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Once again, IES is proud to be sponsoring the CIBSE Building Simulation Group Award, an annual competition open to postgraduate students from the UK and overseas for the best research project undertaken at Master’s level or equivalent to incorporate the application of building simulation tools.
The Awards will be announced at the CIBSE Building Simulation Group’s next event which is due to take place in London tomorrow evening (Wednesday 8th February). The fully booked event will comprise of a seminar on the topic of ‘Overheating risk assessment simulation and methodologies for buildings’, during which the winners will also be presented their awards by IES’ own Naghman Khan, Secretary of the CIBSE Building Simulation Group.
The winning thesis will be awarded a £1,000 cash prize, a full VE-Pro software licence for one year and a place on one of our 3-day public training events. Two runners up will receive a £250 cash prize, also sponsored by IES.
Watch out for details of this year’s winning submissions appearing on the CIBSE Building Simulation Group Award page after tomorrow’s event, where you can also read more about previous winners of this prestigious student award. Any students interested in entering next year’s awards should also watch out for details of the next challenge being posted on the CIBSE BSG Award page in due course.
In a recent interview with Leah Wimpenny of BIM Journal, IES’ Sarah Graham shared her latest thoughts and insight on the various shortcomings, strategies and approaches to BIM. Read on to see what she had to say…
Sarah Graham (Head of Global VE Sales) works for IES, a world leader in 3D performance analysis software used to design tens of thousands of energy efficient buildings across the globe. The technology IES uses is helping to create sustainable cities and is leading the way with its BIM4Analysis solutions.
Her expertise lies in the areas of BIM and the positive impact it can have on a design process, low energy efficiency, collaborative working, sustainable design, assessment and energy management. She provides her clients with expert knowledge and advice, specialist modelling and simulation on a diverse range of projects including archive buildings, schools, offices, hotels and leisure facilities.
Regarding the present BIM landscape, what do you feel are some of the shortcomings of traditional, closed BIM, and do you feel that a more open, transparent and collaborative approach based on open standards and workflows can resolve some of these concerns?
Many practitioners consider BIM to be a tool, an application, when in fact BIM refers to an environment within which various tools and processes are applied. It has been easier for organizations to invest in technology to ‘do BIM’ than to affect the sort of organizational change that true BIM exploitation requires.
Is there sufficient understanding, appetite and momentum within the industry for the scale of change required to fully exploit BIM? There is a mandate but few construction clients who understand their role in setting out their Information Requirements (EIR) in a BIM brief at the start of the project and are led by the industry and their suppliers into paying more for 3D models that are of very little value downstream, particularly from an FM perspective. What we see is ‘new’ technology shoehorned into existing process and that is the fundamental issue currently causing frustration amongst our customers.
A more open, transparent and collaborative approach based on open standards and workflows can certainly resolve some of these concerns, and it is something we’ve been pushing for some time now with our BIM4Analysis educational campaign. BIM4Analysis is a campaign designed to integrate analysis within the BIM process, this enables practitioners to take advantage of valuable information during design, commissioning and operation. The strategy is concerned with implementing BIM as a mechanism to deliver Value, Cost and Carbon Improvement on all projects.
What benefits can see you a transparent and collaborative workflow, with a common language and translation, bringing to construction projects, both in comparison to those already utilizing BIM and also those which are perhaps not.
The Holy Grail is a single workflow. From an engineering perspective this means engineers inputting information into a 3D model format to inform coordination. When the coordinated layout changes, the update is seamless and bi-directional, there is currently no robust solution on the market to facilitate this. Engineer’s use a mix of formats including spreadsheets and standalone analysis and some integrated analysis (eg MagiCAD).
At IES we consider the VE as a single platform for creation and capture of performance data useable and useful during design, commissioning and operational life of the building. Compliance (Part L, BREEAM, LEED) is a necessity on most projects. Currently this requires a separate workflow to Design. Our solution is to develop a single analysis model from the BIM model at the appropriate stages of the project and to run the calculations from that one ‘analysis’ model, thus ensuring that the designers are using the most up to date information.
