Whitepaper Watch: DPR Teams with Autodesk to Outline Benefits of Rapid Energy Modeling

DPR's rapid energy modeling case study on its Sacramento office building resulted in 95 percent accuracy when compared to actual performance.
DPR's rapid energy modeling case study on its Sacramento office building resulted in 95 percent accuracy when compared to actual performance.

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but now it can also help a building owner perform rapid energy modeling that can simulate and analyze a building’s energy consumption. That’s the conclusion of a recent whitepaper by DPR Preconstruction Manager Nils Blomquist, BIM Manager Jack Hammons, and Autodesk Sustainability Program Manager Aniruddha Deodhar. “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Which is the Healthiest Building of All?” examines how the traditional methods of assessing a building’s energy use—benchmarking and audits—can fail to take advantage of the latest technological advances.

Benchmarking, the authors say, is fast but comes with the risk of being imprecise and inaccurate. On the other hand, audits can reveal a higher granularity of data, but are usually time consuming and expensive. One alternative is rapid energy modeling, which, rather than providing an arbitrary comparison to a national average or having to go through the rigors of a comprehensive diagnosis, yields a quick, comparative appraisal.

Rapid energy modeling, Autodesk’s streamlined process for modeling, involves moving rapidly, and with minimal data, from existing building conditions, through simplified simulation to building energy analysis. “Mirror, Mirror” outlines the three steps of rapid energy modeling: capturing existing building conditions, modeling a simplified 3D building geometry and design parameters, and analyzing the building’s energy consumption and carbon emissions using software that draws from an array of databases.

A pilot rapid energy modeling project conducted by Autodesk revealed how using just the company’s software a novice user could convert digital photos of office buildings into building energy models capable of remotely analyzing each building’s energy consumption and carbon neutrality potential.

Using both digital street-level photographs and satellite images, DPR recently tested the photogrammetry-based workflow on its corporate headquarters in Redwood City, CA, and its LEED Silver-certified regional office in Sacramento. Using a combination of Autodesk software and services, including ImageModeler™, Revit and Green Building Studio® web service, DPR was able to quickly develop simplified exterior models of the buildings and estimate their annual energy use. When compared to actual energy bills, the findings were accurate.

According to Hammons, the speed at which the workflow can accurately deliver a model is remarkable. “Based on my experience, once you get past the learning curve of using the reality-capture software, a typical three-story office building can be modeled and simulated for energy analysis in just eight to 12 hours. That is very rapid indeed!”

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