Saving Energy with Effective Modeling and Design

One of the main focuses of modern architecture is energy efficiency, and predicting how much energy a facility will consume can be done from the early planning stages. These days, energy modeling is done with computers, and it gives designers the advantage of being able to analyze different energy options and remove much of the guesswork. Recently, The Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy released their strategy to double energy efficiency in the United States by 2030. They found that an increase in energy efficiency of that size would reduce pollution by one third, create over 1 million jobs, and save businesses $170 billion annually. Mechanical engineers and independent consultants work hard to identify energy-saving opportunities in both new and existing buildings. This is what modeling can teach them.

1. The Different Benefits of Models

Most energy models are used as comparison tools to see which kind of energy system would work best for the building. These comparisons aren’t black and white, because efficient systems like solar, radiant, or geothermal can offer a myriad of advantages. Clean energy reduces costs while it increases efficiency, and choosing a system will depend on the type of building, the proposed uses of the building, and how many employees or customers will be moving in and out of the premises every day. These things can be hard to predict, which make computer simulations even more important. Once you know how much energy a business will use, you can effectively set the budget before the facility is even put to use. Knowing how much can be saved on utility bills helps business owners with hiring employees, funding projects, and making other important financial decisions. It really is an important way to increase productivity for everyone.

2. Using Energy Modeling in Design

Once the building moves from computer model to actual design, the results from energy modeling can be put into use. The first thing designers do is evaluate the climate and natural environment the building is located in. They can draw on databases maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy, which gives most U.S. cities a complete weather profile so builders will know what kind of conditions to prepare for. Sun, wind, rain, and humidity levels can affect the way a structure is built and how it is powered. Next, the designers work on room layout. Everything about design can be geared towards energy efficiency, from building materials to the placement of windows for optimum light, to the placement of thermostats and HVAC technology. Making sure the building is in compliance with current legislation is another concern. In the last two years, new state laws have appeared on the books to increase green building and advance energy efficiency, which means cost-effective construction may also be a legal obligation.

3. Modeling Analysis for Existing Buildings

Currently, 35 percent of construction jobs are in the green building market, and not all of these are on new buildings. Upgrading older buildings to green standards is also of huge significance to the plan of doubling energy efficiency. Energy modeling can be done at any point during a building’s lifecycle. Assessment of how much energy is being consumed and what can be done to upgrade and improve existing systems is a great way to overhaul a company’s budget. Some improvements are simple, such as installing new and better insulation and new doors and windows with tighter sealing ability. Businesses lose 40 percent of energy through their building envelope, which includes doors, roofs, floors, and foundations. Going over the structure with a conceptual model can help identify problem areas and opportunities for rebuilding. If there has been other construction on the site, such as remodeling rooms or repairing damage from a natural disaster, energy modeling can also help pinpoint the exact costs incurred by the event and the repairs.

The opportunities for clean technology and green building are growing exponentially. By 2016, it’s estimated the market value will be well over $200 billion annually. Just a few years ago, experts were arguing over whether going green was simply a trend or whether it reflected a permanent shift in consciousness. Because of the vast improvements in cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency, it’s proven to be much more than a passing fad. Green construction is here to stay, and you can no longer design a building without first understanding its energy needs. It’s more responsible technology, and it’s also much smarter business.

Article by Nicole Murray, a frequent budget blogger for You can follow her at @NicoleMBlogs.

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