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Enhance Your Design Capabilities with In-House Energy Simulation Tools

4 June 2014 | Posted By Jeff Cole 1,543 views No Comment

Kjell Anderson, an architect in the Seattle office of LMN Architects, has written a must-have book for architects interested in enhancing their analytical capabilities to improve the energy performance of projects. Design Energy Simulation for Architects focuses on early design, when the geometry and orientation of a building is being set and considerations are given to daylighting, passive systems, and the quality of the interior environment. He introduces the practitioner to the use of design simulation tools within architectural practice, addressing:

  • What design simulation can do
  • How have firms used it
  • How results are interpreted

Readily accessible for use by architects, these simulation tools all apply relatively intuitive graphical user interfaces to map graphical outputs onto 3D models that can be created within the tool. Furthermore, many of these tools also incorporate default values that facilitate setting up a model for quick analysis.

The book covers the use of simulation to analyze shading, daylighting, air flow, and energy modeling, with individual chapters addressing specific design challenges: Design Simulation Basics, Comfort and Controls, and Climate Analysis; continuing with Glazing Properties, Solar Irradiation and Thermal Storage, Daylighting and Glare, Airflow Analysis, and Energy Modeling.

Thirty case studies, many featuring Pacific Northwest projects and firms, illustrate the range of design simulation; among them:

  • Integrated design to develop energy reduction strategies to reach net zero energy at Seattle’s Bullitt Center, featuring the analysis of Miller Hull Architects and PAE. (Another case study explores Miller Hull’s design of the Bulitt Center’s photovoltaic system.)
  • Massing Energy Analysis of the Federal Center South (Building 1202), by ZGF Architects, to assess the effect of orientation on annual energy use and mechanical system sizing.
  • Design of peak shading at the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, by SERA Architects with Cutler-Anderson Architects and Stantec Engineering.

Each case study begins with a narrative overview that provides project-specific context for how a particular simulation was performed to help achieve a project objective.

Anderson, before joining LMN, held a variety of leadership positions in Callison’s sustainability practice and was active in a variety of Seattle green building initiatives. Drawing upon these experiences, he also offers extremely useful insight into the strategic reasons that firms should use simulation tools. In fact, I’d suggest circumventing the organization and sequence of the book and beginning with the big-picture view presented in Chapter 12. Design Simulation in Practice, which considers how design teams might best integrate these tools into practice and who will use them, to perform which simulations. Anderson also addresses the early concerns of over 20 firms who have successfully gone down this path and how they overcame objections to enhance their design processes.

The author interviewed over 20 design firms to ascertain their experiences and current practices. He draws upon these interviews to discuss the effective interaction of new in-firm capabilities with the project mechanical engineers, emphasizing “the goal of in house design simulation is not to diminish the role of mechanical engineers, but to make sure that someone with analysis capabilities is embedded in every project during the early design phases.” Chapter 12 also discusses what tools were used by the firms interviewed and identifies supporting resources in the Pacific NW, such as the University of Washington Integrated Design Lab, who worked with architecture firm Miller Hull on a number of the projects mentioned within the book.

After Chapter 12, read Chapter 11. Software and Accuracy, to obtain high-level insight into the interpretation of simulation results.  A Chapter 11 section on software accuracy also touches upon expectations, providing an excellent summary of what to expect from simulation and some potential sources of inaccuracy. You will also find a useful discussion of the value in using simulation to consider comparative performance rather than predicted EUI (energy use index), and guidelines for selecting software.

Move on to Chapter 5. Planning & Goal Setting, which offers a more tactical introduction to the use of tools in the design process.

These three chapters, 12, 11 and 5, will provide a strategic overview of the value of simulation tools to increasing energy performance and improving the interior building environment. They are valuable both for firm management and for practitioners who may never use simulation tools themselves, but will want to benefit from their application to project analyses. The chapters focused upon design elements, with their case studies, will provide additional insight into what can be accomplished with the use of these tools.

NEEA’s BetterBricks intitiative has provided long-term support to the development and deployment of energy simulation tools to enhance the analytical capabilities of Pacific Northwest architects and engineers. We have offered classes and workshops on the use of a number of these tools and the region’s Integrated Design Lab network has worked closely with architects and engineers on tool use and application. Kjell Anderson’s Design Energy Simulation for Architects helps further these objectives to make energy simulation tools more accessible, better understood, and more widely used. It is a highly recommended resource.

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