At Paul Castrucci Architect, a New York firm that ranges in size from four to six members depending on its project load, associate architect Grayson Jordan uses eQuest, Passive House Planning Package (PHPP), and Therm. Though he attended a formal program to learn PHPP, he taught himself eQuest, with which he is currently modeling a community center in New York that is targeting LEED certification. Jordan found that his “strong understanding with wall systems” was helpful in learning energy modeling; otherwise, he says, the learning curve could be steep.
Creating a useful and accurate energy model follows the “garbage in, garbage out” principle, Green says. “If you’re putting bad information in, you’re getting bad information out. The idea is to put as much good information in early to get as much good information out to inform that process.”
As a first step, Ekman suggests confirming that the project scope, design process, and targets for energy consumption align. “Because we’re talking about a process that’s slightly different from what we’ve been doing, it’s not always implicit what part of the design scope is from a mechanical engineer, consultant, or internal service.”
To focus their efforts efficiently, the design team should next predict the primary energy consumers in the building. Energy modeling then becomes a back-and-forth process of receiving feedback and refining design decisions. The key is to do multiple runs with the program to establish repetition and consistency in value, Morrison says. “Architects can then become familiar with what’s normal and what’s expected.” After all, Reilly says, “Energy modeling is a relative projection of different systems against others and not a guarantee for performance.”
The imminent adoption of building codes with energy mandates such as the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), building disclosure ordinances, and initiatives like the AIA 2030 Commitment that request modeling metrics will encourage the dissemination of energy modeling techniques, investment, and results. “The increased amount of data produced by energy modeling and post-occupancy metering is going to refine technologies and impact the industry in an enormous way,” says Morrison, who recently wrapped up a church renovation in Washington, D.C., that contains a “sophisticated set of monitoring devices and submetering to pinpoint energy consumption in the building” to help the church’s facilities management team make more informed decisions about maintenance.
Though the design industry has a way to go in terms of embracing energy modeling and measurement and verification into its practices, “the tipping point is quite close,” Ekman says. “When codes and regulations start to require this in a robust way, we’re all going to learn really fast—and out of necessity.”