understanding

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the underlying methods for building performance analysis and multi-criteria design optimisation approaches

Competence and skills

  • apply building performance simulation software in the early phases of the design process to answer specific design questions with a sustainability perspective
  • structure and document their multi-criteria optimization process of the design solution
  • describe and evaluate design choices and their outcomes in terms of quantitative and qualitative criteria through several design iterations, using results from the simulation tools and simple architectural visualizations
  • present their proposal in a digital hand-in

Judgement and approach

  • describe, argue for, evaluate, and discuss their own and others proposals during a final critique together with university faculty and external reviewers

Link to the syllabus on Studieportalen: Study plan


Examination form

To achieve a passing grade in the course, active participation in the following compulsory course elements (or, with a valid excuse, a written complementary assignment as agreed with AH) is required:

  • Phase 1 weekly digital pin-ups
  • Phase 1 mid-crit
  • Phase 2 physical pin-up
  • Phase 2 final critique

In case of a passing grade, the course participation is graded 3-5. The grading is carried out based on the following three assessment criteria:

  • Multi-criteria design evaluation strategy presented in mid-critique (33%)
  • Demonstrated understanding of links between evaluation criteria and design parameters in mid-critique and final critique (33%)
  • Quality of design proposal in relation to the developed design evaluation framework (33%)


Use of Generative AI

The use of Generative AI (such as ChatGPT or Dall-E) is permitted during all elements of the course, and the critical application of novel technologies is encouraged. However, any use of Generative AI technology, whether it is used to generate text, code, geometry, visual material, or any other application, is to be clearly indicated adjacent to the generated material, including the technology used and the extent of the application. Any use of Generative AI which does not comply with this requirement will be reported to the Chalmers’ Disciplinary Committee.