Step Up to the Sustainability Plate with VE-Gaia

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Industry News
Step Up to the Sustainability Plate with VE-Gaia

By Susan Smith

Over the years, bridging the gap between architects and engineers has been heavily debated and discussed, but has proved more critical on projects doing sustainable design. Integrated Building Analysis Software (IES) builds software solutions to address this gap and make the design process much more accessible to a larger number of stakeholders in the building process.

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Since announcing the VE-Toolkits some months ago, IES announced in June a third level of software called VE-Gaia. VE-Ware is the company’s free carbon and energy assessment tool, VE-Toolkits are a step up from that, offering architects an opportunity to make early design decisions such as analyzing energy consumption. It can connect up with SketchUp, Revit and 3D design tools. VE-Gaia is easy to use, as are the VE-Toolkits, and it bridges the gap between Toolkit and VE-Pro, or what was formerly referred to as “Virtual Environment.” “VE-Gaia allows them to step up to VE-Pro from VE-Toolkits,” explained CEO Don McLean. “VE-Gaia gives people access to software in a way with which we actually design workflows for them through the software that matches and tells them what to do. It makes the process easier for them to use the software while they’re just learning and alternatively if they are only using the software every month or two, they don’t have to remember all the ways of navigating. It becomes a very easy task for them and at the same time it allows us to guide them through the process much more effectively.”

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The Toolkits feature a Sustainability Toolkit which includes the ability to compare energy carbon for the Architecture 2030 Challenge requirements, and analyze heating and cooling, solar shading and daylighting credit.

VE-Gaia shares gbXML connectivity with VE-Toolkits, and plug-ins for both Revit and SketchUp. Architects can do LEED compliance and urban design analysis by adding plug-ins. “When an architect wants to consider what to build on a site, he or she needs to have an idea of what the climate is like,” said McLean. “We have climate metrics, if I press on a button, when I set the model I show where the site is located in the world, and it tells me information about the climate, it tells it’s dominated by wind, solar radiation on the south and west walls, and information about the temperatures, about the diurnal temperature swing (difference between minimum and maximum temperatures each day). We give advice on how to interpret this information, for example, we’re trying to do the interpretation of the information for the customer and it gives them some guidance about what it means.”

McLean said with this release, IES is really changing the entire scope of how they present information to people – to make it easier for them to understand numbers on graphs and make analysis easier on that side. “This is what the overview is about, giving the designer information such as natural resources, what’s the potential for solar, etc. and guidance on what materials to use.”

The data can be set up to review all the ways water will be used in a building, for example, and specify wastewater and whether you will use rain or gray water in the analysis. The same type of information such as graphs, summary data, and some notes on how to interpret data are included in this release.

VE-Gaia also allows users to assess carbon technology and photovoltaic cells, wind turbines, biomass, absorption cooling, low carbon solutions, and electricity. “You can do simulation analysis with all the different types of renewable technology you might want to consider,” said McLean.

Architects can get an idea of how a building will perform, and work to try to get a building as sustainable as possible with high quality information and what is the best orientation. “Normally an architect doesn’t have this quality of information at this stage of the design process, as there are not that many radical changes later, they can talk to client and all members of the design team,” McLean said. “What we’re hoping is this will enable the architect to have confidence to be more innovative and aggressive about what they do in terms of reducing carbon emissions from buildings.”

Typically an engineer will take three to four weeks to perform LEED energy analysis and give it back to the architect. “The trouble is they can’t monitor how they’re performing against this credit as it goes through the design process.”

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With the LEED assessment feature, a user can bring in a model, set up different types of baseline rooms and tags. The user can group the types of elevators, rooms, lobbies, etc. together to make the assignation of data much easier. This is automatically done, so that the user can send the necessary report to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) which will give them all the information about their study.

The model can incorporate design changes to see what effect the changes have, and the model can be passed on to someone else and back to the architect very quickly.

Usually the architect doesn’t know the amount of credit they’re likely to get until after schematics or late in the process as this information has not historically been available to him/her. At that stage the chance of making a change is greatly reduced. Having that process set out as a workflow allows the user to follow a step-by-step process, and from that simple model, an architect can just check for energy credit. Then he can bring down the cost by trying design changes and see what effect changes have, and can monitor all that through the process.

The software allows the architect to communicate better with other members of the design team and the client, and is able to monitor the process, then carry that through the whole process so it can be as sustainable as possible – without having to learn a complicated energy analysis software program.

There is more training needed with VE-Gaia than with the VE-Toolkits, according to McLean, but still users can learn in little over a day how to do a LEED assessment of energy credit.

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The preview is easy to use. Simply select products of interest; then drag and drop them into the virtual space. Project Showroom requires no download and no special software. All you need is a standard web browser.

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