The Capabilities of Building Energy Modeling
Updated: Mar 8
Growth of Energy Efficiency & Green Buildings
Globally, the green building & energy efficiency movement has become very strong over the last decade. Several regions over the world have adopted strong mandates to reduce building energy consumption. Furthermore, many incentives & grants are also offered by various government bodies to building owners to aid energy-efficient construction & existing building retrofits. In addition, many corporate giants are starting to realize that they can reduce the risk of their portfolio with an increased emphasis on environmental sustainability in their operations & assets. Consequently, ESG (Environmental-Social-Governance) investing is starting to increase.
Traditional Construction Practice
Traditionally, real estate developers have looked at a building’s structure & its various other aspects such as the lighting, HVAC (Heating Ventilation & Air-Conditioning), plug loads, building controls, occupants etc. as separate parts. This is also reflected in their construction practices with each stakeholder’s objectives often not being in alignment with a common goal. Furthermore, when an energy reduction or environmentally sustainable design (ESD) goal is identified at the beginning of a project; the process of meeting this goal is often done in a disparate manner & pushes up capital costs.
Building Energy Modeling & its Components
A modern-day 3D whole building energy model integrates all the different aspects of a building & holistically predicts the building’s energy performance; rather than treat each aspect in an isolated manner. From a general perspective, an energy model looks at how the three main aspects of a building’s energy performance interact with each other namely:
● Building Envelope
● Building Systems
In the past, building designers would not really give too much importance to a building’s mechanical & electrical systems. Similarly, building engineers often would not pay too much attention to a building’s construction materials such as the external walls, roof, glazing etc.
However, an energy model can easily highlight how a building’s construction materials influence its air-conditioning load. This capability can reduce a building’s upfront capital costs significantly.
In addition to this, a building’s likely occupancy patterns can also be input into the energy model along with the operational schedules of its equipment. This can be used to predict a building’s energy performance accurately.
What makes a building energy model even more accurate is the use of annual weather files for different locations. This is further supplemented by the energy modeling software’s ability to predict the sun-path for different times in a day throughout the year. Such a level of
accuracy in predicting a building’s energy consumption is seldom achieved through traditional methods.
The benefits of this simulation are multi-fold. While it can help building owners minimize their capital & operational costs, it can also help the building qualify for incentives & grants from government agencies. Energy modeling results are widely accepted by many government agencies in this regard.
Additional Capabilities Daylighting
With an emphasis on sustainable design, a building owner may decide to increase the amount of natural daylight entering the building. This can reduce the usage of artificial lighting in the building. However, increasing the amount of daylighting can also increase the air-conditioning load in a building if not handled carefully. Hence, a daylighting simulation can be run in tandem with an energy simulation to evaluate the best solution.
While optimizing a building’s energy consumption is important, it is necessary to ensure that the building’s occupants live in a comfortable atmosphere. There are different aspects that influence an occupant’s comfort level such as the temperature, relative humidity etc. All these aspects can be modeled to accurately ensure that a building’s occupants are comfortable.
Life Cycle Analysis
A building’s potential environmental impact can also be analysed over the entire course of its service life. The energy modeling results of a building can be used with an approved LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) tool such as One-Click LCA to understand the building materials’ impact across several parameters such as global warming potential, eutrophication etc.
With a vast array of predictive modeling capabilities, whole building performance simulation software can become the go-to tool for building energy analysis.