A new round of simulation tools puts the power of building-performance analysis—long the domain of engineers and energy consultants—into the hands of architects. According to the AIA’s Energy Modeling Practice Guide, architects are the most qualified members of the project team to lead the energy-modeling process, given their expertise in integrating program, space, and building systems.
Predicting a building's post-occupancy performance early in the design process gives teams the greatest opportunities to optimize a project and understand which decisions will have a significant impact on carbon footprint. Generally speaking, tools that provide real-time feedback and order-of-magnitude comparisons are best suited for the conceptual and schematic design phases, given the rate of design changes. In later phases of the design process, accuracy takes precedence over immediacy as a building becomes more defined.
In the past, designers seeking performance-analysis software had to sacrifice accuracy for ease of use. High-end simulation engines, such as DOE-2.2 and EnergyPlus, required a lot of detailed information and time to compute—two things that are in short supply in the early design phases. Recognizing these constraints, several software companies have developed tools and plug-ins that integrate almost seamlessly into existing BIM software and facilitate early-and-often checks on building performance.
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