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A Cause for Collaboration

Editorial Type: Review     Date: 01-2014    Views: 3731   

A collaboration between IES and Vectorworks puts architects on the right track for BREEAM certification at the very start of a building project, says David Chadwick

Whether global warming has given way to climate change or not there is no doubt that we are witnessing some alarming trends - wetter weather, rising fuel and material costs, and soaring populations needing more houses. To compound the issue, people are demanding more space, comfort and a better living and working environment. Architects are faced with a need to factor in a whole range of sustainable building technologies as they design, aiming for high grades in the environmental standards stakes.

A couple of years ago they would have turned the problem over to environmental specialists, who would only have been able to start working on an environmental analysis after they had received the architect's models. Any modifications required to refine a building's performance would have to be passed back to the architect, and then exported again for retesting - a long-winded and flawed process.

Recognising the imperfect dynamics of the process, IES, a leading developer of building performance monitoring software, and Nemetschek Vectorworks, architectural CAD software developers, have collaborated on a solution that empowers architects to perform much of the analysis themselves, at an early stage in the design process, so that modifications to designs are easiest to effect.

Whilst not professing to become environmental experts, architects, whether working on a new build or renovation project, are now able to test different design options, identify best passive solutions, compare low-carbon technologies, and draw conclusions on energy use, CO2 emissions, occupant comfort, light levels, airflow, Part L, BREEAM, LEED, EPC ratings, and much more.

Nemetschek Vectorworks and IES began collaborating on practical workflows between the two technologies at an early stage of their partnership and have established an effective connection between the two programs using the IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) file format, the preferred Open BIM data model of buildingSMART International. Additionally, since the release of Vectorworks Architect 2013, data can be exchanged via gbXML.

IES performance modelling - available with their application VE-Pro - addresses the zero-carbon challenges faced by today's building designers and managers. It enables architects to design and operate comfortable buildings that consume significantly less energy and incorporate low-carbon and renewable technologies. The software allows them to evaluate bioclimate directions from local climate information, review solar orientation, shading options, daylight strategies, minimise energy requirements and understand which passive, active or renewable systems are suitable for further investigation.

Vectorworks total design solution is an ideal partner for IES's VE-Pro (also known as IES for Architects). Building Performance Analysis relies on the location, orientation and surrounding terrain and buildings as much as the building itself. Vectorworks models within real-world coordinates, and import and use raw point data from geophysical surveys - x, y, z coordinates, rather than imported DWG drawings. It also possesses cut and fill features for carving out a buildings footprint before it is oriented and the building slab defined.

Performance analysis can be started as soon as the basic structure is defined - walls, slabs, roofs - creating spaces and objects. Surrounding buildings can be blocked in in rudimentary form for shading analysis. This can either be done in Vectorworks or IES's VE-Pro.

Some of the glazing modelling can be done in VE-Pro, which allows architects to do some mass modelling. The model is then ready for preliminary rough and ready analysis. If Vectorworks is used for the preliminary modelling then models would have to be imported into VE-Pro as IFC or gbXML data, and re-exported after each iteration.

The iteration process is an important feature, as it allows architects to test different designs and hypotheses to produce an optimum solution. The speed of analysis is also quite quick, the only part requiring some processing time being daylight and artificial lighting analysis using radiosity tools - but even that should take no longer than an hour or so for complex models, and the levels of analysis can be toned down. IES looks for bounded volumes for its analysis.

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