When the design changes, the BIM model is again imported with the relevant data and the various calculations are run again with results sent back to the BIM models. When the project is set up for collaboration and the process is understood it becomes easier.
What limitations or challenges might you also see stemming from collaborative workflow, and can you see this means of working being one to stunt creativity and relationship development, or perhaps complement it in the alternative means of working, with clear controls over personal design data?
I think the benefits far outweigh the limitations, elsewhere we see exponential advantages when technology enables connection of different applications. Collaboration between project stakeholders facilitated by technology within a framework where roles, responsibilities and timescales are transparent is where we should already be.
How do you see openBIM altering the landscape with relevance to small and medium enterprises, the alteration or boundaries to entry, and potentially increased competition from smaller software vendors and the impacts of this on those already-established core brands?
Open BIM creating competition is healthy. Smaller firms can be more agile to respond quickly to market demands, accelerating change. Tech will move forward apace as we see in other walks of life. It’s the people and process change that takes time.
At which points of the project lifespan do you see the primary effects, be they negative or positive, of openBIM on any given project? This could include anything from initial concepts and plans all the way through to the asset management and planned renovation of structures in future years.
I think the ability to connect design to operation so that we can continuously improve operation or more intelligently answer questions based on real data from existing buildings is extremely powerful. Operational data to shape business outcomes is also powerful. As we move forward to BIM Level 3 – Digital Built Britain this is the vision: Akin to the concept of ‘wearable technology’ for buildings, cities and organizations, I have the data and I can ask questions which will help to improve performance.
In which areas, be they part of the lifespan or with regard to throughout the supply chain and partners, do you perceive challenges with regard to the implementation of openBIM, and how can you perhaps see these challenges being overcome?
At the moment the resistance is largely down to the fact that processes have not changed, contractual arrangements do not need to fundamentally change for Level 2 but as we move forward to Level 3 the contractual arrangements will have to change because it will force sharing of data. This is where the real transformation needs to happen to the industry. The understanding is that if we can track information right through the design process, construction process and operation, then we are in a better place to make the right decisions to achieve the desired outcomes so it is of benefit to us as individuals and organizations.
What experience have you personally had with openBIM? If this is somewhat limited, could you instead entail experiences with traditional BIM and purvey opinion on how the openBIM approach could have changed, be that positively or negatively, project outcomes or experiences? This could, and perhaps should, include any case studies you have on both notes.
We have been members of BuildingSMART and held a position on the Energy Sub Group for many years, Building SMART are the main proponents of openBIM in the UK and worldwide. As a vendor organization it is essential we stay up to date with what is happening in the market. As mentioned the technology of openBIM is only part of the shift to BIM adoption, people and process needs to change to and this is the most difficult change to effect.
The construction industry is traditionally adversarial, risk averse and the perception is that sharing data, information, which is the central tenet of openBIM is dangerous, opening individuals and organizations up to risk and exposure. This is where we see the current inertia in the uptake, however if we have a situation where the client is educated, understands how to ‘ask for’ what they want and is clear in setting out their requirements then we have a good basis for successful collaboration. On a Level 2 BIM project individuals and organizations can choose what information they want to share, in which format and for what purpose because a framework exists to manage this and there are exchange formats agreed to.
Where there is no framework and no agreement by participants as to what formats should be used, where we are trying to force design tools to talk to one another without adhering to any process, model or level of detail, which is a fairly regular occurrence at the moment, then we see limited benefit on projects. OpenBIM can facilitate collaboration, decision making and mutual success in the correct project environment. The reality is that we are still at the early stages of understanding how this is supposed to work and there are few success stories out there that practitioners can learn from.
How can you see the openBIM approach, methodology and philosophy being adapted in the given years? In which ways might you support this development with any given reasoning and purpose?
We are at the early stages of this phase of evolution of our industry. I think there will be a convergence of the natural progression of technology and greater understanding of the potential benefits. There may also be a bit of a realization that if we don’t move forward and embrace change, whether in the form of openBIM standards/philosophy or more generally, then there is a good chance we will be left behind.
