New tool aids energy efficiency in buildings

Scientists at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation have unveiled a computer tool for the design of a new generation of energy-efficient buildings.

Scientists at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have unveiled a computer tool for the design of a new generation of energy-efficient buildings.

CSIRO Energy Express reportedly provides sophisticated computing power that can estimate the operational energy consumption and costs before construction begins.

‘Energy Express looks at variations in a building design (layout, orientation, materials, insulation, shading, lighting, and heating, ventilation and cooling) and operation (thermostat settings, schedules, and heating, ventilation and air- conditioning controls) and evaluates and compares options,’ said Steve Moller the designer of Energy Express.

‘Operating energy costs are estimated using electricity and gas tariff data supplied and then energy cost savings can be weighed against the cost of the option and other design criteria to produce the most effective design.’

The new tool will be available in two versions. One version is designed for architects and the other for engineers. Both models are said to be able to ‘talk’ to each other, improving communication and reducing design errors.

‘Energy Express for Architects has an easy-to-use air-conditioning model that evaluates the energy impacts of the building envelope, shading and operating options, leading to optimum energy consumption and cost,’ said Mr Moller, ‘Importantly these calculations are generated from the actual design without the need to input detailed heating, ventilation and cooling data’.

He added: ‘Energy Express for Engineers offers similar features, but also incorporates tools for evaluating the required heating and cooling capacity of the air-conditioning system and for detailed analysis of air-conditioning options’.

Its in-built 2D CAD system is said to enable the user to draw in the outline of the building (the external walls) and to divide the internal space into thermal zones (internal walls), without the need for calculating wall and floor area measurements.

Data from CAD programmes saved in DXF (drawing exchange format) can easily be read into CSIRO Energy Express to aid geometric modelling. The DXF image forms a background, over which the walls and windows are drawn.

Mr Moller said that after the building outline is entered, users can stretch, move or change the position of walls or any other design element using a ‘click-and-drag’ mouse operation.

The CSIRO Energy Express package reportedly contains an extensive library of data required for designing commercial buildings, such as standard constructions, schedules, tariffs and plant performance.

CSIRO Energy Express is built on building simulation technology developed by CSIRO over 20 years. It was tested on the design for the Australian Geological Survey Organisation building in Canberra and predicted its first year’s energy consumption to within 6 %.

CSIRO Energy Express is expected to be available shortly following completion of trials.

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