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As part of the Building Simulation 2017 Conference in San Francisco in August, the local IBPSA-San Francisco Bay Area Chapter organized an open practitioner competition, whereby the winner of the competition would be announced at the conference.

There were originally 40+ applications entries to the practitioner competition, with 12 Teams from five different countries making a final submission. The sizes of the practitioner teams was to be determined by the individual team itself.

There could only be one winner who would take home the honours, and with it, a $1,500 Cash Prize sponsored by IES Ltd.  That winning team was “AECOM’s High Performance Buildings and Communities Team“ – so a big congratulations to that team.  This short interview will attempt to gain insight to the mind-set of the highest level of building performance in the practitioner world today. Representing AECOM’s High Performance Buildings & Communities, is Victoria Watson, an Associate with AECOM and team captain of the winning entry.


The practitioner modeling competition was for the “Design and Simulation of a Laboratory Building” in San Francisco, which included requirements for minimising building energy consumption by designing the most efficient MEP and envelope systems possible, while maintaining comfortable conditions inside the building. Innovative simulation-aided design was encouraged.

The report for AECOM’s winning entry can be found online.

This might come as a bit of a surprise to you, but the number of participants from the varying competition entries ranged from one single person to nine people on a team, and AECOM had the team of nine on it.  Please tell us about the teamwork ethos at AECOM and why you chose to include that many team members as part of your entry?

Wow, that’s interesting.  I think the competition brief was written in a way that appealed to individuals and groups in different ways which is great.   We wanted to use the opportunity to include the whole team at the time so we could capitalize on the team building experience.  The whole team doesn’t get to work on the same project in our day to day project activity so this was a great opportunity.   Having a large team also allowed us to cover lots of different expertise from modelling HVAC systems to creating visually appealing graphics. Everyone on the team had different strengths and together we are stronger.

Funnily enough, there was a team entry of one person who came in third in the competition and a team of only two people who came in second. Surely, you must have had some headaches during the design, or is that all part of the process?

Having a large team definitely required more coordination between everyone to make sure we fully capitalized on the benefits of team work.  Working within AECOM as a large multi-discipline design consultancy we were all used to working on large inter-disciplinary teams.   However, the fresh twist was operating as a multidisciplinary team…within an existing team.  This gave us a new perspective on things as we found it much easier to break down some of the communication barriers you can sometimes find on projects as we were all aligned in the project goal.

The design brief called for accurate and intelligent use of building simulation in your design process. Your winning report demonstrated a rather unique visualisation describing your various simulation analyses during the building design process, at different phases of design. Can you describe this to us?

Our design process focused on the importance of integrative design between the different expertise in the team (MEP/Architecture/simulation) to ensure a high performance solution can be achieved.

“From the beginning the entire team was committed to ensure a continuous integrated approach was implemented to produce a final design solution,” said Abhinay Sharma who created the Integrated Design Process graphic.    “The team pursued a non-linear approach throughout the allotted time of 8 weeks and converged at final solution unanimously. This approach naturally pushed the process graphic from a linear timeline to a spiral culminating in a design solution at the end. This provided the opportunity to showcase when each of the processes started and how they interacted with other ongoing processes. The spiral shape also allowed us to incorporate the 8 week timeline in a circular fashion thus providing a concise snapshot of time used in every process.” 

On that note, do you have advice for what tools should be applied at different stages of design, or is that something that evolves differently for every project?

We find that energy simulation tools are constantly evolving their capabilities and therefore we try to keep abreast with these changes so we can utilize these.    We do find that different tools are more appropriate at different stages of the design and it’s not possible to use a “one size fits all” approach.   We do consider each project when deciding how much energy simulation should be undertaken, when should it be undertaken and what tool should be used.  Factors that influence those decisions include project performance aspirations, timeline, budget, code requirements, client requirements and the design team.   We tend to split our performance based design tools into conceptual (E.g.  Sefaira / Grasshopper) and detailed (E.g. IES / Transys).  We look for opportunities’ to bridge the gap between the tools where possible and that’s where interoperability is very important.   One of the most important things is that the person controlling the tool is comfortable with that tool (to avoid garbage in = garbage out) and sometimes this will mean a certain tool is actually the right choice for a particular project because of modeller expertise.

