Robert Fassbender's blog

The TRUE Greenest, LEEDest state in the U.S.A?

Posted on: August 15, 2011

So, what is the GREENEST state in the U.S.A.?

This is pretty hard to gauge of course, but let's say we will use LEED buildings as a metric. If you look at the LEED buildings by state map we recently published, it's clear that California takes the cake in all categories, with thousands more LEED certified buildings than any other state. However, looking at the map, it was notable that the top 4 states were identical to the top 4 states in automobile emissions, as well as urban sprawl, among a number of other factors. 

Furthermore, when sorting the data from Certified to Platinum, some interesting trends appear. Most notably, California definitely loses its enormous advantage. So, maybe it's not entirely fair to gauge based on the number of LEED buildings, as big states with many buildings will clearly win, despite the negative environmental impact that inevitably is associated with large populations.

So, I asked myself, "what if each state was adjusted to have 10M people?"

In other words, what does it look like if we determined the data as "LEED buildings per 10M people"?

The Numbers are surprising, with the number 1 ranked building in Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum being:

How to get TRACE 700 for FREE

Posted on: August 11, 2011

TRACE 700 LogoRecently transfer jobs and find your new company won’t fork over the dough to buy you TRACE 700? Or are you a small firm and want to save money? Perhaps you just want to learn Trane TRACE and expand your resume?

Want TRACE 700 for free? You have three options.

Option 1 - TRACE Rewards Points

Do you spec equipment? Or do you purchase equipment? Do you talk to your local Trane rep? Well, you might not know it, but you might be able to get TRACE 700 for free (this will be the full support package too). It’s possible to get a discount too.

See, many Trane offices have “rewards points” systems. When you purchase equipment you get points which are often redeemable for office training events, and even trips to the good ole’ chiller plant in La Crosse, WI (which for some is code for a night on the town or 4th Street - the pub district). However, maybe ask your Trane Account Manager about getting a TRACE 700 license with these rewards points. Though, I bet more of you will ask about the pub district.

Doing a LEED Energy Model In House?

Posted on: August 7, 2011

If you're a LEED AP you passed a pretty difficult test, so how difficult could a LEED energy model be? Well, doing an energy-model is one thing, but doing a LEED energy-model is another. With countless nuances in LEED modeling, it takes a decent bit of experience to get good at modeling for LEED. To be honest, I have seen some horrible models. In fact, in my years working in TRACE 700 support, I've told many LEED APs that he or she would save money by sub-consulting the project to a firm with more experience.

How can you avoid this? Well, we recommend making friends and getting training! We offer a low cost "LEED for Energy-Modelers" trainings available to get you started. Check out the free LEED energy modeling cheat sheet, which contains dozens of tips and gives a common step by step procedure on what a modeler would need to accomplish in energy-modeling software.

The other most important thing when doing models is to have an experienced friend or a paid consultant on standby. A good idea is to get involved in a community. We recommend joining the mailing lists, as well as participating in our energy modeling user forum

LEED and Energy-Modeling

Posted on: July 24, 2011

Are you a LEED AP? Do you know the ins and outs of energy-modeling?

If you can answer yes to both of these questions your portfolio will be on hyper-drive. Here, we are going to outline the TRUE importance of an Energy-model in LEED certification. In fact, we'll quantify it and also answer some beginner questions if you are new to the subject. We are also going to help you decide whether to do a model in house or hire a consultant (and also help you to avoid getting ripped off if you do hire a consultant).

What is LEED energy-modeling?

When someone refers to LEED energy-modeling, they are almost always referring to LEED Energy and Atmosphere credit 1, and likely Energy and Atmosphere pre-requisite 2.  Also refer to our "What is energy-modeling page".

Why is it important for a LEED AP to know energy-modeling?

Well, the answer is simple math (and as a LEED AP, you are probably pretty good at math). There are 110 possible credits for a LEED building including all bonus points. Energy and atmosphere credit 1 is the single largest credit, with up to 19 points. Just how many of the total LEED points is this? Well, let's look at a pi chart of all the LEED points by credit:

LEED Points Pie Chart

Top 10 Under-Used Features of TRACE 700

Posted on: May 25, 2011

TRACE 700 has an armada of features. Some of them are way under-utilized. Let's take a moment to look at a few of them and see how they can be used:

  1. Metric/English Units: By going to the options menu and selecting units, one can convert from English to metric units with a click of a button. Maybe this sounds obvious, however, many people forget about this when working in English units and viewing the ECB/PRM report. Changing units, then viewing the report will give you the values in kW-hr, and KW.
  2. Summary information: Under assign rooms to systems, a summary information checkbox is listed. When checked, this box will give information about any room, rooms, systems or entire project such as square footage and estimated loads. This is great for finding differences between systems in multiple alternatives.
  3. Import Equipment: TRACE 700 can import equipment from the  TOPSS (Trane product selection program). Just ask for the file from your local rep and import it under Libraries and cooling equipment.
  4. The Plant Wizard: Anytime you wish to setup a plant in TRACE 700, especially something you haven't done before, consider using the plant wizard button under Create Plants (remember, it will delete all plants that are existing)
  5. Import Glass types: While TRACE 700 uses center of glass properties, it can import data from a program called WINDOW (4, 5, or 6.x) to get more accurate information.
  6. Checksum Select: On the first tab of the results screen, there is an option for "Checksum Select" whenever any checksums reports are selected. This option allows the room, zone, or system checksum reports to be limited to a selection. This is great for quickly navigating when only a few rooms/systems have priority, or when attempting to print only a few of the room checksums, rather than wasting potentially hundreds of pages and hours of time
  7. New file based on: One can use new file based on to start a new file using ANY alternative from an existing file. This is done by closing all projects in TRACE 700 and going to file and selecting New --> New file based on (or CTRL + B)
  8. New file wizard: Very few people seem to know about this. This is done the same as #7, but selecting new file wizard instead. One can complete a file in a few minutes if using it for strict comparison (please note, many templates will be displayed, but DON'T edit them all since only a few of them are actually used in the rooms)
  9. Import GBXML: Yes, TRACE 700 can import GBXML files. 
  10. Trace 700 Visualizer: When looking at the analysis reports, there is a button labeled, "Graph Profiles and Energy". This launches the TRACE 700 visualizer, which can be used to breakout hourly variable, graph them or load them in excel.

