May 16, 2014
THEME: Technology + Innovation

Performing in Real-Time: Next Generation Building Modeling

For years we have been talking about the advantages of understanding how our building designs will perform in real time as we design them.  But are we any closer to making that a reality? The answer is a bit complex, but generally, YES.

If you have been part of a design process where energy performance strategies are chosen based upon “best practices” or “rule of thumb” assumptions, or long analysis lag times, only to be left with a more costly and less effective outcome, this is a big deal. How incredible to be able to seamlessly integrate the beauty of design with its performance capability.

From a client’s perspective, this level of integration of performance modeling and design offers some very tangible value. If architects can provide clear data on each of the design options we offer early on, we help lessen their risk (and ours), and further reduce the “sustainability premium” perception many stakeholders still have.

The current generation of performance design tools hits most of the key energy related parameters:  thermal performance, heating/cooling options, solar orientation, daylight penetration, etc. Sefaira, a SketchUp plug-in, provides near real-time energy performance analysis for designers, allowing wide-open “optioneering” of sustainable design strategies from even the earliest concept stage.

We’re coming up to a significant (and hopefully fun) milestone in the performance-driven design activity we see happening globally, as we near the final round of PER/FORM Live Design Competition. The competition, hosted by the Pratt Institute, with sponsorship from SketchUp and Metropolis Magazine, among others, will evaluate designs on both aesthetics and predicted energy performance, and will culminate in an in-person, live final design round in New York.

For those of us determined to evolve our architecture and urban design process around advanced tools for sustainable development, this seems like a critical moment. I’m excited to serve as a juror for this innovative competition that puts sustainability and performance where they should be in the design process – front and center. I’m looking forward to reporting back on what I took away from the competition.

This post authored by Jeffrey Till.

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