Energy and Building Performance Tools

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Industry News
Energy and Building Performance Tools
By Susan Smith

President Obama selected Steven Chu as secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy. On January 21, Chu, a Nobel laureate physicist and big proponent of energy efficiency, was sworn into the position. Chu is committed to the research and development of new energy technologies, which may include fuel efficient vehicles as well as efficiency in buildings and appliances. As director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004, he was responsible for heading up research on biofuels and solar energy technology. Chu’s 1997 Nobel Prize was awarded in physics for developing ways of cooling and trapping atoms with lasers.

It is hoped that this focus on energy efficiency will be an integral part of the President’s Economic Stimulus Package, so that new jobs can be created from the need for cleaner air, more energy efficient buildings and more efficient use of space.

In AECWeekly, we will be covering more technologies that support the analysis of emissions and the generation of natural resources such as solar and water in buildings, as they become available. The following are three products that have been around for awhile but that are growing with the demand for green building analysis tools that integrate with Building Information Modeling (BIM) software.

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Mechanical engineering firm Guttmann & Blaevoet selected the Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES) to determine day-lighting controls and thermal mass, as well as how radiant technologies can reduce overall energy impact.

Ted Tiffany, energy and building performance modeling manager of Guttmann & Blaevoet, said that if you look at the work of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory over the past 20-30 years, they have been doing the investigations for Labs 21 (Labs for the 21st century), and pushing energy efficiency.

IES is also constantly keeping track of what’s going on in terms of research and how they maximize relationships with laboratories including Lawrence Berkeley to bring their technology into their own software. One recent graduate from the University of Berkeley and the Center for the Built Environment, Timothy Moore, now works for IES and brings his research on radiant systems to IES.

What Guttmann & Blaevoet needed was energy prediction tools, specifically natural ventilation, mixed mode buildings and thermal mass designs. Tiffany said that their architectural partners are interested to know how their buildings are performing, and the Virtual Environment tool gives them a 3D visual aspect for shading techniques and natural ventilation.

“Working with IES was a natural fit for Guttmann & Blaevoet with our dedication to sustainable engineering solutions. After researching a number of industry tools, we selected IES for its easy interface and interoperability with Revit. The combination of these two tools creates an ideal working environment for us,” said Tiffany. “We were pleasantly surprised at how effortlessly we could transition from the Revit model to IES’ tools.”

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Tiffany cited the example of an architectural partner, using the Suncast application, who wanted to rotate their building 25 degrees to capture a view. “They had a nice grand lobby but the view is toward the west and we were able to tell the architects that we needed to look at the application. So we built a model with it and gave them a suncast representation of their building and showed them what the 25 degree rotation would do. And we found out through the modeling process, without having to build a physical mockup, that their building was going to increase the energy use for the year 8 percent, the system size was going up 10 percent for peak energy use and that the lobby and the west afternoon sun was almost going to be made unusable because of the glare of the sun,” said Tiffany. This problem was discovered in the schematic phase and was invaluable to the architects and the whole project in the long run.

In Europe, Tiffany said, engineers direct the conversation, whereas in the U.S. the architectural partners direct the conversation. “We’re really trying to change that conversation to get in early for design participation and get the architectural partners to think about how the mechanical and lighting designs are all going to be affected by choices early on. These tools allow us to do that.”

Tiffany also said their firm is getting a lot of mixed mode and natural ventilation buildings that the older tools can’t handle or don’t have visual applications for.

The firm uses many integrated components of IES such as, the electrical department uses the radiance tools for daylighting analysis, mechanical engineers use thermal applications t discover loads, and architectural partners use visual aspects such as shading techniques.

Prior to adopting IES, Tiffany said they used DOE 2, the Department of Energy analysis software, which had no ability to model natural ventilation, mixed mode applications with active mechanical systems and natural ventilation schemes, or do carbon analysis.

“When we start talking about zero energy buildings, the tools have to be on that level to look at how the renewables contribute to that,” concluded Tiffany. “That’s our ongoing challenge right now, we’re getting more inquiries and projects trying to get to net zero.”

According to the press release, “The IES provides building designers with the ability to customize analysis to fit their needs, specifically in energy consumption, carbon emissions, LEED Daylighting, Architecture 2030 Challenge benchmarking, thermal comfort, solar shading and penetration, and many others. The tools are also integrated around a central 3D model that can connect directly with Google SketchUp, Autodesk Revit and via gbXML along with other 3D design tools – allowing users to easily and quickly fit performance analysis into design workflow without rebuilding geometry.”

In June 2008, Autodesk announced its acquisition of Green Building Studio, Inc. (GBS), which includes tools for web-based analysis of resource consumption and emissions. At the same time, Autodesk announced its acquisition of Ecotect software tools from Square One Research, Ltd. and Dr. Andrew Marsh.

For users with a BIM model, GBS can analyze estimated consumption or generation of energy, water, and carbon very quickly. According to Pat Bailey, product manager of Autodesk Green Building Studio, the product is “a whole building analysis package.” It is a web based energy analysis service that allows users to analyze the estimated energy of a BIM model – either the consumption or generation of water, carbon, solar in a matter of seconds to minutes depending on the size of a building. Because GBS is a web service, users can easily share data across projects. This tool is designed to enable analysis in the early design stages, rather than the later stages, when making changes is more difficult or even impossible. Weather data, cost estimation tools, and analysis for LEED daylighting credits are all features that make GBS a valuable package for sustainable design.

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