The irony is that we adopt quite an ‘openBIM’ attitude when it comes to our personal data, we use smartphones therefore we are sharing data all the time, but when it comes to sharing data on a project, which arguably belongs to our client, we recoil. I’ve mentioned Digital Built Britain previously, I consider that vision very useful for putting what we are trying to achieve now with openBIM or BIM level 2 into perspective.
There are lots of examples in our everyday lives data is capturing and sharing amplifying the potential benefits. Over the next few years the Internet of things will see the amount of data available increase, everything will be producing data and we as designers will benefit from being able to capture and utilize that information. That is what openBIM is preparing us for.
This article was originally published by BIM Journal on January 11, 2017: http://www.bimjournal.com/digital-construction-news/bim-news/shortcomings-strategies-approaches-bim-sarah-graham
With a new year upon us, exciting times are ahead as we announce that IES will be sponsoring the Practitioner Modeling Competition which is being organized by the IBPSA-USA San Francisco Bay Area Chapter as part of Building Simulation 2017! The challenge, which is open to individual practitioners or teams, provides a competitive forum for non-student members of the building simulation community and aims to encourage wider participation in the conference.
This year’s competition requires entrants to use computer simulation to design and test a laboratory building with mixed uses including labs, offices and classroom spaces located in downtown San Francisco, CA, USA. You can download the competition brief here to find out more.
Not only will the winning entrant have the opportunity to showcase their submission at the Building Simulation conference, due to take place in San Francisco between 7-9 August 2017, we are pleased to confirm that the winning entry will also receive a cash prize of USD $1,500, courtesy of IES!
If you feel like giving it a go, interested candidates are invited to register before the deadline on 6th February 2017, with completed entries then due by 31st March 2017.
So, good luck to all you prospective entrants – we look forward to seeing the winning entry at BS2017 in August!
Guest blogger, Dr Craig Robertson – Head of Sustainability at architecture firm Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, shares his insight on the value of integrating performance analysis tools from even the early stages of design.
At Allford Hall Monaghan Morris we work across a range of sectors, specialising in designing buildings that are enjoyable to use, beautiful to look at and easy to understand. Our ethos is to create buildings that work over time and have lasting qualities intrinsic to their architecture.
For us, a project begins with a strategy rather than a design solution. Each strategy arises from understanding the fundamental drivers of a brief and the parameters, problems and opportunities it represents. Although this approach might involve a complexity of thought, the aim is always to produce a simple, legible proposal that can be responsive to change while still remaining true to the core of the brief. This ensures that our design ideas are robust enough to survive the pressures that can be expected on the way to the finished building.
Our design process is architectural, in that our primary decision drivers are that of townscape, spatial qualities, user experience, materiality and form. However, we recognise that making buildings is a collaborative process and we work hard to integrate engineering and space conditioning strategies into our designs. We focus on adaptable, occupant controlled environments using passive means where possible.
Performance-based design is important to enable understanding of the energy, cost and comfort implications of our design decisions. We have to balance all these factors and more, and carrying out performance analysis provides us with the detailed information we need to make better design decisions.
We use IESVE to perform more detailed analysis of our proposals and to support our architectural decisions, challenge briefs and integrate a strategic environmental approach into our architecture. It is an essential tool to understand how our architectural proposals can be optimised to maximise comfort and minimise energy consumption.
Early stage examples we are currently working on include developing a fixed shading strategy for a new commercial office building, illustrating the benefits of hybrid conditioning to a developer client, reassuring a planning department over concerns about sunlight and simplifying the servicing requirements for a residential project.
We find that as the legislative framework around energy and sustainability becomes increasingly stringent, the onus is on us to make the case for low energy, high performance architecture. Outputs from IESVE help us do that.
