Technology has changed the face of architecture. The advent of 3D software has changed the way that buildings are designed and one aspect that has been overhauled is energy modelling. It’s amazing to think that prior to computer software this process used to be done on paper, or with scale models. Buildings used to have to be completed and observed for how they dealt with energy and then adapted after the fact…

Today’s architects and designers can use 3D software to make a virtual version of the building and then simulate real-world factors such as sunlight or weather, or even the heat given off by humans. Architects can use building simulation to determine energy consumption or utility bills and life cycle costs affect the building, taking into account air-conditioning, lights and water. Building simulation can also evaluate how beneficial green solutions will be — from solar panels to wind turbines and high efficiency appliances. The benefits of energy-modelling can be felt by engineers, manufacturers, building owners, tenants, and the environment.

Help the planet

The environment is an increasingly pressing concern. The 2015 Paris Climate Conference saw 150 countries submit national plans of action to the United Nations even before the summit began. It’s clear that we must cut back on energy use and reliance on fossil fuels. An agreement outlining energy-reducing strategies was reached and this will have repercussions on the way buildings are designed and built. Traditional building methods are responsible for a large portion of greenhouse-gas emissions and also consume natural resources. For example, the building sector in the United States is responsible for 41 percent of the country’s energy usage, according to the US Green Building Council. One way of achieving more environmentally friendly building design and construction will be to adopt energy modelling techniques earlier in the process.

Using building simulation and energy modelling early in the process

A 2015 report by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) found that a target of 60 percent energy reduction was reached by 26 percent of projects, when energy modelling software was used in 2014. An additional 25 percent of projects came close. This was compared with only a few projects that didn’t use energy modelling software achieving the same target. It’s surprising that while using energy modelling is clearly beneficial, only 44,2 percent of projects make use of the process in the concept or schematic phase. So, designers and architects should follow the AIA recommendation to use energy modelling in the earliest phases.

The future.

3D designs tools, increasingly fast hardware, and the sharing of information across platforms has meant that what used to be a dream of what was possible for architects and designers is becoming more and more real. This is visible in building simulation and energy modelling. In future simulations and software will be so well tuned into each other that every change is immediately incorporated and reflected in a reading of the building’s energy performance. So an architect would instantly be able to see the repercussions of moving a wall or window, for example, in a context of the entire building’s projected energy performance.

Optimise future designs using the Autodesk Revit Simulation tool.