Saint Patrick’s Day brought a boatload of new “green” bulding energy-performance analysis tools, including a trio of emmigrant products with long resumes, to U.S. architects, consultants and engineers. In announcements on March 17, both Bentley Systems, Exton, Pa., and Autodesk Inc., San Raphael, Calif., introduced significant and quite different tools to a practice both companies expect will grow rapidly. “I think there is huge demand,” says Huw W. Roberts, Bentley’s global marketing director. “All design firms are integrating this kind of design analysis and addressing these issues. The demand for this will be 100%.”
“It is becoming a bigger part of our work,” confirmed architect Mark Schwettmann, an SOM associate director, digital design manager for the San Francisco office and a user of Autodesk’s energy-performance analysis tools. “A year ago some firms were doing these kinds of analysis on a few projects, but now every project does this and needs to do it. It is a basic part of the design process.”
The Bentley offerings include three products that have supported compliance with strict energy-performance certification regulations in the U.K. Those require documentation of predicted and observed energy use with all real estate transactions, from new construction to apartment renting to renovations.
The workhorse for that process, acquired by Bentley in January 2008, is now called Hevacomp Simulator V8i. It is used by an estimated 70% of the 5,000 energy consultants practicing in the U.K. today, says Roberts. Bentley is introducing Hevacomp to the U.S. and Canada, re-tooled with local weather data, imperial measurements, a growing library of North American product data and now support for key ASHRAE and LEED standards to facilitate performance-compliance checking and documentation. Even though Hevacomp is a British product, it has U.S. DNA. Like many other energy analysis tools, it has a front-end interface for gathering the necessary data, as well as a back-end “engine” for processing.
Many energy-analysis products use a powerful engine developed by the U.S. Dept. of Energy known as DOE2, but Hevacomp is one of a few built to round-trip data through the newest, more sophisticated version of the DOE engine, EnergyPlus. It can evaluate complex variables like natural ventilation and personal comfort indexes room by room, integrating the results in a graphic display back to the source building model.
Hevacomp’s companions, a package Bentley dubs its “Energy Performance Series,” are Hevacomp Mechanical Designer V8i, which is a tightly integrated HVAC design, load-analysis, pipe, duct, equipment-sizing and layout tool, and a cousin, Bentley Tas Simulator. Because Hevacomp runs such heavy computations, processing can take hours on a complicated design. Tas is built around a simpler and much faster proprietary engine to facilitate conceptual design iteration and exploration of alternatives.
Autodesk’s new offering, Ecotect Analysis 2010, addresses the design exploration process as well but in yet another way. It is the first “official” release of the product since the company bought Ecotect last June, although a stand-alone version, Ecotect 2009, was released in August. One advantage of the integration into the Autodesk product line is subscribers of Ecotect 2010 will get Autodesk’s Green Building Studio—also acquired last June—as part of the deal, according to John Kennedy, Autodesk’s senior manager for sustainable design. Like DOE’s analysis engines, Green Building Studio is a Web-based processing engine that can take preliminary designs, make intelligent assumptions about likely energy loads and crunch performance predictions to get “whole-building energy results,” says Kennedy.
Ecotect’s sweet spot comes in its use as a conceptual design tool to explore alternatives for the most efficient-energy-use options—in site orientation, facade design and materials, shadow play, glazing patterns, mullion details and interior light fall—localized to geography and typical weather patterns. Ecotect’s companionship with Green Building Studio enhances this by driving its data through yet another outside engine, this one maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which doesn’t actually analyze the design, but compares its proposed design features with performance data on other similar structures to return an Energy Star rating number. The practice is to tweak the design, drive the number down and improve predicted performance.