Can you describe what “multi-objective, multi-variable optimization simulation” is and when it should be applied on a typical project?

Multi-objective, multi-variable optimization simulation is when you are trying to optimize multiple outputs (in our case minimize glare and maximize daylight) whilst varying multiple variables (in our case number of windows, window area, location and shading) within the limits set.

“This evolutionary trade-off analysis tool is the best way to provide energy performance feedback for design decision support in a quicker and comparatively more accurate way,” said Xiaofei Shen.  “This is especially important at the beginning of the conceptual stage when there are millions of redundant iterations generated from the parametric models, which is more possible due to the extensive usage of scripting architectural design programs nowadays. With the limit of time and budget restrictions, we’ll rely more and more on this rich-data multi-task methodology to tackle the complex active system design issues in future performance based building design.”

The computational capacity that we have at our disposal today through our regular computers is enough to solve thousands upon thousands of possible outcomes for a given set of inputs,” said Aman Singhvi who led the multivariable optimization process.  “Multivariable multi-objective optimization process numerically eliminates ‘unfit’ design solutions through an exhaustive search-and-optimization process. Even though this method can be used at any stage and at any scale of the design process, it is immensely useful in the early concept stage when there are countless parameters affecting the design, resulting in virtually infinite solutions.”

How important is it to identify the synergies between various energy end uses, when analysing passive and active design strategies?  What approaches did you consider for this during the competition?

It is important as building design involves a lot of trade off of different elements therefore considering synergies between strategies allows the “biggest bang for your buck” approach to be taken.   It is also important because sometimes energy performance can throw you results you weren’t expecting that can be missed when looking at things in isolation.   A good example of this is with earth tubes or heat recovery, where it’s easy to see how these techniques can reduce building heating and cooling load, but they also increase fan energy.  I learnt this the hard way moving from the UK where heat recovery was seen as a “no brainer” to sunny southern California where it often doesn’t stack up.

“The primary idea was to first identify all the lowest hanging fruits given the design brief/ constraints,” explained Sandy Mukherjee who led this process for the competition. “Listing out our active and passive design options side by side allowed us to understand where all the synergies lied and which ones we could take advantage of in our design. We took smaller parts of the building to first test out our various strategies as well as to ensure that the synergies are working in our favour and as we expected. We then applied it to the whole building. This part-to-whole approach rendered some confidence in our modelling, especially for systems that aren’t very straightforward to model like the earth tubes.”

There were some very innovative design features integrated into the design, such as solar tubes, wind-catchers, natural ventilation via operable windows, solar shading, high-efficiency VRF and below-ground ventilated earth tubes. In hindsight, how difficult was it to accurately simulate the performance of each of these design features?

We definitely had some challenges trying to ensure we were modelling certain elements as accurately as possible.  However the reality of energy simulation is that there is also some trade-off on accuracy when bringing certain strategies together into an energy model.  One software can’t be an expert in modelling the intrinsic detail of every design solution, however for us finding a reasonable level of accuracy that we could comfortably trade off approaches against each other, was what we were looking for.

The HVAC modeling diagram seems quite involved and we recognise ApacheHVAC being utilised. Do you have any advice for integrating the process of HVAC sizing and HVAC energy simulation with this tool?

ApacheHVAC is great for modelling bespoke systems as it allows for ground up construction of the system air streams and controls and so can be tailored to suit most situations. Using the in-built prototype systems is a great way to get something up and running quickly and also use for reference when building new systems.  It’s important when using ApacheHVAC though to take ownership of the controls and components and work through them understanding what is being done at each step (and making changes where it doesn’t match the design).   There is definitely some trial and error involved with running it through ApacheHVAC but that’s part of the fun of learning!  Sometimes the control strategy will be left until the end of design but using ApacheHVAC brings it to the front of design where it should be as you need to be able to set up and control the systems in the model (again the prototype controls are a great starting point).   ApacheHVAC is always improving in auto-sizing capabilities and this can be very useful at a stage where the system design has not fully evolved.   

AECOM’s use of visual analysis in the design brief was exceptional. Is this due to a limitation in existing simulation tools or rather an intentional method to apply your own unique visual techniques in order to standout?

