Posted on | April 29, 2011 | 2 Comments
This past Tuesday, we all got to see for the first time what buildings the students are modeling for their Term Projects, the primary objective of which is to evaluate a building’s energy consumption using three different methodologies. The students will then derive from this process a better understanding of that building’s interaction with its environment and come to some sort of decision about how “sustainable” that building is. With 20 students in the class, using three different tools, and only 10 weeks to complete the projects, we had a lot to talk about. Roughy 2/3 of the class is studying commercial buildings while the remainder are looking at residential structures. Students are using many of the tools depicted on the “energy modeling scale” here, and a few that don’t make an appearance on the scale. Nearly everyone ran into some complications with at least one of the tools, with the most common frustrations arising out of – by my unofficial count – eQUEST. Still, eQUEST is an industry standard and a byproduct of DOE2, so it is good for new energy modelers to get their “hands dirty” with it, so to speak.
One of the most common questions I heard from the students during the midterms was, “What are your expectations for us to come up with the right answer?” To which I say, this project and this class are not so much about getting THE right answer THE first time around, as it is about getting AN answer. The purpose of the term project is in fact to come up with multiple answers and then compare them with historical data to see how that building stacks up. Energy modeling tools are imperfect creations… no single entity has a lock on how to calculate the energy consumption of even the smallest home, let alone a large commercial building. So often, to paint a more accurate picture of a building’s energy consumption, we use multiple tools and then parse out what worked and what didn’t work. The good news is, working with multiple tools not only gives us results that we can compare, it also offers the students the opportunity to gain experience on programs they may have never had the chance to use before.
And so it came to pass that we had a mid-term review in an architecture school in which everyone was encouraged to keep experimenting and make mistakes! Which in eQUEST is very easy to do :) I am really pleased so far with the class’s investment in this project and happy to see the gears turning in their heads, especially since so many engineers and other building professionals think that architects “don’t care” about the systems and the energy consumption of the buildings that they design. Architects care, for sure, it’s just that often we aren’t given the means to understand and work with this information. Hopefully this class is a small but serious step on the road to changing that.