Nov 24, 2008

Understanding Virtual Enviornment

IES Virtual Environment is a comprehensive energy modelling and environmental analysis tool which can simulate just about everything happening to your building. Past use of Virtual Environment existed mostly outside of the architects' realm, however IES has done much recently to integrate their tools into the architectural process with push-button toolkits.

The strength of the toolkit is that it can be embedded into architectural design programs (Revit & Sketchup so far) and with a modified workflow one is capable of achieving truly integrated and iterative analysis.

The toolkit performs a series of independent analysis which makes it less comprehensive than the full Virtual Environment. The full suite contains an array of modules, each performing different tasks that are capable of feeding back into the main energy model. For example, if your project will utilize daylight harvesting you would first run daylight simulations and then link these results back into the thermal simulation module where you can see the energy impact from reduced cooling loads and electricity use. The process is similar for natural ventilation and solar shading analysis where separate modules link their results to the main thermal simulation engine. Even HVAC systems design can feed into the central energy model for collaborative A/E BIM analysis in a central model.

It is not immediately apparent where Virtual Environment falls in the traditional A/E firm structure and project workflow. What is apparent is that the ultimate success of its use requires a process shift in either the way the architect designs and delivers, or in the roles assigned to the mechanical and energy engineers (US in particular). Either way there must be time, budget, and client expectations to ensure that this level of collaboration succeeds.

Understanding Ecotect

Ecotect is a studio companion that enables designers to better understand the relationship between buildings and their environment. As a visualization tool Ecotect interactively displays sun and shadows, solar rays, sun path diagrams and much more.

As an analysis program there are 3 common methods for calculating and visualizing data:

  • Analysis Grid (of points)

  • Analysis Surfaces

  • Thermal Analysis of Zones

Analysis Grid

The Analysis Grid is a single 3-Dimensional grid able to collect data over points in space. The analysis grid is used for analysis where the collected values are not interested in surface area or the sun angle. Common analysis here includes internal daylight levels, external sunlight hours, airflow and others. All of the solar related functions can be done within the program itself but for advanced daylighting and CFD airflow Ecotect links up to other programs, many of which are free to use.

Analysis Surfaces

Analysis surfaces are used to calculate and visualize solar issues that are relative to the sun angle. To understand the difference between this and the analysis grid just think that when a surface closer to being perpendicular to the sun it will read higher solar gain values, by contrast points have no area and will all show the same readings for any period of time exposed. Surface solar analysis is very helpful for early massing and orientation studies, as well as facade design.

Thermal Analysis

Ecotect is one of many energy modeling programs, most of which have different calculation methods and intended uses. The strength of Ecotect is with comparative design analysis where you can modify building geometry or attributes and see the relative impact on performance. For more advanced simulations Ecotect can export to other energy modeling programs with varying degrees of successful interoperability.

There are of course more analysis options in Ecotect than those briefly mentioned here, and if you wish to learn more head over to the Ecotect wiki:

BIM Use:

Ecotect very easily re-uses data from other programs as long as the models are either very simple or easily able to be reduced to the basic elements needed for analysis (see previous blog on this subject). Ecotect is able to import BIM room objects which are converted into zones for thermal and daylighting analysis. A small to moderate amount of manual cleanup is needed at this point in time depending on the BIM authoring tool used to produce the model (Revit, Archicad, etc).

Sep 2, 2008

SketchUp Virtual Environment

The green software industry moves forward yet again with the recent announcement of an IES plug-in for Google SketchUp. Similar to the Revit Architecture plug-in IES now offers their VE-Ware, their sustainability toolkit and a direct link into Virtual Environment.

At the basic level this means that with a free version of SketchUp and a free VE-Ware plug-in, anyone across the globe can design a building or a home and evaluate the energy performance while tracking carbon emissions against the 2030 challenge. For those like myself who are passionate about change, we warmly welcome the opening up of the competition to any clever person owning a computer.