Being able to present design ideas and analysis in a visual fashion is important as many people find it easier to understand things when presented in this way.  Having the larger team enabled us to pair up expertise – detailed analysis with graphical expertise to ensure we had robust analysis behind the visuals.   What makes visualizations so powerful is that they put the key information up front and therefore ensure the take-away message is what you are trying to communicate.   This inherently means that they are often bespoke as one solution doesn’t fit all and therefore unique visuals are much more powerful.

On that same topic, what is your advice for the commercial building performance software vendors for visualisation outputs? Do firms like yours prefer ‘canned’ reports and graphs, or do you prefer a facility to export data, and customize the output, or are both options still as desirable as ever.

I think that software vendors should focus on making sure they can provide outputs clearly which can be worked with in a user friendly manner (E.g. viewing different parameters / saving selections) so the tool can be used for analysis and exporting the data.   If this can be done well it supports the actual analysis being done quickly in the tool which frees up time for any bespoke visuals if needed outside the software that work for the project.

The data from the building performance simulation software is objective, which is required to be accurate and consistent with each other no matter what software you use” said Xiaofei Shen who led the team’s graphics production. “The way we visualize the data, on the contrary, needs to be customized, which is more subjective, to fit into different situations from one project to another. In that case, we prefer all the parameters and outputs exported from the software to be editable in different formats, so we can always have our own options to address them in different ways. Sometimes integrated with the architecture and building system design, for better and easier communications with designers, clients and the public.”

The reviewers noted that while AECOM targeted low energy consumption in your report, metrics for thermal comfort and daylight performance were simultaneously analysed. How important is it to provide an integrated whole-building set of solutions?

This is very important. The concept of a high performance building is not limited to energy performance but also includes occupant wellness.  The building is built in a matter of years (sometimes less..) and is in use for decades typically being built for occupants.

After all is said and done, was the experience of the competition worth it for the recognition and/or for the internal team-building? Will you take any lessons learned and apply them in your day-to-day practice?

I definitely think it was worth it for the improved skills, the community recognition of our efforts and most importantly the team-building element.  Let’s see what some of the team thought!

“We have explored various capabilities and skills among our team members, which not only expanded our understanding of what we each can work on, but it also enriched our modeling knowledge; and strengthened further our foundation for future collaborative works” said team member Maria Spastri.

“The experience of going through the process definitely taught us 2 things,” said team member Sandy Mukherjee.

“1) Effective and timely collaboration and team work is instrumental in producing quality deliverables. With a diverse team, the workload gets distributed and members can take ownership of various parts of the design which can then at the end get stitched together.

2) Often at times, as we’re more technically inclined, we focus more on the energy simulation results/savings side of things but tend to ignore the story telling piece. Strong visuals backed by robust analysis can sometimes be very effective in portraying the strong side of the design, whereas analysis outputs by themselves can get one lost in numbers.”

AECOM’s team included Victoria Watson, Sandy Mukherjee, Abhinay Sharma, Maria Spastri, Aman Singhvi, Xiaofei Shen, Kenneth Teeter-Moore, Calum Thompson and Lisha Deng.


Thank you again to AECOM for raising the bar with this simulation report. I really hope the organisers of the next Building Simulation Conference in Rome include a practitioner competition.

This interview was also published in the October 2017 IBPSA News Volume 27 No 2

We believe that much more needs to be done to mitigate climate change. It’s happening faster than anyone wants to believe. And buildings play a huge part in this. In fact, buildings are responsible for 40% of the world’s carbon emissions – that’s more than any other industry. If we are going to save the planet, we need to focus on dramatically reducing this number. This is fundamentally why we do what we do at IES. We want to reduce the environmental impact that buildings have on our planet.

As Earth Day approaches, we want to help raise awareness about the impact that buildings have on the environment and why we need to take action now before it becomes too late. Recent political events such as President Trump’s reversal of US Climate Change policies means it’s now more important than ever that we stand together and fight against what we all know to be a very real threat. This is why IES are standing side-by-side with Green Building Councils and other like-minded organisations across the globe to do as much as we can to mitigate the effects of Climate Change. We recently signed a letter by the USGBC to support them in trying to save key programs run by the Environmental Protection Agency, you can too by clicking on this link.

