How Predictive Building Energy Modeling Can Mitigate Climate Change
Updated: Mar 8
It is now a well-known fact that buildings contribute to almost 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While there continues to be a huge emphasis on making industries & transportation more environment-friendly, making buildings more energy efficient can greatly aid the planet’s battle against climate change.
Construction activity continues to rise globally, particularly in emerging regions such as the Middle East & the Asia-Pacific region. In the wake of all this activity, it is important to ensure that buildings are constructed using sustainable design principles.
While rising construction activity plays a huge role in increasing the world’s carbon footprint, existing buildings also contribute significantly to climate change. A significant portion of the planet’s built environment can be attributed to existing buildings. Most of these buildings were built in the 20th century using outdated construction materials, mechanical systems & electrical systems. Hence, retrofitting these buildings is a monumental challenge both financially & logistically.
Green & Energy Efficient Buildings
Today there are strong climate change mandates for buildings in different parts of the world. In fact, several of the world’s top cities have signed agreements to eventually become NZEB (Net Zero Energy Buildings) by 2050. Furthermore, many regions around the world have incentivized building owners to reduce energy consumption by providing funding to install energy efficient equipment. Additionally, there exist many green building certification systems in different parts of the world such as LEED, BREEAM, DGNB etc. that are pushing buildings to become more sustainable & energy efficient.
Building Energy Modeling
Although there is rising awareness among building owners about the benefits of minimizing their environmental impact; it is often unclear to them as to what constitutes a good decision from both a financial & environmental standpoint. There is also a general lack of understanding as to how buildings interact with its systems, occupants & controls. A consequence of this is that the building owner might sometimes invest in some expensive equipment without taking into account whether this would be optimal for the building.
This is when building energy modeling can provide a lot of clarity on existing & future scenarios. Currently, there exists a host of energy modeling software such as eQuest, Design Builder, IES VE, Sefaira, IDA ICE etc. These software can accurately model a building’s geometry & predict its energy consumption.
Building energy modeling software have a number of uses. For example, architects are always evaluating different design choices. Through the use of energy modeling, an architect can help the building owner select construction materials that reduce the building’s air-conditioning load. Similarly, an existing building might have to comply with stringent local building energy codes. Performing an energy simulation of the building can help evaluate which equipment can help meet the code requirements within a tight budget.
Mitigating Climate Change & Building Energy Modeling
It is estimated that building energy consumption around the world will have to be reduced significantly in order to meet the ambitious climate change goals listed in the IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the process of designing new energy efficient buildings & upgrading existing buildings is done in an organized fashion. Accurately modeling & predicting a building’s energy performance can be a great first step in this direction.