Want to find out more about integrating VE analysis tools within your architectural practice? Visit our VE for Architects webpage or contact one of our representatives at email@example.com for more information.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been contacted by a number of BREEAM Assessors who are looking for ways to boost their projects overall score and I found it interesting how many don’t realise the full number of credits available through analysis from IESVE.
The number of registered BREEAM projects continue to grow with resilience each year. With the BRE Environmental Assessment Method celebrating its 25th birthday, the numbers are staggering; globally there are more than 553,000 BREEAM certified developments, and almost 2,254,500 buildings registered for assessment, in over 70 countries since it was first launched in 1990. By any benchmark BREEAM is firmly placed in the construction industry.
In the UK, if you are working on a non-domestic building of any size the chances are that the project will be registered for BREEAM, and the work you are doing will influence the end result. Now, if you are reading this, then you are probably well aware of BREEAM and the role you will play in any particular assessment, either directly or otherwise, but did you know that 33% of BREEAM credits can be achieved using IESVE? *
Whether you are a BREEAM Assessor, or a consultant delivering credits, knowing which credits can be achieved can not only maximise the full potential of the projects BREEAM score but also generate additional revenue streams you may not currently benefit from. I’m not aware of any analysis tool which can deliver more credits.
If you are involved in BREEAM have a look at the following table to make sure you aren’t missing out attainable credits.
*For BREEAM UK NC 2014
|Assessment issue||Credit Description||Credit score|
|Man 02 Life cycle cost and service life planning||4|
|Man 05 Aftercare||2 +1 exemplary|
|Health & Wellbeing|
|Hea 01 Visual comfort||4|
|Hea 02 Indoor air quality||2|
|Hea 04 Thermal comfort||2|
|Ene 01 – Reduction of energy use and CO2 emissions||12 +5 exemplary|
|Ene 04 – Low carbon design||3|
|Ene 08 Energy efficient equipment||2|
|Mat 01 Life-cycle impacts||6 +2 exemplary|
BREEAM UK NC 2014
Did you spot any? Worth thinking about existing projects you are working on and what additional services you could be offering. Another question I get asked often is what IESVE can do for other BREEAM assessments, for example BREEAM_NOR, BREEAM international, BREEAM Communities, and the answer is simple, yes you can use IESVE for a number of credits on all BREEAM Assessments, and for other environmental assessment methods such as LEED®, DGNB, WELL etc. If you would like to know more then please don’t hesitate to contact your local IES representative.
Using IESVE for BREEAM credit analysis in conjunction an online project management system allows you to make the BREEAM certification process even more efficient. IES TaP is a BRE Global approved, secure online portal for managing the evidence gathering and credit tracking process for BREEAM assessments. Using a system like IES TaP ultimately speeds up the evidence gathering process saving time and money, allowing you to realistically take on more projects over and above your current maximum.
BREEAM has enjoyed a prosperous 25 years and will no doubt continue to do so for the next 25 years. One element of this longevity for any assessment method is adapting to the market and alignment with complimentary assessment methods. The International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™) and BRE recently announced an agreement between the two organizations to pursue alignments between the WELL Building Standard™ (WELL) and BREEAM that will make it easier for projects pursuing both standards. The crosswalk identifying the applicable credits between the two standards, is being done by WELL’s certifying body, Green Business Certification Inc., and BRE, and is expected to be completed in January 2017. Alignment between these assessment methods should help save time and costs, but ultimately help to deliver better, healthier, sustainable buildings.
Solutions like IESVE can help to maximise the full impact of under taking such assessments, by delivering the analysis and evidence required for credit attainment in as little time as possible. Rather than seeing the assessment as an addition to the core work, IESVE is able to integrate the analysis within a single model allowing you to not just validate but to undertake multiple studies to optimise the project for all aspects of its performance.
To read more about how IES can help you with your BREEAM assessment, visit http://www.iesve.com/software/breeam.
New IES customers can also take advantage of our limited time IESVE for BREEAM special offer.
Is integrating energy management with 3D modelling and BIM (Building Information Modelling) the route to better communication between a building’s design team and its operation team?
