High levels of energy consumption in residential buildings and global warming are important issues. Thus the energy performance of buildings should be improved in the early stages of design. This article describes an approach for developing guidelines on sensitive and robust design parameters for the present, the 2020s, the 2050s and the 2080s. Such guidelines can help architects to design low-rise apartment buildings that require less energy for various purposes, such as heating or cooling. The article consists of a general literature review, interviews with architects, the generation of case-specific information and a mock-up presentation and a meeting with professionals. An example guideline that aims to reduce annual cooling energy loads under global warming in low-rise apartment buildings located in hot-humid climates is presented to demonstrate how the proposed approach can be applied. For this guideline, case-specific information was generated, and a global sensitivity analysis based on Monte Carlo Analysis and the Latin Hypercube Sampling technique was performed. The results show that the suggested approach is feasible and could be used to provide helpful information to architects during the design of low-rise apartment buildings with high energy performance. The most sensitive design parameters that affect annual cooling energy loads in low-rise apartment buildings were natural ventilation, window area, and the solar heat-gain coefficient (SHGC) of the glazing. The results are relevant for the present, the 2020s, the 2050s and the 2080s. (c) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.