SimBuild 2016 - The Rise of Early Simulation

I was lucky enough last week to fulfill a lifelong dream and present research at the ASHRAE IBPSA Simbuild Conference in beautiful, thermally delightful Salt Lake City, Utah. Admittedly, this is one of the nerdier conferences out there, but definitely a plus when you’ve dedicated your professional career to energy and daylight simulation. But what makes this conference great is not that it’s purely about algorithms, statistical regression models, or hard core academic research—rather, a huge focus of this year’s conference was on how architects can integrate modeling earlier into their design processes. Kjell Anderson, an architect and the sustainability coordinator for LMN (this year’s AIA Firm Award winner), gave the keynote about how to get architects and energy modelers to “dance”. The metaphor was apt as he advocated for a questions-based approach to using simulation to answer such provocations at every phase of the design process.  Questions like, “What strategies reduce the peak cooling load by 50% in schematic design?” serve as simple questions that stimulate the conversation between designer and modeler, both of which who are internal to the architecture team in LMN’s case. The keynote set the tone for a sessions that dove deep on the technical issues, but kept ideas about workflow and integration paramount to the spirit of the conference.

 Kjell Anderson from LMN on the left, Salt Lake City on the Right

Kjell Anderson from LMN on the left, Salt Lake City on the Right

Other notable takeaways include the rise of my new favorite ASHRAE Standard (I have so many favorites!), ASHRAE Standard 209: Energy Simulation Aided Design for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. The document outlines a series of investigations, called “cycles,” that teams can execute at various phases of the design process, and it outlines how many of them must be completed to comply with the standard. This document is important for two reasons. First, it provides a compendium of different types of simulation analyses that can be done on a project. Second, it provides a flexible standard that will soon undoubtedly start showing up in certification programs, incentive programs, project RFPs, and hopefully owner-architect and architect-consultant contracts.

The research I presented came from of my earliest work here at EDR. The Autodesk Building Performance Analysis (BPA) team commissioned us to run some validation tests on their new Revit-integrated daylight analysis software, Lighting Analysis for Revit. We designed the research to cover testing the accuracy of the underlying daylighting algorithms behind the tool’s calculation engine, and to cover exploring issues with the new “BIM-to-SIM” workflows that leverage BIM models for simulation. This type of workflow is the holy grail, IMO, that makes simulation fast and easy enough for architects and designers.  hat is, as long as it’s accurate.  Embedding simulation inputs into BIM models, while simplifying the model-creation process, can be a double-edged sword when it comes to QAQC. What should we be aware of when we're no longer building egg-shell models from scratch? How do our BIM-modeling tendencies effect the consistency of simulation results? The research explores these questions and more. Contact jdunn@eskewdumezripple.com to access a draft of the journal paper, see below for a teaser.

 A sample page from daylighting research presented by EDR at the conference.

A sample page from daylighting research presented by EDR at the conference.

Oh, and here's me relaxing on the "Living Room" trail, right behind the Natural History Museum, a fantastic trail accessible from downtown SLC. It's named for the "sofa rocks" that are arranged from pieces of slate at this overlook. A much needed respite after a crazy conference week.