Why Choose the Right Energy Modeler?
An Energy Modeler with proper familiarity with building science and experience with proper modeling approaches can save a project hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment hard costs. It is not uncommon to see savings of $60k on smaller projects and $750k or more on larger multifamily and larger office buildings.
What is Energy Modeling?
Energy modeling is the process of utilizing physics-based software to simulate building energy use. An energy modeling program does this by taking into account the systems and materials in a building, including geometry, construction materials, lighting, HVAC, refrigeration, water heating, renewable energy system configurations, component efficiencies, and control strategies. It also takes descriptions of the building’s use and operations, including schedules for occupancy, lighting, plug loads, and thermostat settings. The program then combines these inputs with information about local weather and uses physics equations to calculate thermal loads, system response to those loads, and resulting energy use, along with related metrics like occupant comfort and energy costs. The program performs a full year of calculations regarding the estimated energy use of the building on an hourly or shorter basis. They also account for system interactions like the ones between lighting and heating/cooling.
What could it be used for?
Energy modeling leverages its ability to answer questions that cannot be easily answered by other means. Major use cases include the following:
- Architectural Design: Architects use the energy model to design code compliant or energy-efficient buildings, specifically to inform quantitative trade-offs between upfront construction costs and operational energy costs. In many cases, the energy model can reduce both energy costs and upfront construction costs.
- HVAC Design and Operation: Commercial building HVAC systems can be large and complex. Energy modeling helps mechanical engineers design HVAC systems that meet building thermal loads efficiently. It also helps design and test control strategies for these systems.
- Building Performance Rating: Energy modeling can be used to assess the inherent performance of a building while controlling for specific use and operation. Inherent performance rating is the basis for processes like code compliance, green certification, and financial incentives.
Why is it important to choose the right Energy Modeler for the job?
Choosing the right energy modeler can determine if a projects meets Title 24 requirements or if a project qualifies to meet LEED, GPR, or other similar requirements. There is no standardized method of energy modeling, so each modeler varies in their understanding of the software they’re using to produce the model and their understanding of the Title 24 standards. Some modelers may compromise in small details to complete the model as soon as possible to send to the client or architect, while others may invest the time to capture every detail of the plan provided to them but end up being behind on submittal dates whenever the plans undergo changes. Hiring a consultant that is efficient at producing an accurate model within a reasonable timeframe and has a system to keep up with the changes the architect makes will lead to models showing a noticeably higher percentage of savings which reduces the amount of time needed to produce an energy model and creates less struggle to keep up with the design changes.
VCA Green provides energy modeling services for Title 24, LEED, GPR, and other programs. For more information on how to properly assess the projected usage of your new or existing development, contact Moe Fakih below.
Contributing Writer: Albert Luu, Energy Modeler
Moe Fakih, Principal