At the professional level this opens up these free tools to those modeling accurately in any non-BIM tools which can be exported into SketchUp (Rhino, 3DS Max, etc.). In essence, any firm using Revit in conjunction with other design tools now has the ability to track carbon at every stage of every project…with a free plug-in.

Jul 5, 2008

Design Analysis Workflow

This post has moved to the following blog:

Jun 28, 2008

Autodesk Ecotect

Autodesk takes a giant leap forward in the green software industry with the aquisition of Square One Research LTD including substantially all of the assets related to of the Ecotect software tools for conceptual building performance analysis.

Available for Free Now!

"Square One Research and Autodesk share a commitment to using technology to make the design and construction of sustainable, high-performance buildings easier and more efficient," said Dr. Andrew J. Marsh, Co-Founder and Head of Research & Development, Square One Research. "We are pleased to join Autodesk and look forward to helping develop and deliver simple and effective building performance analysis to architects and engineers around the world."

Autodesk anounced simultaneously that it had acquired substantially all assets related to Green Building Studio, Inc.

See related story...

Mar 18, 2008

IES announces new Technical Director for Sustainably Initiatives

Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES) has welcomed Richard Quincey (MEng, MCIBSE) as Technical Director: Sustainability Initiatives. Richard brings to IES extensive knowledge and experience in leading edge holistic and sustainable building design.

Richard was formerly Director: Building Sciences at Gifford and a Partner at Max Fordham Associates. He has diverse and extensive experience in innovative low-energy design, having worked on many award winning projects and is a UK accredited Low Carbon Consultant. His understanding of sustainable design and unique approach to the design process make him an ideal member of the IES team. Full Story...

Feb 15, 2008

Ecotect website now live!

Great to see the Ecotect website live again....with new look! "Our customer support services have been an issue for some time. Turning this around is our primary focus for 2008 and beyond. It will take us a bit of time to get up to speed, but we are committed and determined to making the investments and improvements required." Ecotect

Autodesk Expands Sustainable Design Product Portfolio

"Acquisitions of Analysis Technologies from Green Building Studio and Carmel Software Will Help Architects and Engineers Leverage Power of Building Information Modeling to Design More Efficient Buildings".

Autodesk announced on Feb 12 2008 that it has signed an agreement to acquire substantially all the assets of Green Building Studio, an innovative provider of web-based building energy analysis that enables architects and engineers to easily perform whole building energy analysis early in the design process.

Green Building Studio provides the ability to quickly and efficiently analyze building design proposals, providing building performance information to support sustainable design. Autodesk currently plans to continue support for the Green Building Studio web service and gbXML as an open standard, and to strengthen the web service's integration with its BIM software.

"We have partnered with Autodesk for many years, and commend their ongoing support for sustainability," said John Kennedy, CEO, Green Building Studio.

Druk White Lotus School - "perhaps the greenest building ever"

Inspired by the vision of His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa, the spiritual leader of Ladakh and designed by international architects Arup Associates the buildings combine the best of traditional Ladakhi architecture with 21st century engineering excellence and so act as a model for appropriate, cost effective and sustainable development.

"The whole project is conceived as a model of appropriate and sustainable design. Building materials are mostly indigenous to Ladakh, with careful auditing of sustainable resource supplies. There is also no imported energy. None of this is achieved by compromising the quality of the architecture or of the interior spaces, which are spacious and light filled." Read more...
Autodesk has sponsored a film of this project which was shown last month at RCA, London with attendance from His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa. The project is I think inspiring for us all, and should be used as a references of how far we can go to green our buildings - this includes Himalayan cultural integration focusing on the needs of young Ladakhis.

Jan 25, 2008

Revit Architecture to IES Workflow

The IES Revit VE (Virtual Environment) Toolkits are ideal for use at the very early stages of the design process to provide quick assessment options for architects and engineers alike.

