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Residential energy modeling

  • 1.  Residential energy modeling

    Posted 12 days ago

    What are small residential firms using for energy modeling? HEED? Open Studio/Sketchup? Sefaira? Autodesk Insight? Most of our residential work is additions and renovations.

    We use Revit so it would be great to be able to use that geometry, but I wouldn't be opposed to using Sketchup.  I'm not sure such an animal exists, but we would love use one software to; show performance based code compliance, provide 2030 Challenge reporting, test different design options and show clients cost savings by investing in the envelope.



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    Thomas Ahleman AIA
    Studio Talo Architecture, Inc.
    Evanston IL
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  • 2.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 9 days ago

    CoveTool is the best option.

    https://cove.tools



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    Aaron Pilat

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  • 3.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 8 days ago

    RE Energy modeling for small firms

    I have found that energy modeling and carbon calculating plugins have restrictions on the host drawing tool. We use Revit LT, which is very powerful - but we don't need / can't afford the full version. The carbon software we wanted to use - Tally - doesn't work on LT, only the full version. We developed work arounds, but ultimately it was too much trouble and expense for us, even though we are committed to low carbon design and motivated by the 2030 Commitment. Still looking for an easier solution to calculating embodied carbon. For now, we reduce concrete, steel, glass and fossil fuel materials, and retrofit to Passive House. Still, I'd love to have some numbers.....



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    Paul Thompson AIA, CPHC
    BluPath Design
    Philadelphia PA
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  • 4.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 7 days ago

    As a solo practitioner, I'd love to have an affordable, easy-to-use tool. For someone like me, running a dozen projects on my own, it is impossible to learn to use a complicated tool, let alone pay for it. When I contacted Cove Tool about my concerns, how I would use the tool only a few times a year, and how the cost was 10X what I could afford, the response was a deafening silence.

    Another rogue aspect of my firm is that I use Vectorworks, so typical plug-ins built for Revit are lost on me. The industry and this organization need to understand and reflect upon what it takes to run a practice solo and our unique challenges. As fellow architects, being sensitive and not condescending to others in the practice who are "not there yet" would also go a long way. I'm not saying this thread has been condescending, but I often face it from architects, energy testing specialists, and those with more resources than they know what to do within their practice.

    Soap box over.



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    Lee Calisti AIA
    lee CALISTI architecture+design
    Greensburg PA
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  • 5.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 6 days ago

    Lee I hear your frustration and I agree in the industry it should not be a one size fits all when it comes to software that supports architectural practice. I work for local government and I am fighting for funding so I can provide Revit to my intern who is dying to use it on our projects.



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    Andrew Thompson AIA
    Passaic County
    Paterson NJ
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  • 6.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 6 days ago

    Andrew, 

    Thank you for recognizing my point and for your kind words. All the best in getting your grant funding.



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    Lee Calisti AIA
    lee CALISTI architecture+design
    Greensburg PA
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  • 7.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 5 days ago

    Lee, you nailed my frustration as well. I recently attended a Sustainability Symposium, hosted by our local AIA chapter and walked out even more frustrated. When the panel was talking about energy modeling and selecting low carbon footprint materials, it was clear this conversation was for the big firms only. I even asked the panel how this conversation can be applied to smaller firms/projects, and I was literally given the answer, "change the paper towels you use".

    IMHO small to medium sized firms, which are the overwhelming majority of AIA membership, need to work together to push the AIA to represent our needs and advocate for some kind of a public or PPP funded solution to provide our firms this capability. Small scale projects are the overwhelming majority of development in the US (from some CE lectures I have attended it is close to 90%). If our industry wants to really make a difference in climate change, we have to improve the performance of these buildings, and ironically we cannot afford the tools to help change the conversation.



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    Daniel Blair AIA
    DANKE developement
    Arlington VA
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  • 8.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 5 days ago

    Daniel,

    I appreciate your honest and eloquent summary of the problem. I chair the AIA PA Small Firm Exchange, and my enthusiasm is driven by most of the points you made. I have spoken with many small firm owners who feel the same but are quiet yet frustrated about it.

    We can critique others, but it's hard to critique ourselves.



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    Lee Calisti AIA
    lee CALISTI architecture+design
    Greensburg PA
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  • 9.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 5 days ago

    Daniel thank you for sharing your thoughts and frustrations on this matter. I am on the committee for Small Project Design and this would be a good topic to add to our conversations and an issue we can present at our forum at conference next year.



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    Andrew Thompson AIA
    Passaic County
    Paterson NJ
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  • 10.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 7 days ago
    I know that the University of California had developed some free software several years ago that was excellent but we haven't used it recently.  Maybe there is someone who has used it more recently?

    Suzie Van Cleave, AIA







  • 11.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 7 days ago
    I'm also interested in what others are using. We usually hire someone but would love to start doing this in-house since we have the revit models and can duplicate and play with different assemblies. 

    Rand Pinson, AIA

    Architect

    PINE bureau. PDX . CDMX . TX

    p: 334 332 7121  

    www.pinebureau.com | instagram







  • 12.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 8 days ago

    I recommend OneClick, very handy with Revit and you decide on the level of detailing. It does show you compliance with selected by you certificates, codes, standards.



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    Monika Budniak-Wischmann Assoc. AIA
    HAA
    Grosse Pointe Park MI
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  • 13.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 8 days ago

    Would be interesting to see if there any free software programs that could be utilized for energy modeling.