Technological advances which enable operational data to be combined with 3D modelling have been around for years. However, uptake of this calibrated simulation route has been hindered by access to data, lack of detailed HVAC modelling and lack of synergy and communication between the different teams involved in the process.
Implementing a calibrated simulation process at all stages of the building lifecycle from design, through commissioning and handover can deliver intelligent energy efficiencies, alongside healthy and comfortable buildings. On a recent project IES achieved the UK’s first LEED Gold Pharmaceutical Warehouse and delivered a customised operational energy dashboard using this principle.
While with Lateral Technologies, IES helped design the most sustainable John Lewis store to date, John Lewis York.
Designing, handing over and operating the first BREEAM Outstanding department store
Lateral Technologies worked with IES Consulting as a technology partner to design a store which could achieve a 30% reduction in the benchmark carbon figure. In July 2014 their creation became the first department store in the world to be awarded BREEAM Outstanding. Currently the project is achieving a 43% reduction on the benchmark figure based on other similar John Lewis stores.
Operational data from similar benchmark buildings was used to strengthen the new build design and inform the innovative low carbon M&E design. IES as the technology partner helped Lateral achieve incredibly detailed HVAC modelling. Then IES technology was used to import the actual building data back into the model, so the occupied building could be continuously analysed to quickly identify any performance gaps and deliver a soft landing.
Throughout the project, Lateral Technologies kept the energy initiative at the centre of design and construction decisions. The design included advanced modelling, use of LED lighting, photovoltaic solar panels, free cooling, efficient thermal design of the roof and walls to reduce heat loss and gain and the building being 70% more air tight than required.
At the same time, both John Lewis and Lateral Technologies were keen to monitor the performance of the shop after it opened. “All too often a good design fails to deliver the energy savings anticipated because of changes made during the construction phase or because occupiers don’t know how to best control the building,” explains Paul Paterson, sustainability design manager at Lateral Technologies. “Instead of waiting months for a higher than expected energy bill to flag up a problem, as is all too common practice, we wanted to find a way of continually analysing the building to identify any problem areas from day one.”
The project benefitted John Lewis by reducing carbon emissions including operational energy use and allowed the measuring and monitoring of real time energy use. This monitoring will provide future benefit to the store through understanding how energy use can be reduced and will also allow the opportunity for use in future design and construction projects, to provide the most sustainable stores.
Paul Paterson, explains why they turned to IES, the world leaders in energy modelling. “The way IES is pushing the boundaries of modelling, from using higher levels of detail to optimise design at all levels, to automatically sending operational data back into the model, to deliver impressive levels of post occupancy evaluation, made them the perfect fit for us.”
He adds, “Far from considering our job done, we’re now using IES-SCAN, a new powerful IES tool, to import the actual building data back into the model, so we can continuously analyse the occupied building to quickly identify any performance gaps to deliver a soft landing. The level of detail provided by the model is incredible, enabling us to analyse how everything from the HVAC to the escalators to the catering equipment is performing.”
He concludes, “The best thing about IES-SCAN is that instead of having to wait for a utility bill or spend days manually extracting data from the BMS, it lets us easily see which sustainability features are proving the most effective, helping us to decide which future improvements will have the biggest impact on other stores.”
Using performance simulation technology in this manner can drive efficiencies and close the performance gap between design intention and how a building actually operates in the real world. The performance gap, is a well-documented disconnect between the design and compliance models of buildings and the reality of how they perform.
IES has been working to enable the power of its leading building performance analysis software, the VE, to be used on buildings from design, through commissioning on into operation, in order to address this issue.
Our recent innovations enable us to link together operational building data (e.g. Smart/AMR Meters, Sub Meters, BMS Equipment, Environment Sensors, other building systems such as lighting, and other available external data sources such as weather) with 3D performance models. This means that real data rather than design data can be used directly in calibrated simulation models enabling more accurate predictions.
