Why Energy Modeling Matters

Our Virtual Lunch & Learn blog series explores a specific topic adapted from our most popular Allen & Shariff Lunch and Learn courses.

Whether for new construction, existing building system auditing, or commissioning, energy modeling is inseparable from smart, efficient MEP engineering. Every design decision impacts a building’s energy use, sometimes for the lifetime of the building. Through technology like Equest/DOE2 and other software, MEP engineers build computer models of a building’s energy systems, to analyze and text proposed design before construction, or to audit existing systems to make them more efficient.

Energy Modeling provides detailed insight into how your building uses energy. By modeling the entire building with all its systems, it’s possible to analyze the impact of different systems on each other and to investigate different assumptions and scenarios about the systems at play. The ultimate goal is to find the right balance between construction cost and annual energy cost.

Here are the key factors to examine in energy modeling:

Building Envelope – There may be no greater factor in determining energy efficiency than the design and maintenance of the building envelope. It plays a vital role in determining levels of comfort, natural lighting, ventilation, and how much energy is required to heat and cool a building. It also impacts all other areas of design. For example, glazing considerations have an effect on lighting design.  Other key considerations are insulation, building orientation, shading, and daylight.

HVAC – HVAC is the largest energy user in modern buildings.  While the most significant reductions can be addressed thru the building envelope, choosing the right system and equipment is critical to increasing efficiency. Equipment that transfers energy throughout the building can shift energy and reduce those costs substantially.  Equipment that can handle part load scenarios reduces overall energy use as well as conditioning the space better. Energy modeling helps engineers to design these more cost-effective, energy efficient systems.

Lighting – Lighting makes up as significant percentage of energy consumption. Lighting also generates heat, so modeling a building’s expected total electricity consumption must include both lighting energy use and the heat generated by the lights. This can in turn impact zone heating or cooling requirements.

Water Heating – In commercial buildings heating water can account for more than 25% of energy use.  Energy modeling can be used to determine the results of combining highly efficient water heaters with complementary elements like insulation blankets and timers for even greater efficiency and cost savings. 

Controls – Controls are computer systems that monitor and regulate HVAC, lighting, and other building systems. Modeling the effects of controls on different systems is a vital consideration for efficient facility operation.

To learn more about energy modeling and other MEP design considerations, contact Allen & Shariff.

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