Last year a powerful message from Architecture 2030 resonated strongly with us and is as relevant (if not more so) now. The message came in an article just after Donald Trump was elected as President and it said it was important to remember that we are far from powerless to continue to effect meaningful change, and that change had to happen from the bottom up and not the top down. It reminded us of all the great work that has already been done and this momentum will continue regardless of what is being said at the top. The following statistics were cited in the article…

“Worldwide, 533 cities are now reporting their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a 70% increase in reporting since the Paris Agreement. To date, 30% of these cities have GHG emissions reduction targets. In North America, 56% of the cities reporting have GHG emissions reduction targets, many declaring zero emissions or an 80% reduction by 2050 or earlier.” Read the full article.

In its 2014 2030 Commitment Progress Report, the AIA stated “Quite simply, energy modeling presents the greatest opportunity for architects to realize more ambitious energy-saving in their design projects.” With this in mind, a holistic approach to energy and performance modeling is imperative.

The IES Virtual Environment (IESVE) gives you the factual insights required to accurately establish everything from what building materials to use to reduce drafts and avoid overheating from the sun, to how best to right-size your systems, to dramatically reduce running costs, to how to reduce water consumption and overall energy demands. The key to our success, and the reason why tens of thousands of people around the world are using IESVE to make better buildings, is our ability to look at the building in an integrated way to pinpoint simple but highly effective things you can do to reduce your buildings impact on our planet.

At IES we think we should make every day Earth Day. As our Founder and CEO Dr Don McLean said, “Only by looking at buildings and cities as the integrated environments that they are – instead of parts of the problem in isolation – can we ensure everyone involved in the conception, design or management of a building gets to leave our world in a much better state than we inherited it.”

Let’s work together and do more to save our planet. We’ve only got one. Are you up to the challenge?

What You Can Do

Take advantage of our FREE Earth Day special give aways to empower you to help save our planet.

Have a look at our Earth Day Infographic for more facts and figures on how buildings are impacting our planet.

Watch our Founder and CEO, Don McLean’s Earth Day video message.

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Lowdown Showdown 2016 Model

What do you get when you challenge nine interdisciplinary teams to design a net zero (or below) 50,000 ft2, 3-story Outpatient Health Care facility in Omaha, Nebraska? You get ASHRAE’s Lowdown Showdown, an energy modeling competition that showcases the talent and innovation of those in our industry using building performance analysis software.

Last year, Team IES won Best Energy Use Results and we were delighted that the winning streak continued after the team were awarded Best Workflow at SimBuild 2016 in Salt Lake City on August 11th.

This year’s IES team – going under the name Insane Energy Savers – consisted of the following members: Kent Beason, Joanne Choi, Cory Duggin, Alexandra Gramling, Ken Griffin, Amy Jarvis, Shona O’Dea, Igor Seryapin, Irina Susorova, Tristan Truyens, Brian Tysoe, Scott West and Xiangjin Yang.

A remote team meeting for the Insane Energy Savers

A remote team meeting for the Insane Energy Savers

Our Project
Our design started by modifying the massing and program to be as climate responsive as possible, while still maintaining the core mission of an outpatient surgery center.  Any non-critical spaces were migrated to the second and third floors where a common atrium was added in lieu of the circulation program areas.  Exam rooms and office spaces were placed along the perimeter to allow cross ventilation from them through the atrium.  Based on wind roses for the shoulder seasons, when natural ventilation is most viable, the building was rotated for the south façade to be in line with the predominant south eastern wind.

Stair stepping the south façade allows the building to self-shade for the entire cooling season and allows for passive heating in the winter as well as passive reheating of air-change dominated spaces on the first floor.  Since Omaha has a significant heating season, the R-value of the walls, roof and glazing were optimized to reduce heat loss.

The air change constraints in the first floor program caused us to consider it separately.  A separate dedicated outside air system (DOAS) is used for the critical spaces coupled with earth tubes to precool and preheat the required ventilation air.  The non-critical areas use another DOAS with a south facing vertically mounted transpired solar collector for preheating since the windows will be open for cross ventilation during much of the cooling season.  All spaces and both DOAS use a geothermal, water-cooled VRV system for their cooling and heating.

The tilted roof of the atrium was designed to hold photovoltaic panels with a 19.6% efficiency.  Wind turbines were also used to produce the remainder of the energy required to get net zero.