Post Occupancy Evaluation: Integrating renewables
Working for NHS Ayrshire and Arran, IES undertook an independent audit of the building performance of the new Girvan Community Hospital, which opened in 2011. The building set a new standard for hospital design for the NHS in Scotland and was the product of a three-year intensive consultation and design process which involved hospital staff and community members. Sustainability and energy considerations informed the design process from the start leading to the provision of a biomass boiler and wind turbine.
IES has integrated its technology with the BMS, wind turbine, AMR and sub-meter infrastructure to look at the buildings energy demand in conjunction with energy generation and is now investigating opportunities to decrease energy demand and deliver an on-going feed of data to a cloud based portal.
Using operational data to deliver continuous system tuning and commissioning
A proof of concept study for Glasgow City Council explored how advanced analytics can be used to refine building management, energy investment strategy and define ROI targets. IES Consulting worked with the council across six sites: Riverside Primary School, Riverside Museum, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, City Chambers, Exchange House and Collegelands. A robust framework for data collection was created, reduction potential assessed and assuming a 3-5 year ROI it was proven that reductions in the region of £255k-£425k were possible and would deliver a reasonable capital budget if re-invested into improvement options. Read the full case study here.
The full potential of these technological advances has yet to be fully realised. However, with projects focused on the easy energy and carbon saving opportunities of energy efficient lighting and voltage power optimisation finalising, companies with more mature energy management programs are looking for the next wave of energy savings.
Extensive use of energy management software to monitor energy usage and gain visibility of use and associated cost, must surely lead on into optimising HVAC systems. Utilising the capabilities calibrated simulation delivers will enable more than just superficial analytics of usage patterns. It will in fact allow this information to be assessed against truly personalised virtual assessments of how the actual building to should be performing. This will ultimately peel back another layer of confusion thereby highlighting the hidden inefficiencies.
Find out more about how IES can help you make the most out of your building data here.
We were hugely encouraged by the attendance at last week’s Faculty and would like to thank everyone again for joining us and for your patience with the spatial availability! This Faculty is number 10 in our series and more popular than ever, surprising as we had been worried that the subject matter would perhaps fail to draw much interest. We were wrong!
In preparing the content the aim was to condense the vast amount of information into a digestible half day seminar. At the same time we aimed to identify opportunities for our customers in helping to address the requirements, add value. As a secondary objective we wanted to highlight efficiencies of using the Virtual Environment suite.
Naghman and I reviewed the literature including design guides, technical memoranda, applications manuals, regulatory and voluntary requirements for the 4 main building types selected – Educational, Commercial, Healthcare and Retail.
Not surprisingly the two main areas of literature pertain to Education and Healthcare and we noted a marked difference in the ‘structure’ of the information. Healthcare is organised with an overarching set of documents driving improvement forward whereas the schools information was a bit disjointed. Having said that the Education Funding Agency has provided an overarching set of requirements upon which funding depends. However, whilst the lighting design guidance relevant for all schools has been updated to reflect the EFA requirements, the ventilation, thermal comfort and IAQ has not.
As an addendum to this there is a working group, including IES, currently looking at updating Building Bulletin 101, the EFA requirements form part of this discussion. The timeframe is as yet undecided. If the EFA requirements are extended to all new schools and major refurbishment and adopted as standard this might help to drive improvement over time.
A common theme within the EFA requirements and the Healthcare standards is Performance In Use (PIU) – the move away from ticking Design Criteria boxes during design to closing the loop between design and operation. Something very close to our heart!
As always the Faculty provided a good opportunity for like-minded individuals to get together and share ideas, we have attempted to capture some of the discussion points below;
We also had a few questions related to VE capability and application;
Due to the success of this Faculty we have decided to take the event to Glasgow on Tuesday 17th November so I look forward to seeing some of you there. You can get your free tickets here: http://ow.ly/TLsGC
Got a design guidance question you’d like to ask Sarah? Use the comments section below.
This article was originally published in Building Services News Magazine. ‘Postcard from Abroad’ is a regular feature that highlights the experiences of graduate engineers from Ireland that have gone on to live and work abroad.
