Energy Modeling

Computer based tools used to assess the energy consumption of buildings has evolved, over the past several decades, from simple text-based inputs, to graphical interfaces, to building information modeling (BIM). Over the last decade, there has been an accelerated expansion in the need for, and use of, energy modeling in the building design and commissioning industries, primarily due to the improvement of energy simulation software, standardized energy simulation protocol (90.1 Appendix G), the inception of building certification programs, and the rise of custom utility incentive programs.

In addition to capturing the energy consumption, and demand, profiles of a particular design, energy modeling has the potential to provide comparisons of parametric design studies, which allows design teams, and owners, the ability to make decisions that result in better performing, more ecologically friendly buildings, that cost less to operate. Below, are some examples of how energy modeling can be used toward new building design, building renovation, and the building re-commissioning (or continuous commissioning) processes.

  • LEED® (or other) Building Certification – An ever increasing number of projects are seeking certification through the USGBC’s® LEED® Rating System. To maximize the potential points earned from Energy & Atmosphere Credit 1 (EAc1, 1-19 pts.), Option 1 must be used to demonstrate the improvement of building energy performance, over an ASHRAE 90.1 baseline building, through energy modeling, in accordance with ASHRAE 90.1, Appendix G.
  • Design Tool – In order to make the most use of energy modeling, rather than just capturing the savings that is anticipated from a particular design, once it is complete, use the energy model as a design tool, at various stages in the design process. Comparing options for mechanical systems, envelope components, building orientation and/or massing, electrical/lighting systems, and even optional utility rates, will ensure that the expected or targeted building performance and operating cost is realized.
  • The Energy Policy Act (EPACT) of 2005 Compliance – In addition to several executive orders and federal building design standards, such as those set forth by the National Park Service and branches of the military, part of the federal legislation included under EPACT 2005 requires that new federal buildings must be designed to achieve an energy performance savings of 30%, when compared to ASHRAE Standard 90.1 (currently the 2004 version), or demonstrate why this would not be life cycle cost effective. Energy modeling is the best way to capture the synergistic effects of energy efficiency measures toward demonstrating EPACT compliance. Additionally, the results of the energy model can be used in conjunction with economic software (such as BLCC5) to demonstrate life cycle cost effectiveness, when the project cannot maintain the 30% performance improvement.
  • Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) – Many owners and building design professionals seek to understand the economic benefits (or penalties) of including energy efficiency measures in their buildings/designs. Results of energy consumption and demand, from an energy model can be used in conjunction with economic software (such as BLCC5) to evaluate life cycle cost effectiveness of such measures, beyond simple pay-back methods. Additionally, federal buildings are required to demonstrate life cycle cost effectiveness, per FEMP guidelines, and Federal Regulation 10CFR436.
  • Federal Tax Incentives – As part of EPACT 2005, building owners can realize a tax deduction of up to $1.80/ft2 for buildings that demonstrate energy efficiency improvements of up to 50%, and partial deductions can be awarded to projects that are under 50% improvement. Additionally, for federal buildings, the tax incentive can be awarded to the design professional. As part of the required documentation, IRS Notice 2006-52 requires that the results of the energy model, required to assess the tax incentive, be retained on file.
  • Utility Incentive Programs – Most large utility companies that provide electric or natural gas service to commercial buildings offer incentives to their customers, for energy efficiency measures that are applied to new designs, or retrofit/renovations. These programs usually consist of prescriptive incentives (i.e., $800 rebate for 87% efficient boiler), as well as custom incentives, that are based on the energy performance improvement that is captured over a prescribed baseline building. These custom incentive programs, in conjunction with an energy model, provide the capability to reward energy efficiency measures that cannot be incentivized under a prescriptive program, such as evaporative cooling, natural ventilation, demand control ventilation, etc.
  • Code Compliance – When compliance with the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), or ASHRAE Standard 90.1 cannot be demonstrated through compliance with the prescriptive path or through simple trade-off methods (COMcheck), an Energy Cost Budget Method whole building energy model (ASHRAE 90.1 Chapter 11) can be used to evaluate the compliance of proposed designs.

For the past two decades, CEA has served the building industry by provided whole building energy analysis services to various clients, and has expertise under all of the topics discussed, above. Below, is just a small sampling of the recent projects, and clients for which CEA has provided energy engineering services.

  • Swire Coca-Cola, USA – Design Assist, LCCA, LEED NCv3.0, and Questar Gas Custom Business Rebates program
  • NPS IDIQ: Lake Mead Headquarters – LCCA, LEED NCv2.2, EPACT 2005
  • Swaner Nature Preserve (Park City, UT) – LEED NCv2.2 (Platinum Certified), Rocky Mountain Power’s FinAnswer custom incentive program
  • Adobe® Utah Campus – Design Assist, LEED NCv3.0
  • Nu Skin® Enterprises, Inc. Innovation Center – Design Assist, LEED NCv3.0, Code Compliance
  • Southern Utah University Gibson Science Center – LEED NCv2.2, Rocky Mountain Power’s FinAnswer custom incentive program
  • The Boyer Company – Federal Tax Incentive assessment

If you would like more information on how energy modeling can be used to add value to your next project, or you know you are in need energy engineering/modeling services, and would like more information regarding pricing and scheduling, please take a few minutes to write an inquiry below. You can ask general questions, or if you have a specific need, please include a description of the project and your contact information, and CEA will respond to you in a timely manner.

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Colvin Engineering  /  Energy Modeling