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    Autodesk Ecotect Analysis 2010

    continued

    analyses on specific zones, or enclosed spaces. The energy efficiency of the zone is influenced not just by the mass of the area (square footage), but by the materials involved in the construction.

    To that end, the software lets you assign materials (for instance, concrete block plaster, brick plaster, or framed timber plaster) to the walls, floor, ceiling, and roof that define the zone's enclosure. By editing the granular details about the materials (such as cost per unit or greenhouse gas emissions), you can further refine the analysis results for your project.

    The strength of the software comes not just from its algorithms, but also from the comprehensive database of material data and climate patterns. For simple shadow analysis, you can turn on the annual sun path and daily sun path in the software, allowing you to view the shadow casting by your design during various times of the year.

    For daylight analysis, you can specify the geographic location of the project, either from a list of locations or in terms of latitude and longitude. Once the project site is set, you can open your design, specify a point in the space you wish to analyze, and then follow the lighting wizard to obtain the lumens value of the area.

    For analysis, Ecotect overlays a regular 3D grid, subdividing the modeled space you wish to analyze. The grid can be manually applied and adjusted, or automatically fitted to a selected object. The auto-fit option makes it especially easy to position the grid over complex 3D objects (for example, a curved roof or an irregularly shaped floor). With the grid in place, you can load the weather data by region, and then let the software run comfort and thermal analyses.

    For construction of performance venues, you can use the Rays and Particles panel to display acoustic ray patterns as surface incidents, reflector coverage, or animated particles. The outcome of this analysis might prompt you to reorient the room or adjust certain walls and corridors to improve the acoustic performance of the venue.

    Green Building Studio Features

    Autodesk Green Building Studio (GBS) web services can be directly accessed from Ecotect Analysis 2010 as well as from the Revit platform. Delivered using the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, it lets users upload their designs to GBS servers and obtain reports about the anticipated energy and water use and carbon emissions.

    Many architecture modeling packages now offer the option to export your design in the gbXML format, a markup language used by GBS. In the past decade, gbXML has emerged as the standard for software-driven calculation of building energy consumption.

    GBS incorporates a Google Maps view that lets you see locations of land and water features and weather stations, and measure distances between points, to help you establish the precise location of your project. GBS also includes weather data for over 50,000 locations in North America.

    Once the site selection is complete, you'll find that the estimated cost per unit for electricity and fuel is filled in, based on public data available about the selected site. You also have the option to manually specify what these values should be.

    Using project location information and the data from your BIM model, GBS conducts whole-building energy, water, and carbon analysis, which reveals the expected annual energy cost, annual fuel usage, electricity load, water use, and carbon dioxide emissions of your building. These outcomes are largely based on the floor areas, construction materials, occupancy info, and space types as defined in your model, so the more accurate your metadata, the more precise your analysis will be.

    The dropdown windows with design alternatives let you explore what-if scenarios to improve the building's energy performance. For instance, photovoltaic panel installation or the use of natural ventilation might prove to be an efficient way to reduce the annual energy cost and carbon dioxide emissions. After a series of analysis runs, you can compare the outputs to find the design option that best meets your goals.

    If you're designing your project with specific LEED or Energy Star rating targets in mind, you'll be able to see the rating for each design alternative. The detailed information, available in a few mouse clicks, lets you dig deeper into the graphs and charts to find out more about what contributes to the energy or water use.

    For instance, a breakdown of electricity use might show that heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) units are responsible for 34.5 percent of annual electricity use. A further breakdown might reveal that cooling and ventilation fans account for 32 percent of that 34.5 percent, suggesting that an increase in natural ventilation might produce better results.

    The completed analysis files can be saved as DOE-2, gbXML, Energy Plus, or VRML files for archival purposes.

    Origins of Ecotect Analysis 2010

    In June 2008, Autodesk acquired Ecotect and Green Building Studio, and consolidated the two into a single product.

    Ecotect was the brainchild of Dr. Andrew Marsh, cofounder of Square One Research on the Isle of Man. His work as an environmental analyst, environmental design consultant, and lecturer in architectural science throughout Australia and the United Kingdom gave him the insight needed to create Ecotect just when the building industry was waking up to sustainability. Marsh is now senior product manager for sustainable design at Autodesk.

    Green Building Studio was created by GeoPraxis. The firm got off the ground 1999, funded by grants from the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research Program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, and Pacific Gas & Electric Company. John Kennedy, president and chief technology officer of the firm at the time, envisioned a web-based energy modeling system that could be used to benchmark buildings. The firm publicly launched its Green Building Studio web services in 2004.

    Now combined into Ecotect Analysis 2010, these tools allow you to do digitally what is not feasible in the physical realm: experiment with your design. The cost of each design iteration is no more than a few-seconds' wait and the series of mouse clicks it takes to configure your design. But the rewards — improved comfort of building occupants, lowered energy cost, decreased carbon emissions, and more — can be great.

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

    Kenneth Wong, a freelance writer based in San Francisco, has been covering the architecture software industry for nearly nine years. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst and Computer Graphics World, among others.

    Fair disclosure: Artifice, Inc., publisher of ArchitectureWeek, participated in early development of Green Building Studio as paid consultants to GeoPraxis, receiving funding through the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research Program as a GeoPraxis subcontractor.

     

    AW

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    SUBSCRIPTION SAMPLE

    By putting checkmarks next to the Daily Sun Path and Annual Sun Path options in the Shadow Settings tab (top right corner), users can visualize a modeled building's shadow patterns. Clicking on any point within the sun path or changing the time causes Ecotect to recalculate the shadows.
    Image: Courtesy Autodesk Extra Large Image

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    Ecotect's database provides access to weather data from various regions around the world.
    Image: Courtesy Autodesk Extra Large Image

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    The results of daylight analysis, color-coded according to intensity.
    Image: Courtesy Autodesk Extra Large Image

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    SUBSCRIPTION SAMPLE

    The results of solar analysis displayed in Ecotect.
    Image: Courtesy Autodesk Extra Large Image

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    Using Green Building Studio (GBS) web services, fully integrated into Ecotect Analysis 2010, users can run reports on a modeled building's electricity use, carbon dioxide emissions, and water use, among other metrics.
    Image: Courtesy Autodesk Extra Large Image

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    The GBS reports also include wind roses for different times of year.
    Image: Courtesy Autodesk Extra Large Image

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    Digging deeper into the energy usage chart, you can identify specific contributions to overall performance.
    Image: Courtesy Autodesk Extra Large Image

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    Ecotect can also provide acoustic analysis. Here, the software aids in the positioning of a source of sound (identified by the orange arrow).
    Image: Courtesy Autodesk Extra Large Image

     

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