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The Value Proposition for Energy Modeling

It may seem counter-intuitive for an energy modeling consultant to suggest that the real value proposition for energy modeling is not energy performance accounting.  But that is what I am suggesting.  The most significant value proposition for energy modeling is:

The Use of Modeling to Inform the Integrated Design of a High Performance Building from Start to Completion

This is my goal for all energy modeling and all projects.  It is also the motivation behind my efforts to encourage market-wide development of sophisticated modeling capabilities. Energy modeling is an extremely powerful design tool, when applied by the right practitioner.  A good model calculates heating and cooling loads for every hour of the year in every zone within a building design.  Further, it disaggregates loads into contributing components and allows detailed loads analysis associated with each building component (windows, walls, lighting, infiltration, etc.)  If we accept that in order to achieve exceptional energy efficiency performance we must first significantly reduce heating and cooling loads, then it follows that we should be using energy modeling tools to craft the loads.  This implies early design schedule engagement.  One template for early and ongoing energy modeling engagement follows.

·        Pre-design:  Create simple “shoebox” models to study orientation and massing configurations.  Evaluate design criteria such as indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, and minimum ventilation rates.  Use loads as a performance metric.

·        Schematic design:   Develop moderately more detailed models that align with the preferred massing and orientation.  Use both loads and energy as complimentary metrics to test design ideas from fa├žade to systems.

·        Design development:   Transition into detailed models that provide load confirmation for right-sizing of systems, and refine energy performance associated with component alternatives and system control strategies.

·        Construction documents:  Prepare completed design phase models to finalize project participation and compliance with external energy performance requirements from energy code to LEED to utility incentive programs.

·        Post-construction period:  Use  as-built models to verify energy savings and to study and resolve zonal load anomalies that may arise in the first year or two of operation. 

It is possible to use energy modeling to create significantly better designs that would have otherwise occurred.  This should be the value expectation for energy modeling on every project. 


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