New computer programme will help design energy efficient buildings

A new computer programme which will be able to assist architects and engineers in the design of a new generation of energy-efficient buildings has been unveiled by its designers in Australia.

Energy Express, designed by researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), can be used to estimate the operational energy consumption and costs of a building before its construction begins. The programme will be available in two versions, one for architects and the other for engineers, which will be able to communicate with each other.

“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 designer of Energy Express Steve Moller of CSIRO Thermal and Fluids Engineering. “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 programme enables the user to draw the external walls of the building and to divide the internal space into thermal zones, using internal walls, which can be easily moved, changed or stretched. An example of what the programme can do, is that of the architects’ version of Energy Express, which includes an air-conditioning model that evaluates the energy impacts of the building, as well as shading and operating options, which leads to the calculation of optimum energy consumption and cost, explained Moller.

Energy Express has been tested on the design for the Australian Geological Survey Organisation building in Canberra, and successfully predicted its first year’s energy consumption to within 6%. It is expected to be generally available following the completion of trials.

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