BERKELEY, CA -- The U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory has released a beta version of the Building Design Advisor (BDA), an
advanced, Windows-based decision-making tool intended to help architects and engineers
design more energy-efficient, economic, and comfortable buildings.
Studies suggest that building designers who use building simulation
tools can reduce the energy use of a new building by 20 percent on average compared to
buildings designed without these tools.
"The design of buildings today requires a series of complex
decisions involving many performance considerations, such as comfort, energy requirements,
code compliance, environmental impact, aesthetic appeal, etc.," says Konstantinos
Papamichael, a scientist in the Environmental Energy Technology Division's Building
Technologies Program, and BDA's principal developer.
"There are a number of software simulation tools to help estimate
the performance of proposed buildings with respect to various performance aspects, such as
energy and environmental impact," he adds. "However, most of these tools were
developed by researchers for research purposes and are not easy to use. They take months
to learn and even then, require a significant amount of time to prepare the input in terms
of keywords and numbers structured in particular formats. Moreover, they provide their
output in the form of alphanumeric tables that are hard to read and interpret.
Another problem with the use of the available simulation tools is the
incompatibility in how they represent the elements of a building. "A lighting
simulation program," says Papamichael, "usually represents walls as polygons
with information about placement and orientation, texture, light reflectance, etc. A
heating/cooling simulation program usually models walls as thermal barriers with
information about heat transfer coefficients, thermal capacities, etc."
The BDA software addresses both of these problems. Building designers
benefit from easy, quick, integrated use of multiple simulation tools using a single,
object-oriented representation of the building and its context. This representation is
mapped onto those of the various tools linked to it. While the designer draws the building
using an editor similar to those in computer-assisted design (CAD) software, the BDA
automatically prepares the required input to all simulation tools linked to it, supplying
smart default values for any required information that may have not been
addressed by the designer.
Through a specialized graphical user interface, designers can quickly
review and edit the specifications of any building component or system (spaces, walls
windows, lighting, cooling and heating equipment, etc.) and use any of the available
parameters as a criterion for decision-making. Most important, designers can integrate the
output of all simulation tools and compare multiple alternative designs with respect to
multiple performance criteria.
"The Decision Desktop displays information like illumination level
and energy use for each alternative in the form of a visual spreadsheet. Using the
Desktop, the designer can compare alternative designs side by side with respect to various
performance considerations," says Papamichael.
The Release 1.0 version of the BDA is linked to a Schematic Graphic
Editor, a daylight simulation tool, and an energy simulation tool. Future releases of the
BDA will be linked to additional simulation tools, including DOE-2, the de facto
standard for building energy analyses, RADIANCE, a sophisticated day/lighting simulation
program with photo-accurate rendering capabilities, and COMIS, a software tool for
modeling airflow and indoor air quality.
"The initial release of the BDA is linked to a few software tools,
but there is no intrinsic limitation on which and how many tools can be connected,"
says Papamichael. "We hope that this initial release will excite the building design
industry and initiate collaborations for the development of links to additional tools and
databases, as well as for the expansion and enhancement of BDAs main features and
"Farther in the future, we hope to collaborate with both
commercial and academic institutions to use BDAs capabilities for concurrent,
multi-user building design over the Internet. We should be able to distribute both the
data and computational processes over local and wide area networks, and add
videoconferencing and whiteboard capabilities," he adds.
More than 350 parties in the building industry, utilities and academic
institutions have already expressed interest in reviewing the BDA. Interested users can download a beta version of the BDA, make comments
and suggestions, and report bugs at http://kmp.lbl.gov/BDA.
The BDA research and development efforts are supported by the
California Institute for Energy Efficiency (CIEE), a research unit of the University of
California, and by the Office of Building Technology, State and Community Programs, Office
of Building Systems of the Department of Energy.
Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located
in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified research and is managed by the
University of California.