Courtesy of GRAPHISOFT
ArchiCAD 17 + EcoDesigner STAR will enable architects to produce energy-code-compliance reports, says GRAPHISOFT.

More than 300 ArchiCAD 16 users have signed on to test GRAPHISOFT’s expanded building energy modeling tool, called EcoDesigner STAR Public Beta.

The BEM tool will be released commercially by the end of June as an add-on product to the upcoming ArchiCAD 17 building information modeling software. The direct BIM-to-BEM product will enable architects to perform energy-use simulations and to quickly produce energy-standard compliance reports, says GRAPHISOFT.

“Our green strategy is to get the energy analysis and green design of buildings closer to the [beginning of the] design process,” says László Vértesi, vice president of product development for Budapest-based GRAPHISOFT. In the past, “designers did design first and energy experts tried to make it work,” he adds.

EcoDesigner STAR produces model geometry and material property data takeoff directly from the BIM. It natively uses all the ArchiCAD technology, including complex shapes. The BEM and BIM elements are all cross-referenced, keeping the two models synchronized at all times. ArchiCAD is used to visualize the energy model, in the live context of the architectural model, according to GRAPHISOFT.

Energy use simulation in EcoDesigner STAR is done according to international standards, says Vértesi. Detailed energy-standard compliance reports can be generated in five or six minutes rather than up to 20 hours, he adds.

There are other digital building-energy-analysis tools for architects, including add-on tools, direct BIM-to-BEM systems and cloud-based services. Vértesi says GRAPHISOFT’s is the first package that will allow architects—rather than engineers—to do integrated energy-code compliance documentation—all within the same tool without the import and export of data between different tools.  

“We have integrated high-end energy analysis software into BIM,” for architects to use without the aid of an energy consultant and without engineering knowledge, adds Miklós Svéd, GRAPHISOFT’s product manager. “You don’t need to understand engines to drive a car,” he says.

Graphisoft competitor Autodesk's Revit BIM-to-BEM Energy Analysis tool is not targeted to produce energy code compliance documents yet, says John F. Kennedy, senior product line manager in the building performance analysis group of Autodesk Inc., San Rafael, Calif. Autodesk’s Green Building Studio (GBS), a cloud-based energy analysis service, also is not yet targeted to produce energy code compliance reports, he adds.

Kennedy, who was the CEO and chief technology officer of GBS before Autodesk acquired it, is skeptical that architects will use the GRAPHISOFT energy-code-compliance-report tool. Energy analysis at that level of specificity, which requires inputting detailed data on such things as thermal and materials performance, would require a new workflow, he says.

Creating an engineering tool in an architect’s tool and hoping architects will create an engineering workflow is “aspirational,” he says. Kennedy thinks the tool will more likely be used by the energy code compliance person or energy engineer. Most architects "won’t take on the risk," he predicts, "when they can hire an engineering consultant for a couple thousand dollars to produce the reports."

Currently, ArchiCad 16 contains a simple energy analysis tool for use in the schematic design phase only. EcoDesigner STAR Public Beta, which is used with ArchiCAD 16, is intended for use through design development. It allows certified energy analysis for architectural design. ArchiCAD 17 will contain an improved integrated energy evaluation tool and the option of the EcoDesigner STAR add-on. The add-on is intended for use in schematic, conceptual and construction-document design phases—for quick energy evaluation through energy-code compliance documentation.

For ArchiCAD 16 users, EcoDesigner Star Public Beta is available for testing through the end of March. GRAPHISOFT expects to kick off ArchiCAD 17 private beta testing, on an invitation-only basis, early next month. The plan is to invite the most active EcoDesigner STAR public beta testers to the ArchiCAD 17 beta test and migrate them to the new ArchiCAD 17-based EcoDesigner STAR beta version in the course of March.

GRAPHISOFT is not releasing any pricing information at this time. However, Vértesi says there will likely be two business models for the add-on product. One is a floating and perpetual license.

The other is a 30-day license. Users can do design and energy evaluation, which is included in ArchiCAD 17, without the license. If and when they need a detailed report, they can buy the temporary license. 

“The user will not need the product all the time—only to generate the end result,” says Vértesi.