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    Andrew Thompson AIA
    Passaic County
    Paterson NJ
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  • 14.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 5 days ago

    Thanks all for a great discussion on tools. I put the ask out to the 2030 and Materials Pledge working groups and as a starting response these blog posts were recommended. These are descriptions of different tools available along with short descriptions. Shout out to one of our volunteers Daniel Overbey for writing these for everyone. 

    Energy Modeling
     
    https://danieloverbey.blogspot.com/2024/06/tools-to-help-you-assess-energy.html
    Embodied Carbon
     
    https://danieloverbey.blogspot.com/2024/06/tools-to-help-you-assess-embodied-carbon.html

     

    Please let me know how else we can support small firms interested in sustainability and AIA's pledge programs! 



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    Melissa Morancy Assoc. AIA
    The American Institute of Architects
    Washington DC
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  • 15.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 5 days ago

    Thomas, Lee, All:  Great questions, and thanks Melissa for linking to Dan Overbey's piece too.  At our 8 person firm we use Vectorworks, and are just beginning use of its Energos built-in energy modeling tool. Prior to this we used Sefaira with our SketchUp models, but as we've transitioned to Vectorworks 3D are not modeling in SketchUp in the early stages, so Energos will be our modeling tool going forward.  Sefaira is great, and can be bundled with SketchUp so I still recommend it especially if one is using SketchUp already.

    For Embodied Carbon accounting we've dabbled with Vectorworks built-in calculator, based on the ICE (European) database, but our go-to tool is BEAM Estimator (Building Emissions Accounting for Materials) tool, available for free from Builders for Climate Action:  https://www.buildersforclimateaction.org/beam-estimator.html  It's free and easy to use, and right-sized to the projects we do.  It also includes a number of the novel bio-based materials (e.g. strawbale, hempcrete, etc.) which is great (the ICE database has these also).  

    We encourage anyone not already signed up to join the AIA's 2030 Commitment and also the A+D Materials Pledge, and start reporting your portfolio of projects, to track your own progress as well as be part of tracking our c collective progression toward decarbonizing the built environment.  

    Thanks for posting on this important topic!  



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    David Arkin AIA
    Arkin Tilt Architects
    Berkeley CA
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  • 16.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 5 days ago

    I'm glad we're starting this conversation. Andrew and Daniel's comments give me hope. Thanks for sharing tools, Melissa.

    Here's the thing: for us solo AIA folks (that's a quarter of all AIA firms!), hitting goals like the 2030 commitment feels a bit out of reach. Why? Because we need tools that help us quickly explain the benefits to clients-benefits for them, not just the planet. After all, our clients are different from those of bigger firms. Firms like mine primarily do commercial renovations, not new construction. Many small firms design super-small residential additions. What about the TI project, coffee shop project, or yoga studio?

    As a solo architect for 21 years, the struggle is real. I do all the work. Running a practice is a full-time job, and learning a complex tool that takes forever to figure out adds to the pile. I can't even afford a part-time accountant. Sometimes, convincing clients to follow basic building codes feels like a battle! The idea of tackling climate action hasn't quite sunk in for them yet. Don't sound surprised, but that's another day over coffee or something stronger.

    And don't even get me started on some of these carbon calculators! They make filing taxes look like a walk in the park. (For those of you with bigger teams, delegating might be an option, but for us solo flyers, it's not.)

    Here's the key takeaway: when discussing these issues, let's not forget about solo architects (or 2 to 3-person firms). I've seen far too many magazine articles and online discussions that treat us like the forgotten child.

    I'm happy to pay a consultant to handle some of this recording and calculating, but most people use Revit. Me? I'm a Vectorworks user, and some folks even use ArchiCAD, SoftPlan, or AutoCAD LT. If we are a genuinely equitable organization, let's ensure "all" means all when providing resources.

    Every year, paying my AIA dues feels a bit tougher. No LLC or employer can pick up the tab – it comes straight out of my pocket. So, let's find ways to make these sustainability goals achievable for everyone, not just the big firms. That way, we can all be part of the solution!



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    Lee Calisti AIA
    lee CALISTI architecture+design
    Greensburg PA
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  • 17.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 5 days ago

    Lee, thank you for that breakdown and I hear you! I agree if AIA wants all their members to work towards that goal, big and small firms, big and small projects, the playing field has to be equal. I spoke to the AIA SPD committee and they are excited about this conversation. Let's hope we go from the conversation and put it into action.



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    Andrew Thompson AIA
    Passaic County
    Paterson NJ
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  • 18.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 5 days ago

    Thank you Melissa this is a great resource! In addition to small firms it would be good to know how small projects factor into accounting energy usage.



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    Andrew Thompson AIA
    Passaic County
    Paterson NJ
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  • 19.  RE: Residential energy modeling

    Posted 5 days ago

    As a former responder mentioned, California offers free energy modeling software CBECC-Res2022.3.1.  In addition, it offers free training for this software. It goes beyond the ICC Energy Code, but some may seek that option.

    A few more great energy resources in CA are Energy Code Ace (energycodeace.com), SMUD.org, and PG&E Educational Resources.

    As a sole proprietor, I am always looking to delegate some of the many tasks that CA requires.  In this state there are certified energy consultants.  For all of my projects, I engage a Title 24 Energy Consultant early to collaborate with the energy analysis from the start.  CA requires a Title 24 Energy Analysis for all residential and commercial submittals.



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    Regina Konet AIA
    Konet Architecture
    FOLSOM CA
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