8 super easy health tips for white collar workers

Posted on: March 29, 2011

We all  know it: Humans have not yet evolved to work in an office environment. We are just not built for it. As someone who likes to stay fit, but also loves triple baconators from Burger King, I've come up with a few tricks to stay fit.

We've all heard of the Freshman 15 in college. But, nobody ever talks about what I would call "the 5 year 50" (by the fifth year in the office, many guys have gained 50 pounds since college).

Before we start, what's a typical day like for an engineer:

Well, we start with our morning caffeine intake, and maybe breakfast. By lunch, we are starving and often gorge ourselves so that by 2 pm, we are near comatose and need a boost. We often grab a soda or something with caffeine. This gets us through the day so that we crash about three hours later at home and then have zero energy to exercise. We rinse (shower) and repeat.

Not to mention the indoor environment and exposure to others causes us to get sick more often, and also prevents our recovery. There are also a number of factors that make us perpetually feel like crap (we'll discuss those)

It's all about feeling good. If you feel good, you will actually WANT to do something active. If you feel crumby, you will want to lounge and eat.

Here's some tricks I've come up with:


1) Carry a bottle of drinking water with you at all times.

Even if you don't drink it at first, you eventually will. Just make sure the bottle is easy to open and somewhat pleasant looking. We all get bored at work and we tend to snack because of it. Eventually, you will find yourself sipping it, which will reduce other cravings (the body often misinterprets dehydration as hunger).

How to Use the website effectively

Posted on: March 14, 2011

Many users do not know that you can use this website to network with other energy-modelers by adding them as friends, which allows you to post on each  others profiles, and follow each others forum posts more easily.

Also, if you want more control of this website, it is automatically granted so that you get more control as you provide more useful content (and prove that you are a respected member of the community).

The many intricate details of the website make it rather large and the site runs much faster using Mozilla Firefox or Google chrome! It's a modern web design, use a modern browser!

Click play on the following to learn more about the site. It may take about thirty seconds to load. Don't forget to go full screen. You can even navigate manually by clicking objects with your mouse and zoom in/out with your scroll wheel.


Ten architect jokes (safe for work) to jump start Valentine's Day

Posted on: February 14, 2011

We wrote the jokes here, but if you want more architect jokes, check out this ebook for $10

For as much as I hear many of my fellow colleagues, both architects and engineers make fun of each other, I haven't heard too many good jokes from engineers about architects (but many good engineer jokes from architects!). So, I thought I'd post a few of the funnier jokes I've heard. It's all in good fun folks, please comment with other jokes, but keep it safe for work please!   

1) Energy-modeler: That's the lousiest .dwg I've ever seen! Is that because you're ignorant or apathetic?

Architect: Huh? I don't know what you mean

Energy-modeler: Well, Don’t you know the difference between ignorance and apathy?

Architect: No, but who cares?

2)Why don't architects get into heaven?

Jesus was a carpenter.

3)So, why is heaven considered to be a perfect place?

Because there are no architects to screw up the design 

Another reason for energy-models

Posted on: November 11, 2010

          Bring up any topic regarding the environment and you will be sure to hear at least two opinions. Actually, if you bring up any topic to a group of 10 engineers, you will probably hear at least 9 different opinions. This is true when talking about energy-modeling.

          To avoid argument, let's consider energy in terms of absolute truths. Apart from members of the "Flat-earth society", almost everyone considers scientific law to be an absolute truth. So, let's look at energy-modeling in terms of Laws. With it being related to energy, there is no better place to start than the Laws of Thermodynamics. 


Simplifying Shading eQUEST and TRACE 700

Posted on: November 11, 2010

While eQuest and TRACE 700 have excellent shading algorithms (basically the same algorithm in both software pacakges), the complex input of some shading devices is intimidating to new users of the program, and often overwhelming for experienced users. I would like to propose a method to simplify shading for most applications to that of a simple overhang.

Consider this overhang:

eQUEST overhang calculation

Let’s say for now, that is possible to simplify nearly any fixed shading application to such an overhang.

There are only two sets of conditions we need to consider:

  1. The percent of the area shaded when the sun is at the horizon (Θ = 0 degrees)
  2. The incident angle of the sun (Θc) where the window is completely eclipsed by the shading device. Let’s call this the “critical angle” or Θc

For illustrative purposes, let’s say we have a trellis with a 2” x 12” boards spaced 12” apart as shown here:

eQEUST Trellis Calculation