Take a look at the poster below for more info on the project’s energy saving strategies.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

An ‘Insane’ Effort
In my role as team mentor, it was awesome to see first-hand how our talented team used the Virtual Environment to complete this challenge. A lot of work was put in and it paid off when they picked up their award for Best Workflow.

It was a great effort by all involved – not just the insane ones – and it’s fantastic how each team came together to demonstrate how energy modeling tools can be used to make such a positive impact on our built environment. Bring on next year’s challenge!

Click here to see view the Insane Energy Savers’ Lowdown Showdown presentation slides.

The AIA recently issued a press release announcing the findings of its AIA 2030 Commitment 2014 Progress report.
The report showed that nearly half of energy-modeled projects met or came close to meeting 2014 carbon reduction targets, with a quote from the press release saying “Quite simply, energy modeling presents the greatest opportunity for architects to realize more ambitious energy-saving in their design projects.”

The press release featured industry experts who agreed that energy modeling is key to reaching carbon neutrality in buildings. We interviewed one of the experts, Kim Shinn, a Sustainability Wizard at TLC Engineering for Architecture, to find out more of his views on energy modeling and the benefits of an integrated design workflow.

Why is an integrated design process, where the architect, engineer, owner, developer, and contractor are a critical part of the concept modeling stage, so important to creating sustainable buildings?
A couple of reasons come to mind.  The first is the principal that the earlier you can make an informed decision, the greater its impact on the building’s potential to perform well and the lower it will cost to implement. The second is that each member of the team brings special knowledge, perspective and experience to help inform those decisions – we benefit in the whole having greater knowledge than the sum of the parts.

Why is it so important for Architects to incorporate energy modeling as part of their design process?
All building performance simulations, not just the ones that model energy performance, are incredible tools that open a window into the design process.  Buildings are complex, comprising interactive elements and systems that defy the human mind’s ability to integrate all that information to develop design solutions and evaluate alternatives.  The decisions that project teams must make, especially the architects, from siting and orientation, to massing, to fenestration, to program area assignment, all the way down to envelope constructions are best informed when the architect understands the energy implications of those decisions, along with cost, aesthetics, function and human health and wellness.  Architects have to balance all those factors and the more information that they have about them, the better decisions they can make.

What do you think makes Architects hesitant about energy modeling? What are the obstacles to the uptake of energy modeling?
Energy modelling tools, especially the ones with a lot of power and capability, can be very complex and intimidating.  I frequently tease architects that energy models are powerful and complex tools, and as with many powerful and complex tools, an inexperienced operator can be maimed if not careful.  Also, the output of some of the older tools have traditionally been mostly numerical and not easily or quickly understood without a lot of “post-processing”.  Understanding and effective use of an energy model depends upon the user’s ability, skill and knowledge of building science.  Unfortunately, some architects are intimidated by “science” and think that “science” is the province of engineers.  So, I think architects are hesitant because they fear that they won’t be able to use the software and/or understand the model’s results without having to hire a consultant (normally an engineer).  Who wants an engineer around during design anyway – their vocabulary usually starts and ends with “no”.  Architects think it will take too much time and money (especially if they have to pay a consultant to do it).  Therefore, the obstacles:  knowledge, time and money.

Do you think concept energy modeling is enough? Is there a need for more detailed energy modeling at the early stages to uncover innovative strategies?
Concept modeling is a start, and needs to be more widely used.  If it becomes more routinely used, I think teams will see that there are opportunities to investigate novel and innovative strategies at early stages of design – especially to determine if further, more intensive investigations are warranted and feasible.

In your experience of using IESVE do you think it enables more detailed analysis at early design stages? If so can you explain how it does this?
Without question.  The integrated suite of solar, daylighting and glare analysis, wind and ventilation modeling, along with the energy analysis offered in the VE sets it apart in its ability to figuratively “open the windows” [pun intended] for looking at any number of early strategies that help shape the building’s architecture.  Effective daylighting and natural ventilation depend so much upon building form, fenestration and orientation that it is difficult and usually prohibitively expensive to develop and implement good solutions after those decisions are made in the absence of the information gained from simulations.  The VE also has enormous power and potential to influence, not only energy performance, but also the health and wellness performance of buildings, especially when it comes to occupant comfort and productivity that results from good daylighting, indoor comfort and natural ventilation.