At early stages in projects up to 70% of the design decisions which affect performance have been made. The Sustainability Toolkit, performs the sustainable design analysis that is so important at these early concept stages – energy use, carbon use, daylighting and solar performance. Helping the design team establish the most appropriate sustainable and energy efficient approach. The following steps provide a quick guide to installing, setting up your Revit model and utilising the IES VE Toolkits.


1. Download the plug-in from IES, currently in Beta
2. Ensure applications are closed
3. Remove via Control Panel IES if it exists.
4. Install V:\Other\IES\2007-12-12 IES Toolkit for Revit\ve5850.exe
5. The following tool bar appears in Revit

Preparing Revit model:

1. Add Room objects to your project.
2. It is important that the Rooms in Revit are built correctly and bounding on all sides, otherwise the results will not be accurate. For full details see this IES guide.
3. In Revit select Settings > Room and Areas Settings > and turn on “Compute Room Volumes”
4. Save project

Using the plug-in

1. Select > Set Model Properties, this may take a few seconds to load
2. Switch to Building Type tab
3. Select default room construction
4. Select building services system
5. Select place and location
6. Switch to Rooms tab
7. You are then able to override the room construction and room services system (this can be left as default for initial run)
8. Use left mouse button to orbit model (unlike shift and mouse wheel in Revit!)
9. Select > Check Model…and Review the IES Report (if issues exist return to Revit to fix)
10. After Check of Model is OK, check “I have checked the model is suitable for analysis”
11. Select OK, this returns to Revit
12. Select Toolkit
13. Run the LEED Toolkit to get results. IES LEED Toolkit features (Other Toolkits can be run too)

Start of with a really small project, maybe only a couple of rooms and really understand what is being analysed and how changes in your model are being reported by the IES analysis tools.
Try File >Export > gbXML first to check your rooms are complete. (IES uses gbXML from Revit Architecture)
How does IES know the north rotation - as at no time did I specify this, I assume it uses project north and ignores Revit true north if set in the project?

Jan 23, 2008

AutoCAD MEP Blog

Here is a good blog by Scott Brisk entry about gbXML and what applications are using it.

Green Build 2008 - Boston

This years Green Build 2008 international conference and expo event is in Boston, US - Nov 19-21.
"Buildings play a critical role in protecting and improving our environment and the health of the people who occupy them. USGBC’s Greenbuild conference and expo is an unparalleled opportunity to connect with other green building peers, industry experts, and influential leaders as they share insights on the green building movement and its diverse specialties."

Jan 10, 2008

Economist: Heat From The Street!

Rona from our NY office has found this great new idea of capturing solar energy from the surfaces we walk and drive on in the Heat From The Street article!

Our Director of Sustainable Design in NY says: "This article illustrates the sort of simple and great “out of the box” ideas that have enormous potential in our work to design a more sustainable world. This is also the type of idea that exemplifies the integrated design approach and the power of early “visioning” that returns us to simple ideas unconstrained by “design as usual”.

More Economist alternative energy articles
Here is one example: IHS have installed a unique system in the car park of their new offices in the Scottish Highlands. The Road Energy system is hugely exciting. Capable of heating and cooling buildings, roads and airport runways it takes advantage of the superior absorption capacity of asphalt. See details....

Jan 8, 2008

New IES Boston Leader

Kevin Settlemyre, a leader in the sustainable movement in the US's Northeast, has been appointed by Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES) Limited to head up its North American operations, which are headquartered in Boston. More on TenLinks Daily.

Jan 3, 2008

BIM/Sustainable webinars (HOK resource)

Thanks again for attending all or some of the BIM/Sustainable webinars in December. All of the Presentations including audio are now on KNet. Great lunchtime listening/viewing!

HOK Green BIM Tools – Ecotect (HOK link)

HOK Green BIM Tools – Green Building Studio (HOK link)

HOK Green BIM Tools - IES (HOK link)