To be most effective, building energy modeling should be used early in the design process when decisions that have significant impact on energy performance – building orientation, shading, light exposure, window-to-wall ratios, mechanical system type – are finalized. However, architects and engineers often use rules of thumb in these critical early stages, because the bridge between energy modeling – which requires many detailed inputs – and the rapidly-changing, high-level information that characterizes early stages of design has been difficult for software and practitioners to cross, according to a DOE blog.
Sefaira, a software company that does building energy modeling, is working to change that approach. In 2012, the company launched Sefaira Architecture, a product that uses EnergyPlus – the Energy Department’s whole building energy simulation engine – to allow architects to quickly explore the thermal comfort implications of building design alternatives. A new product, Sefaira Systems uses EnergyPlus peak loads analysis and equipment sizing capabilities to allow mechanical engineers to quickly explore and compare multiple HVAC system types in conjunction with building form, envelope options, operations and other early-stage design parameters.
Sefaira’s plug-ins directly import architectural drawings from applications such as Trimble’s SketchUp and Autodesk’s Revit so mechanical engineers don’t need to reconstruct this information and can immediately explore and analyze system alternatives. Sefaira Systems empowers mechanical engineers to be directly involved in the early-stage design process, shifting away from the traditional architect-to-engineer “hand-off” toward a more integrated, collaborative approach to building design, according to DOE’s blog.