Do you think the AIA guide will have a significant impact on increasing the amount of projects that use an integrated design process?
The Institute is incredibly influential.  It is trusted by its members, as well as the greater design and construction community, for the quality of its educational offerings as well as for helping shape the culture of the design practice.  The education materials developed, as well as the policies adopted and advocated by the Institute have the potential to change the way architecture is practiced, not only in North America, but around the world.  And these changes affect the way real estate development happen – all the way from client expectations to project delivery to actual performance.

Do you know of any good project examples that have used an integrated design process and are achieving good results? Can you share these with us?
I daresay that any Living Building or LEED Platinum project is an excellent example of an integrated design process.  In fact, it is almost inconceivable to think of achieving those levels of performance without using integrated design processes – short of spending inordinate sums on “buying points” and excessive renewable energy capacity.  While we have many, many examples of these projects, I’ll just cite one.  The fitness center at Tyndall Air Force Base is the US Air Force’s first LEED Platinum building, and the first LEED Platinum project administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  The architect was Atkins and TLC provided the building systems engineering.  The Air Force wanted to use the project as an educational demonstration project, to demonstrate how integrated design and incorporating early energy modelling could achieve high performance goals – they wanted the project to demonstrate how to achieve LEED Silver level on a “conventional” building budget.  I think it speaks volumes that we were able to achieve Platinum on a pre-LEED budget.  We used energy modelling at the concept phase to influence site orientation, massing, and fenestration approaches to minimize solar gain and maximize daylighting potential, as well as to maximize the solar photovoltaic and solar thermal potential of the building for no capital cost impact.  We used energy and daylight modelling to size the window apertures and glazing material selections during design development, as well as to optimize the equipment sizing, achieving significant capital cost savings over more “conventional” approaches.

Team IES


You may remember we blogged back in August about our participation in the ASHRAE LowDown Showdown competition. Well, we have some great news… Team IES won the Best Energy Use Results category! Liam Buckley coached the winning team, fighting off competition from seven other practitioner teams, representing software-specific tools from: Autodesk, Carrier, DesignBuilder, eQUEST, EnergyPlus, Sefaira, and Trane. We asked Liam to tell us more about the winning entry and the winning team…

Our brief was to design a three-story; 53,600-square-foot office building that included a number of specific design challenges, but also encouraged design creativity. Projects were judged on energy efficiency, design creativity, workflow innovation, teamwork and collaboration.

Obviously, the team decided to make the challenge even more challenging by locating the building in downtown Boulder, where the climate experiences vast and extreme variations including annual external conditions ranging from (-4° F to 93°F); (6% -100% Relative Humidity) and commonly occurring daytime-to-night-time temperature swings of 35°F.

The team considered 150+ Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) and eventually chose 25-30 strategically sequenced ECMs, which included daylight harvesting controls; natural ventilation with exposed thermal mass and automated night-purge control; an air-to-water heat pump; energy-star equipment; plug load schedules from metered ZNE evangelists; fixed and dynamic solar shading; airside heat-recovery wheel; IT server virtualization; radiant floors for improved thermal comfort; an optimized electric lighting design; a high-performance envelope with heat-mirror glazing and insulated panels. Finally, the integral ECM of the building showcased a passive negatively-airflow-integrated atrium, which considered all climatic eventualities.

To compliment the solar hot-water heating system, which was coupled with electricity-generating PV panels, additional explicit onsite renewable energy technologies included 5 Vertical Axis Wind Turbines. These were further optimized by the building architecture.

Our team wanted to ensure that the design would not only meet net-zero standards for next year, but that 50 years down the line, would still be operating at net-zero energy. To ensure this, we morphed the TMY15 weather data 50 years into the future (to 2064) and planned for the addition of two building-integrated evaporative down-draft cool towers that assist with cooling, which would keep the building operating at zero net energy despite higher cooling loads.

I was thrilled that our team won this award for Best Energy Use Results. The team worked really hard; although the IESVE is a powerful software suite with vast capabilities, the tools are only as good as the people using them, and we had an incredible team using them. They deserved it. It was a real pleasure working with such a talented group of people.

