Green CAD and 3D Design Survey
by Thomas P. Conlon
Environmentally conscious, "green" design has gained a respectable following among those already inclined to see the world through emerald lenses. Everyone else is waiting to see if it's worth the trouble.
One barrier has been a lack of truly usable building energy simulation tools. To build these, software developers need to understand the design process through the eyes of nonengineers. However, a new survey uncovers subtleties in how design software is applied in practice.
Anyone who designs buildings for a living understands the challenge. If green building design is ever to reach beyond the ranks of the converted, architects need to be able to calculate the cost savings to convince more clients. Green building pioneers know that design enhancements that save energy are one of the few modifications they can count on to look "green" to both the environmentalist and the accountant.
The most rigorous of green designers have learned to use engineering tools like Energy 10 or Visual DOE. These programs offer feedback on the energy performance of various design scenarios and quantify savings estimates. But it takes time to build models in these tools, not to mention the time to learn yet another software program. Furthermore, these systems ask architects to think like mechanical engineers, usually a losing proposition.
The challenge is to design and document energy-related enhancements early enough to make a difference. One San Francisco architect said, "We've tried many projects where we've introduced so-called "green" objectives, sustainable objectives, only to not have time to really evaluate the first costs, life cycle costs, paybacks. The schedules that are just so tight. Time is the constraint. It's the worst enemy."
This is a false color rendering of cumulative irradiance for December 21 on the roof of a proposed building in Japan, taking into account seasonal vegetation. The orange color indicates the best locations for photovoltaic collectors.
Image: Artifice, Inc.
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