It is a pleasure to share my experiences abroad with you as a building services engineer who left Dublin in 2008. During the past seven years I’ve been working all over North America as a project manager and business development manager with Integrated Environmental Solutions Ltd (IES).
Many of you will be familiar with IES Ltd and IESVE software, which is used in Ireland and the UK for building performance simulation and analysis of buildings. Typical applications for using IESVE software are often necessary for new construction projects in Ireland, e.g. Part L Compliance. However, things are quite different in North America.
I graduated from DIT Bolton Street’s building services engineering course in 2006 with a 1st Class Honours Degree having come up through the diploma courses which was hugely valuable to me, even today. White Young Green (WYG) were generous enough to give me a start as a graduate building services engineer in 2006 as I had also gained valuable work-experience during the previous summer with them.
IES opened an office in Dublin in 2007 and I was keen to join with such an innovative and ever-expanding company. At the official Dublin office opening I met Dr Don McLean (IES founder and CEO) and walked away inspired by his enthusiasm for making a difference in the world by way of sustainable building design through technology.
While working in the IES Dublin office I was fortunate to work on some great consulting projects for the Office of Public Works and a few international projects too in the UK, the US, Australia and the UAE. These international projects gave me an appreciation for building performance benchmarking under different codes and standards. I also began to understand what real sustainable design meant versus making design decisions simply to play the system, or simply in order to “get the certificate”.
At IES a huge portion of our activity is driven by various energy rating systems. In North America, those rating systems can often be voluntary (eg LEED) depending on the region or building owner. You need to know your IECC / ASHRAE Standards as much as the local rating systems. This complex challenge was one of the reasons I moved to work in the IES Boston office in 2008. Six years later, I would move west again.
Settling into life in Boston
I was lucky in three areas: visa, work and accommodation. First, if you move to the US to work (outside of a J1 student visa) you will likely need either an H-1 or L-1 visa, although there are other less common options. The L-1 visa is essentially an intra-company transfer, so IES were supportive of the move. With an H-1 you could be applying to a new company, so there’s a risk involved for the employer. The one thing they have in common is the profound stress involved.
Second, with my work at IES, it was somewhat “business-as-usual” and I was performing a similar role to the one I had in our Dublin office, plus I already knew my colleagues (we are a tight-knit group at IES). Third, IES were generous enough to have a furnished apartment for me to move into. The view from my roof deck included the Massachusetts State House, the Charles River and Boston Commons.
Boston itself is a fantastic city with a large and welcoming Irish community. It is also a huge sports-centric city and there is always a Boston-based team involved in some play-offs. There are legacy neighbourhoods — the Irish are in Southie, the Italians are in the North End, there’s a Polish neighbourhood and, as always, a Chinatown.
Working in Boston was not without its challenges. There were the dreaded IP units, which at the time felt like being forced to learn how to speak Latin… why, oh why, have you not evolved? The toughest challenge was trying to convince a design team to consider something like mixed-mode ventilation, which was strangely considered a new concept.
I was shocked to learn how conservatively the New England AEC industry perceived high-performance building design. I was yearning for an equivalent to the EU’s EPBD or Ireland’s Part L. Years later, my role has evolved to encompass a much bigger region and I’ve had a chance to see how other locations embrace high performance design.
My role in North America today
Today, my region is ‘North America’. I’m not trying to be vague; below are green pins for each place I commonly work…
Yes, it is a massive geographical spread and involves a lot of travel, but that’s part of the business development challenge that IES has given me.
In my first six years in North America I was primarily focused on the East Coast, which I loved. I’ve had some interesting experiences along the way. For instance, one evening in Washington DC I went to see the White House and take in some US history. However, what I recall most clearly from that visit was looking up at one of the few snipers on the roof.
About 10 months ago I left Boston and moved west to the IES San Francisco office in order to support a new statewide compliance for building energy benchmarking. This time I moved with my girlfriend Alayne and dog Oscar. My work has mostly been focused on the west coast now, particularly in California.