The team members were: Anna Osborne (Integral Group), Ben Brannon (Arup), Shona O’Dea (DLR Group), Megan Gunther (Affiliated Engineers, Inc.), Cory Duggin (TLC Engineering for Architecture),  Greg Romanczyk (exp) and Scott West (HKS Inc.).

Our team has created a video presentation of the winning design which can be viewed at https://youtu.be/7V5LktxK5ig.

On the build up to this year’s ASHRAE Energy Modeling conference in Atlanta, ASHRAE have launched the new Lowdown Showdown modeling challenge. ASHRAE have put together a selection of teams consisting of engineers, architects, designers and energy modelers, who will be coached by software vendors including IES, as they compete to design and model a net-zero energy building.

The challenge, which started in June, will run for 3 months on the lead up to the conference that kicks off at the end of September. Each team has been given a baseline building, which they must then work on together to create a design proposal that demonstrates net zero energy performance.

The teams will present their final design on October 1st at the ASHRAE Energy Modeling conference. The “LowDown Showdown” projects will be voted on by the conference attendees and will be judged on Energy Use Results, Creativity, Innovative Workflow and Teamwork.

I’m very excited to be working with the group that ASHRAE have assigned to the IES team. ASHRAE have given us a tricky challenge but I’m confident in the talent on the team, and that they’ll overcome and surpass expectations. Our team consists of the following members:

Ben Brannon (Arup)
Anna Osborne (Integral Group)
Greg Romanczyk (exp)
Cory Duggin (TLC Engineering for Architecture)
Shona O’Dea (DLR Group)
Megan Gunther (Affiliated Engineers, Inc.)
Scott West (Jacobs)
Andrea Costa (ACE Energy Concepts)

Even though the team is spread across a massive region, I’ve been lucky enough to meet them all before. On a personal level, they are all really wonderful people and it’s a pleasure to work with them. I’m looking forward to seeing their presentation. If you are too, we’ll see you in Atlanta on October 1st!

The conference is set to be a busy week for IES. Our team will be exhibiting our latest VE solutions and we’re hosting two pre show training workshops – HVAC Loads Sizing and Energy Modeling (http://ow.ly/QNYlk) and Advanced HVAC Modeling (http://ow.ly/QNYq3).

It doesn’t stop there. My IES colleagues Nathan and Megan will also be taking part in the following presentations, so try and check them out if you’re coming to Atlanta…

  • Climate Variation Sensitivity in Building Energy Simulation
    Wednesday, September 30, 1:45 PM-3:00 PM All About the Weather
  • Intelligent Simplification: Consequences of Grouping Floors with Identical Thermal Blocks
    Wednesday, September 30, 3:30 PM-5:00 PM Thermal Comfort
  • Quantifying Passive School Design Strategies for the 21st Century in 16 Climate Zones
    Friday, October 2, 8:15 AM-10:00 AM Parametric Modeling for Design

IES are also hosting a welcome reception for our customers on the Wednesday evening, September 30th – details coming soon.

This month we welcome guest blogger Janet Beckett to the IES blog to reveal 5 things she’s learned from a “BIM on a BUDGET” project. Janet is a Low Carbon Consultant and Director at Carbon Saver UK.

Our BIM on Budget story began a year ago when a local chap phoned us to ask about refurbishment of their existing offices. Apparently they had googled “HVAC Engineer in Leeds” and up we popped, Carbon Saver UK. Thank you then to twitter and LinkedIn, not “time wasting” after all.

We won the project by offering to “BIM” it at no additional cost to the client. To clarify BIM, Building Information Modelling (or Management?) is NOT 3D drawings, in just the same way that M&E design is NOT drawing 2D, 3D or otherwise. BIM is about managing and sharing information digitally and following the design process, nothing new perhaps but with new technology and more structured data.

Our suggestions to the client that they appoint an Architect and a Quantity surveyor were firmly rebuffed on the basis that they could not afford it and so we were left with little choice but to step out on a lonely BIM path.

Our first BIM or 3D building model was constructed using IES VE Pro dynamic thermal simulation to model the existing “real” building and apply fabric improvements to determine the best cost vs benefit analysis for the client. We used the IES model also for our loads calculations and solar gain assessments.
We then proceeded to build the project model using AutoCAD and Fabrication CADmep, the preferred 3D CAD software for M&E CAD draughting.

