Vital Engineering Corporation
#223, 52 Sioux Rd.
Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada
T8A 4X1

P. (780) 416.8336
F. (780) 416.8620

The Case for Computer Simulation of Buildings

APRIL 29 | 2010 | 10:15 AM

The need for efficiency in building construction, operation and maintenance is becoming a top priority of owners, developer and city planners. Industry standards and certifications like LEED, EnerGuide, and others (BOMA BESt, Building EQ, and the ambitious Living Building Challenge) are using an incentive-based approach to achieving greater efficiency. Changes to regional building codes are slated to happen across Canada, and will reflect the drive towards energy efficiency in the Model National Energy Code for Buildings. These changes will mandate minimum energy efficiency standards, moving the bar progressively higher. Both the incentive and legislative approach to building energy efficiency have a common denominator: the need to benchmark. In order to determine how much one improves, one must have a starting point. In the case of existing buildings, this can be as easy as collecting utility bills (but not always). In the case of new construction there is no benchmark, so a computer simulation must be developed.

Computer simulations are becoming a required element in construction and retrofits because they are a powerful tool for comparing alternative designs and achieving an optimal combination of factors. Should the design maximize south facing windows for solar heat gain in winter, or minimize them for reducing air conditioning demand in summer...or some compromise of each? This complexity can now be captured in a program such as Bentley's Hevacomp v8i. Vital Engineering's purchase of this program places us at the forefront of building simulation and will be used for all LEED projects. NRCan also publishes an extensive catalog of open source and free software as a service for improving energy efficiency in buildings.

The software from Bentley takes building energy simulation to the next level, with incredibly detailed and accurate libraries of building materials, mechanical systems and climate conditions. The program will allow Vital engineers to compare the interaction of the building with the microclimate surrounding the building, as well as balance occupant comfort with mechanical system characteristics (to avoid situations where cold air is blowing on an office worker, while the sun is beaming at him through a window, for instance). With the power to optimize the whole process, a better designed building has substantial benefits for occupants and owners. Buildings optimized and "tuned" with computer simulations save money and increase the health and wellness of occupants. A better "tuned" building will also maintain its optimal operation for longer. NRCan currently recommends that a large commercial or residential building be "recommissioned" every three to five years, to ensure the mechanical systems and equipment do not migrate away from the optimal operation point, and to reevaluate occupant comfort.

All of these developments: need for sustainable practices, legislative changes in building performance, and recommissioning to optimize ongoing performance, place a burden on engineers to be able to accurately model building energy performance. Vital Engineering in on the leading edge of building energy simulation and intends to continue research and development of best practices in design and engineering.

Part of our efforts include developing educational series' to assist our clients and readership in learning about sustainable development.  

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