Why there’s now no excuse for not doing energy analysis

How much will this house cost…to run?

There’s now no excuse for not getting a good energy analysis done on your house, before it’s even built. That is, if you or your designer is an ArchiCAD user.

Energy Evaluation

From Monday July 16th, version 16 of ArchiCAD will be available and one very exciting new feature is included – Energy Evaluation.

Previously, an addon called EcoDesigner was available (at a price) for ArchiCAD. EcoDesigner allows the designer to simulate the thermal performance of a 3D model created in ArchiCAD. With the location of the building and the correct orientation established, EcoDesigner is able to punch out some very impressive information very quickly, such as the ‘energy balance’ for the home.

Output from Graphisoft’s EcoDesigner plugin for ArchiCAD shows a monthly energy balance for a house

┬áThis type of modelling basically answers the question, “how much money will it cost me each month to keep this house at a certain temperature if I built it in this given location?”. Pretty handy.

BIM

On a wider scale, this type of modelling is just one part of a growing technology called ‘Building Information Modelling’ or BIM. In digital design nirvana, BIM can not only figure out running costs, it can also check if your HVAC ducting is going to get in the way of your plumbing if you change the bathroom layout in multi-storey building. BIM is essentially a way to organise information about all the different systems within a building and then share this information with the designers, engineers and owners involved.

If you think BIM sounds more applicable to commercial buildings, you’re probably right. For now. But consider how great it would be to transform a house concept idea into a virtual 3D model, optimise the building for the best use of sun and of building materials, check that none of the pipes and wires are going to get in each others’ way, and then do a walk through to make sure it all still looks great. This might be more common for the architect market (around 5% 0f the houses built in NZ), but with ArchiCAD 16, even CAD technicians should now be able to at least do a quick energy check of their drawing.

Energy Analysis from a Drawing

Yes, producing a sensible result from a floor plan may require a slight be of extra work. The operator will need to identify the thermal properties of the building elements (the walls, windows, roof and floor). But in most houses, there’s only one or two cladding types and generally one roof and one floor type. The information gained should definitely be worth extra time, but I’m very interested to see how this goes.

From Compliance to Performance

My hope is that having Energy Evaluation built into ArchiCAD, will encourage draughting professionals to nudge their designs above just complying with the building code. I hope that building companies will realise this is available and start promoting it as a feature of their designs. And finally, I hope that as homeowners become aware of this capability, they’ll start demanding it from the building company and asking “how much will this house cost…to run?”