If you are an energy-modeler or work with one, you have probably wondered if all this extra work is worth the effort. When doing energy models, it seems like you spend more time and money on the model than it could ever be worth, but it only seems that way. Remember, buildings last a long time and they consume about 30% of the energy used in the United States. In other words, energy models pay dividends.
So, the first thing to establish is this: What is the purpose of energy-modeling? Most people will tell you, “It’s to save energy”, but that is over-simplified. Some people will even argue that it does not save energy since it is almost always a ton of work and in fact costs energy. These people are wrong. In the greater scheme of things, energy-modeling will no doubt save energy. The real deal with energy-modeling is that it is used to make good decisions. These decisions are not just about saving building energy/cost, but about making a good building. Simulating a building ahead of time allows designers to “see” what the building will be like for the occupants. So, occupant comfort is a HUGE component of energy-modeling. Time has proven that comfortable occupants pay dividends (less sick days, less time spent away from work, greater productivity, better decision making). In fact, during a buildings life cycle, the cost of the employees is multiple factors more than the cost of the building and the building energy.
Happy people save energy in everything they do: less road rage, better eating, buying locally, spending time outside, and more. Plus, happy people tend to care more about saving energy (did you ever think of that one? It is true). So, proper energy modeling goes a long way.
The next time somebody goes off about how energy modeling is a waste of time, perhaps you should ask if they work in a building that was not modeled ahead of design. Or, possibly, you should consider why they are so disgruntled. Is it really the energy modeling itself? It could be. However, we must consider that this industry is in its infancy. To be honest, even the best software is pretty hard to use and buggy, the building standard are defined pretty poorly, and there are often big political battles for power (I mean, how many green building “non-profits” are there?). These things will clear up in time.
The best thing we can do is push through the growing pains, share information, make a community (like energy-models.com) and work to solve problems with the best solutions - not solutions that our best for us.Even if someday, energy is basically free, we still want to make buildings that do their jobs efficiently - keep people happy, healthy, and fully functioning.
Bob Fassbender graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a degree in Chemical-Engineering. Following graduation, he spent 3 years working as a Marketing Engineer for Trane C.D.S. In the C.D.S. group, Bob developed and supported design and analysis software, primarily TRACE 700™. In addition to his development work, Bob also traveled around the country as a TRACE 700™ and System Analyzer™ instructor. Bob is also an experienced user with eQUEST energy modeling software. Today, Bob continues training and energy modeling as a LEED accredited professional (with a focus on LEED EA credit 1).
Energy-Models.com is a site for energy modelers, building simulators, architects, and engineers who want learn the basics, to advanced concepts of energy modeling. We've got online training courses and tutorials for eQUEST, Trane TRACE 700, OpenStudio, and LEED for energy modeling. All our energy modeling courses are video based. What better way to learn energy modeling software than screen-casts of exactly how things are done?
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