The client did ask us at one point whether we would be delivering Level 2 BIM? My honest answer was that really this would be more like Level 1 and a bit BIM and that we were still learning along with many others in the industry.
My answer to the question however “Did we BIM it?” has to be an emphatic YES. We certainly (BI)Managed it. I never thought I would miss having an Architect on a project soooo much. We definitely (BI)Modelled it, in fact more than once…

Of course our lonely BIM route meant that we circumvented a lot of tricky BIM hurdles. However everyone has to start somewhere, we all learnt a lot and the client is really pleased with the end result and is asking for more elements to be added to the model.

To summarise, here are the 5 BIM things we learned that worked or we would do a bit differently next time:
1.    Use your 3D model images as a selling tool, clients like them.
2.    You’re appointed. Get an Architect on board, it’s lonely without one.
3.    Do your first very simple building model and M&E volume allocations in Google sketch up (it’s FREE yay), this can then be exported into IES (they assure me) and also into the Architects model.
4.    Use same IES model for early, mid and later detailed design calculations and value added energy and carbon reduction decisions and for Part L compliance as well (which we did).
5.    Make use of existing in house skills. This was our driver for using Fabrication CADmep in our Consultants drawings. OK it’s a bit unusual but there’s no law against it and it worked well.

So here’s to our next “BIM” project and it looks as though we may already have one…

Got something interesting to share on the IES blog? Email john.goucher@iesve.com to find out about becoming a guest blogger.

TLC Energy Modeling Competition

Posted: December 19, 2012 by , Category:Modeling, software

During the summer you may have read the case study on our website that reported on TLC Engineering for Architecture and their commitment to selecting the Virtual Environment (VE) as their primary energy calculation tool, to utilize its advanced capabilities for HVAC loads and energy modeling, as well as helping their architectural clients with daylight analysis and modeling. The case study shows that with 300 employees and 11 offices, rolling out our software and educating their staff was not without its challenges, but a combination of face to face training and an internal user forum (initially monitored by IES) assisted the process.

I was curious to see the progress TLC were making with the VE since the case study was published, and that’s why I jumped at the opportunity when I was asked to be on the judging panel for an internal Energy Modeling competition that the company were running as part of their 1st Annual Green Week.

The competition was open to all VE users in the company and had two categories. The first was Best VE Project to Date, which required entrees to present their most interesting and significant project modeled in the VE to date. The 2nd competition was for Upgrade Design and Model, which challenged the company’s VE users to take a base building model, upgrade the design and present the results of their energy model. The winner for this category would be selected on the basis of greatest energy savings.

Each member presented their models for the competition in a live webinar on September 27th, with the winners being announced as Edward Gillet (Upgrade Design and Model) and Socorro Jarvisto (Best VE Project to Date). The video below is taken from the webinar which took place during the TLC Green week and features the competition’s two winning presentations.

So what did I think of the competition entries?

TLC’s commitment to sustainable design puts them in the highest echelon of integrated design firms in the US and I’m amazed with how quickly TLC Engineers have become VE-Pro experts.
The passionate leadership shown by the company is clearly complimented by the truly talented daylight, airflow and energy modeling capabilities their engineers express through VE-Pro.

For me, the ‘Best VE Model to Date’ project presentation highlights included the statements:
– “By modeling the solatubes, we achieved all 19 points available for LEED EAc1; Optimize Energy Performance.”
– “At an pEUI of 35 kBtu/sf/year; we realized our AIA 2030 commitment with a 60% energy saving.”
– “The resulting pEUI of the hospital was 108 kBtu/sf/year.”
– “I used the VE-Pro model to give the architect a small lesson in heat transfer”
The ‘Upgrade Design & Model’ Competition allowed some really innovative ECMs (Energy Conservation Measures) to be evaluated. The ECMs included double-skin façades, daylight harvesting, HE heat pumps, demand controlled ventilation and underfloor air distribution.

All in all I was hugely impressed with the modelling skills the team at TLC have shown and I’d like to thank them for letting me be a part of their Green Week celebrations. I can’t wait to see the future long list of net-zero buildings they will soon have on their resume.


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