Page T1.2 . 19 May 2010                     
ArchitectureWeek - Tools Department
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Free Energy Analysis with IES VE-Ware


The same toolbar also connects you to VE-Toolkits, a suite that lets you measure your model building's daylight access, solar impact, heating and cooling loads, and green rating credits. But you won't be able to use these features unless you've purchased a license of VE-Toolkits. If you'd like to experiment with VE-Toolkits, IES offers a 30-day trial version, also downloadable from the IES web site. The free VE-Ware is limited to energy consumption and carbon emissions.

You may not need to pay close attention to the interior of your SketchUp model if you plan to use it for presentation only, but if you wish to inspect it for energy performance, you'll need to make sure that living quarters, bedrooms, dining rooms, and hallways exist as separate areas. This means modeling not just the exterior walls, windows, and roofs, but also the interior walls and partitions. By doing so, you ensure that VE-Ware can identify and treat each room as an enclosed space in its calculation.

Location, Location, Location

When your model is ready for analysis, you should first identify the building's real-world location. You can define the building site using the VE-Ware toolbar's "Set Building Properties" button, which gives you the option to use a dropdown menu to pick the site. The location information you provide lets VE-Ware extract the necessary coordinates and load the relevant weather data in preparation for the analysis session.

In the same dialog box, under "Set Building Properties," you'll also be able to define the general use of your model building, along with its heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. For example, using the choices in the dropdown menu, you could tag your model as a single-family dwelling with central heating, a gymnasium with natural ventilation, or an office with a fan coil system.

A Room of Your Own

Afterwards, you press the "Identify Rooms" button in the VE-Ware toolbar to let the software automatically detect your rooms. Once these rooms are identified, you'll be able to select each room as a separate entity. You'll notice that the section of the model is highlighted when you click the "Select a Room" button and move the hand icon over it. You'll then be able to tag the room with its intended use via a dropdown menu.

For example, Room 1 is the dining area, Room 2 is a library, Room 3 is sleeping quarters, and so on. If you're planning a building with multiple HVAC systems, you may also tag each room with a separate HVAC setup in this dialog box.

If you're in possession of construction material data, you can edit the wall, glazing, roofing, and floor materials from a set of dropdown menus. This function is available in the "Set Building Properties" or "Set Room Properties" dialog box.

By default, the software automatically tags the exterior walls as four-inch (ten-centimeter) face brick, two-inch (five-centimeter) insulation, and four-inch lightweight concrete block; interior walls as lightweight plasterboard partitions; the roof as 19-millimeter asphalt and 13-millimeter fiberboard; and the exterior windows as small, double-glazed windows. But you can edit these default values so that your single-family dwelling is instead made up of exterior walls with eight-inch (20-centimeter) clay tiles and large double-glazed windows, for example.

Ready to Run

With the correct construction material data, site data, and usage data loaded, you're now ready to run analysis in VE-Ware. In the toolbar, you'll find the analysis button as a lightning-bolt icon, named "VE-Ware: 2030 Challenge." This step automatically transports you from SketchUp to IES-Virtual Environment (VE). Here you're prompted to choose your cooling and heating fuel options — electricity, natural gas, and biomass are among your choices.

After a few minutes of calculation, you'll get a report showing your building's expected energy consumption (specified in millions of British thermal units, MMBtu) and carbon output (in tons of carbon dioxide).

The same report also tells you whether your building meets the specifications of the 2030 Challenge, the standard proposed by the nonprofit group Architecture 2030 to gradually reduce buildings' fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades, with the goal of all new buildings and major renovations being carbon-neutral by 2030.

Fun Exercises

With easy access to VE-Ware, you can experiment with your SketchUp model by assigning different materials, changing the orientation, widening windows, and reducing room sizes till the reported fuel consumption and carbon emission are at a satisfactory level.

Since SketchUp gives you the option to import user-created 3D models from the Google 3D Warehouse, you could, just for amusement, try loading an iconic building (such as the Empire State Building), relocate it to a different site (say, Denver, Colorado), then run the VE-Ware analysis to check its predicted carbon footprint in its new location.

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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, Computer Graphics World, and Desktop Engineering, among others.   More by Kenneth Wong



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A close-up view of the SketchUp toolbar with the IES VE-Ware plug-in installed.
Image: Kenneth Wong/ Courtesy IES Extra Large Image

ArchWeek Image

For accurate energy analysis results, the SketchUp model should include interior walls and partitions. This lets VE-Ware treat the enclosed areas as geometric volumes.
Image: Kenneth Wong/ Courtesy IES Extra Large Image

ArchWeek Image

In the "Set Building Properties" and "Set Room Properties" dialog boxes, you can set the function of each room and the materials and type of exterior walls and windows.
Image: Kenneth Wong/ Courtesy IES Extra Large Image

ArchWeek Image

The outcome of VE-Ware analysis is a report indicating the building's energy consumption and carbon emissions.
Image: Kenneth Wong/ Courtesy IES Extra Large Image

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The VE-Ware report will indicate how well a given building design compares with the incremental standards of the 2030 Challenge issued by Architecture 2030.
Image: Courtesy IES

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Used with a 3D design tool, such as SketchUp, VE-Ware can quickly inform results on building energy performance of multiple design options.
Image: Courtesy IES Extra Large Image


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