2009: The year of energy analysis

August 11, 2010

One of the most valuable takeaways from the 2009 AIA National Convention and Design Exposition in San Francisco was that, at long last, software manufacturers have become serious about whole-building energy analysis. For years architects and engineers have demanded IT products that would enable them to do energy analysis in the design phase of a project, with only middling response from the IT vendors. This year, we got the first encouraging look at new energy analysis products from Integrated Environmental Solutions, Autodesk, Bentley, and ArchiCAD.

“This might be the opportunity,” said Phil Bernstein, FAIA, Autodesk's VP of AEC solutions. “Six years ago the energy-efficiency argument might have been dismissed as trivial. Now, it's not.”

IES's VE-Gaia to debut in June

Industry pioneer IES, based in Glasgow, Scotland, unveiled its new Virtual Environment-Gaia product. IES CEO Dr. Don MacLean said VE-Gaia will be released in June and will enable you to input exact building data and manipulate BIM models for energy optimization in your firm's daily workflow. IES also announced a partnership with Graphisoft at AIA 2009 which should lead to greater interoperability between ArchiCAD and the IES Virtual Environment, including a direct link from ArchiCAD 12 via gbXML. This gives IES direct interoperability with two of the three major BIM platforms on the market in its links with the Revit and ArchiCAD platforms.

“With VE-Gaia, design firms will be able to open up sustainable design analysis to a wider range of users as they get significantly more familiarity with the VE software,” MacLean said. “Users can mark progress, control quality, and iterate workflows without a great deal of training. With VE we've had small changes over the years but this is a great big change.”

Key capabilities of VE-Gaia that impressed me: 1) metrics for climate and building materials, 2) availability of natural resources, water usage, renewable and low-carbon system design technologies, and 3) the full range of LEED 2009 credits. It also uses high-quality data from the IES virtual environment, including 365-day-a-year weather analysis and very detailed reports. I'll be betaing VE-Gaia in my BIM Boy blog soon (www.BDCnetwork.com).

Ecotect Analysis 2010 released

Autodesk announced the newest version of its energy analysis product, Ecotect Analysis 2010, at AIA with a lot of improvements in integration with Revit Architecture 2010 and Revit MEP 2010. As in earlier versions of Ecotect, design data can be imported using the gbXML file format from any design tool. Ecotect Analysis subscription members now have access to the Autodesk Green Building Studio Web service, allowing for whole-building energy analysis to help determine estimated energy costs, carbon emissions based on local electric grid data, and net-zero energy potential with the application of renewable energy sources.

Autodesk execs said that while they will continue to look for ways to make analytical capabilities more of a part of Revit and AutoCAD, Ecotect will remain a separate product from the design applications.

“I think we'll end up keeping Ecotect separate yet tightly coupled,” Bernstein said. “It allows us to drive the code separately and evolve appropriately.”

Hevacomp Simulation V8i and Mechanical Designer V8i

Hevacomp, Inc., acquired by Bentley in 2008, offers software for building performance design, simulation, and energy certification based on the Department of Energy EnergyPlus analysis engine, which supports the ISO, IEE, CIBSE, and ASHRAE standards. Hevacomp had been developed over 28 years into an analysis market leader in the United Kingdom prior to the Bentley acquisition. The new Bentley release, Hevacomp Simulation V8i, can quickly analyze design options with simple pass-fail certification results. It also provides appropriate documentation mandated by UK Part L, Australia Section J, ASHRAE 90.1, and LEED.

Hevacomp Simulation V8i features a powerful analysis engine and a robust database of manufacturer product data and weather modeling from 7,900 weather stations around the globe. Hevacomp Mechanical Designer V8i (the MEP version of the program) has even more powerful tools, including computational fluid dynamics incorporating wind velocity, airflow, and temperature.

“They can make the ROI to the client with these tools,” said Noah Eckhouse, Bentley's VP of Global Building Performance.

ArchiCAD reveals EcoDesigner

Graphisoft's ArchiCAD brand revealed EcoDesigner, an analysis tool that gives quick energy analysis at any design stage and graphical results sheets to help guide design decisions. Akos Pfemeter, graphisoft's global marketing director, said that designers should be able to easily integrate EcoDesigner into their regular ArchiCAD workflows.

ArchiCAD licensed the VIP analysis engine from Swedish company Strusoft's VIP Energy program, an analysis tool that has 20 years of energy analysis calculation development behind it. EcoDesigner generated reports give users estimates of ventilated volume, U-value of structures, carbon footprint, annual energy consumption, and monthly energy balance. Because of its one-click analysis capability and market position as the only BIM solution available for the Mac platform, ArchiCAD EcoDesigner could have the greatest potential of all these products to put energy analysis into the hands of architects.


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