Member Spotlight: Dan Weissman

Now and then we highlight one of our members and ask them to share with our community insights about themselves, their careers and the present and future state of energy simulation as they see it.

This month's Member Spotlight is Dan Weissman, AIA, Assc. IALD, Registered Architect and Lighting Designer at Lam Partners in Cambridge, MA. With over 10 years of experience in the field, Dan leads many of the firm’s endeavors in digital technologies, daylighting, and academic engagement as Director of Lam Labs. He regularly teaches and guest lectures at Boston-area architectural institutions, and co-founded the academically oriented web project, Section Cut. He is an accomplished woodcut artist, baker, and mandolinist.

Lam Partners is dedicated exclusively to lighting design for buildings, structures, and exterior environments. Lam’s over 50 years of design experience is complemented by in-depth knowledge of the latest lighting technology and state-of-the-art design tools and skills. Lam Partners is committed to the principles of integrated design, teaching, promoting energy efficiency and sustainability, and building rewarding, collaborative, and lasting relationships within the design community.

Connect with Dan by visiting his profile on our Modeler Map

What about BEM is exciting to you and matters?

While I tried my hand at energy modeling in grad school, my true passion is for electric and daylight modeling as part of the architectural design process. I was an early beta-tester of DIVA-for-Rhino, a software package that integrates radiance-based lighting and thermal modeling in Rhinoceros 3d. While I continue to use DIVA for daylighting design, my primary software for lighting analysis is Iray+ within 3ds Max, which has become the primary platform at our firm. While it has its limitations (still no luminance calculations), its capacity to produce photometrically accurate visualizations quickly and with a high degree of fidelity has revolutionized our lighting design process. The capacity to be able to use these digital tools as an extension of my brain, instead of just as a validation tool is really exciting. 

What do you think the biggest areas of growth of BEM will be in the near future and what are you doing about it?

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Energy Modeling produces huge datasets. Clearly, the ability for AI to mine and optimize these hyper-complex models (and in turn, their built counterparts) will have a huge impact on the building industry. AI will help close the gap between generating ideas, testing them in digital space, developing compelling visualizations, and translating the ideas into built work. 

What is your expertise and give some examples of how you have helped your customers in the past.

My primary field of expertise is design, and using digital tools as an extension of my brain to efficiently develop design products. In my professional work, this includes visualizations of how electric lighting may be integrated with architecture, daylighting studies showing various methods of improving access to or controlling daylight quality in interior spaces, or illuminance studies to confirm appropriate light levels. Showing clients how their spaces will actually look and feel creates a high degree of confidence in proposed design solutions. 

Tell us about how you came to work in BEM.

I wanted to be an architect for as long as I can recall, but an unexpected opportunity at the end of college led me to Lam Partners, an architectural lighting design firm in Cambridge, MA. Here, I learned photometry and lighting science, and became quite facile at AGI32, Lightscape, and 3ds Max. After three years at the firm, I moved on to pursue a Master of Architecture degree at University of Michigan. However, I was hungry for an education that went deeper into energy systems, lighting, and daylighting. After two great years in Ann Arbor, Harvard Graduate School of Design admitted me into the Master of Design Studies program in Christoph Reinhart’s Sustainable Design track. There, I learned DIVA- for-Rhino and the energy modeling software DesignBuilder. I also collaborated with Reinhart and Terek Rhadka on research studies comparing digital metrics to human perception, publishing two papers under the title “The Daylit Area”. 

In 2014, Lam Partners asked if I would like to return to the firm. As part of my return, I established Lam Labs, an R&D space within Lam Partners. Lam Labs’ mission is to develop ideas beyond the scope of design projects, engage in contemporary lighting discourse, and position our firm as an expert collaborator with academic and industrial partners.