The San Francisco Bay Area is still experiencing a huge tech-boom and there are constantly large volumes of people moving here. The apartment monthly rental costs are now $3,000- $5,000 (€2,750-€4,500). I feel sorry for the older locals of San Francisco who feel the artsy vibe to the city is now drowning with young techies.
It is a very different settling process on the West Coast. The time-zone difference to Ireland is now eight hours, there is a different culture to the harsh East Coast people and a different sense of humour. However, the AEC industry is an improvement. Sadly, 98% of California is currently categorised as being in “exceptional” drought, which is the worst level of drought and the worst in 163 years of record keeping.
You don’t need to convince anyone here about climate change. California has the most net-zero energy buildings in the US and there is a strict energy rating standard in place.
Earlier this year I was working with the US Navy in Honolulu. I took an opendoor helicopter tour over Pearl Harbour on my day off and got some excellent scenic photos. However, the ones that interested me most were of the endless rows of solar-panelled homes and buildings. In Hawaii, they pay $0.25- $0.33/kWh for electricity, so PV makes a lot of sense. Note: The US average is ~10-11cents/kWh. Just imagine being the odd-one-out in this neighbourhood.
Each place I go to is different and I’d sum up the US engineering culture as diverse and regional. In my day-to-day work I deal with various professionals including building physics engineers, architects, software developers, architectural engineers, contractors, energy modellers, mechanical engineers, and energy consultants. I also deal with lots of people involved in policy, from the Canadian Green Building Council to the California Energy Commission.
I’m very proud of my engineering background in Ireland and made sure to return to earn my Chartered Engineering status in 2010. I did a part-time Master’s degree in Brunel University in London during 2006-2009 but, if I’m honest, it didn’t compare to the education that DIT Bolton Street gave me.
For my B. Eng. Thesis I studied the effects of a below-ground thermal labyrinth. Then years later I was heavily involved in one for a hospital in Western Canada. Outdoor air is “bounced” through this below-ground maze, thus utilising the thermal storage of the soil and concrete to pre-heat the outdoor air in winter and pre-cool the outdoor air in summer. The tempered outdoor air is then fed into the back of two dedicated outdoor air system air handling units.
Something a lecturer in DIT, Chris Montague, said always stayed with me: “The design team won’t consider it if you don’t speak up and suggest it.” Thanks for that Chris!
My final thought
While I combine lessons from both my training in Ireland and experiences in North America, there are cases that aren’t comparable. There’s always room for comparing and contrasting the different approaches to environmental engineering and building services, and I would encourage everyone to take the differences into consideration in any decision to move abroad. Overall, I’m glad I made the move west just over seven years ago and I’m happy with the work I’m doing in the US. However, I never could have excelled as much without my training and encouragement from home and from IES.
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…
IES are also hosting a welcome reception for our customers on the Wednesday evening, September 30th – details coming soon.
So as with every release our expert team of software development, QA, and Support guys have been working extremely hard to bring you a whole host of new features that will sweep you off your feet. There’s a small difference with this year’s release though… it’s been created especially for you, our loyal customers!
We’ve taken your feedback on board over the last year and we’ve focused on refining our core applications to build upon the power and flexibility of the VE for delivering resource efficient, low-energy buildings. We understand how important it is to have competitive advantage, so with this in mind we’ve introduced a series of new exciting improvements and time saving, enhanced reporting features across our core modules.
The core applications that we’ve enhanced include, ApacheSim, MacroFlo, VE-Gaia, ModelIt, ApacheHVAC and our VE-Navigator for ASHRAE 90.1 (LEED Energy). For a more detailed list of all the new features take a look at our VE2013 New Features document.
And as usual you can download the new version from our Download Centre. If you need any assistance, don’t be shy – email firstname.lastname@example.org for help with your licence keys or its email@example.com for technical help. Happy downloading!
P.S For those of you waiting on our new VE-Navigator for LEED 2009, the beta version is now available for testing. Info on this is also available in the new features document (linked to above). If you’d like to trial this version, click HERE to drop us a line.