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
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 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.
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: http://www.squ1.org/
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).