New Ecodesigner making new leaps in design

A new version Ecodesigner for Archicad  15 has been released and considering the CRAZY(Huge ) amounts of  exciting new features and tools that Archicad 15 has been upgraded with(not that we complaining:-) it only seems fitting that Ecodesigner gets an upgrade too.           

Ecodesigner still functions on the same principles but offer more for the user.An improved user interface as well as much more detailed evaluation sheets are a few of the programs new features,keeping in mind that Ecodesigner is an Addon for Archicad yet still stands its own against its competitors and other  standalone energy effieciency programs and just seems to be getting better and better.

The new energy evaluation sheet still has the similar key value section which displays the project information as well as the building geometry data,building shell performance data,heat transfer coeffiecients and the buildings annual demands which breaks the annual demands down per square metre.

Ecodesigner sheet offers a further breakdown of energy consumption by sources.These graphs display the renewable energy and electricity consumption per annum as well as the cost of that energy and the annual Carbon Emissions.

The Energy balance Evaluation further breakdowns the electrical energy usage and has accompanying graphs as well as the carbon emissions breakdown with accompanying graphs.These graphs basically show you how your electricity is being allocated as per percentage and the same goes for carbon emissions,which elements of your building are producing the most carbon emissions.

If your building is using renewable green energy then these graphs also show in which sectors it is being utilized with its percentages.

Lastly the monthly energy balance  sheet shows the monthly evaluation graph shows the supplied energy to the building and the emitted energy per annum and basically shows the what is supplied to the building in terms of the building requirements and emitted is the buidlings energy given off and breakdowns what your building gives per annum eg in this case our building gives off a lot of mechanical cooling per annum.

The new sheets are 40+percent more detailed than the previous version and provides much more detailed breakdown of the buildings current situation.

What amazes me is how versatile this little addon is,and when I say little i dont mean little as in capabilities,but little as in how it is fractionally priced in comparison to its competitors,the programs offers features like detailed carbon emission calculations,energy consumption calculations  reports yet it can also be used as a design simulation tool.

To better describe this,previously an Architects had to make assumptions or take the manufacturers word on how certain materials would perform in his building,with ecodesigner we can simulate that situation and generate reports on how these materials perform in the building,this assists the architect in making smarter design choices,as long as the architect obtains the materials thermal performance specifications from the manufacturer which are the thermal conductivity of that material,its density and its heat capacity which will assist Ecodesigner in assigning correct u values to the materials ,he is then able to compare the use of different materials for a specific function.Insulation from manufacturer A vs a more expensive insulation with with better thermal specs and see exactly how much of a difference it makes to his bulding performance.These days theres is no need to making assumptions or wing it as the tool to make detailed evaluations and reports are available to Architects.


Whats is great about it now you can properly evaluate what has been a burden to architects and builders for many years,the intial cost of building vs the long term to maintain/run the building.

Like most things in life,if you want better quality its more than likely  you have to pay more for it,so does one spend a bit more on quality tested materials initially when building the property or does one use the cheaper alternative cause as many say that it will work and do the job,not realising the risk that one takes when doing this.Fine ,it works ,you saved a few thousands but it might end up costing you many more thousands in the long term to run this building.Its now costing more to cool and heat the building because of energy consuming heating and cooling devices that your building now requires. If you had just spent a bit extra initially,unfortunately its one of those hard life lessons that are only learnt over the years and through others experiences.

Ecodesigner  allows you to simulate your building with the cheaper materials and calculates your buildings performance as well as the energy required by your mechanical heating and cooling devices and the cost in Rand value it takes to run them annually  as well as simulate your same building with smarter design choices and materials and the cost in rand value to run that building annually.So it allows you to weigh your various options which was not possible in the past.

In a nutshell the new cad environment allows for simulation of various scenarios over certain time periods which assist designers and architects of this age to make more smarter informed design choices thus designing more energy efficient buildings.


Out and About in South Africa

Firstly if you are like me and live in Durban then you probably like myself don’t realise how lucky  we are to live in such favourable conditions namely our weather and comfort levels in Durban.

I recently had the pleasure of travelling through to various cities in South Africa,namely Johannesburg,Pretoria,Bloemfontein,East London and Ladybrand to name a few.These cities really see a drop in temperature especially during the Winter period,the temperature in these areas varied from -2 degrees to 15 degrees which any Durbanite will agree is very cold.

Mountains of Lesotho


On the road to Bloemfontein


In Durban we are fortunate because temperature control devices such as air-conditioning and heaters and electric blankets are not really necessary as here we make use of natural ventilation,natural cooling and as long as we have a few blankets for the cold nights then we are sorted.This does not apply for these other regions though as heating devices are essential and basically  almost a necessity during the winter period .

One night in Lady brand(a small town outside of Lesotho) made this all make sense to me.You literally have to either have your heater on all night to stay warm or have your air-conditioning on the entire night to keep the room at a constant temperature.Which for me was shocking,I had fallen off to sleep under the electric blanket and my body was perspiring under the blanket yet my face was ice cold from being exposed to the room temperature.


Cottage in Lady brand

I had to get put the heater on and sleep with it on,which in my mind was impractical way of living especially with our countries energy crisis.

I started to rethink about this in an architectural sense to make sense of this,why do we require all these mechanical cooling and heating devices,why isn’t this building staying warm?I decided to put the heater off once the room had reached a comfortable temperature and in no time the room became cold and uncomfortable again.I gave this more thought and it seemed to me like this building was struggling to maintain a constant temperature.Basically the cold from the outside was finding its way inside or the heat from this building was escaping to the outside,how?I asked myself,Was it through the roof?Through the walls ?Through the openings,namely windows when they are closed.

Then I arrived at the conclusion that this building had a high transmission rate,(keeping in mind that transmission is the transfer of heat through materials).I then wondered what was the architects thinking when they designed this building,was he/she purely concentrating on the buildings appearance and less focus on its use and how comfortable it would be in this space  or did they even consider this when designing the building,this building failed in its ability  to store heat and to more or less maintain a constant temperature.

The building was a beautiful cottage with the beautiful modern  furniture and really good finishes with sandstone and tiles in the bathroom and boasted a real african feel but was miserably cold when the sun had set.

Why was this building so cold?Was it because this cottage only made use of single glazing,was it that no or very poor insulation was used in the walls and roofs,was the the underside of the slab insulated?

My point is that architects and designers need to design specifically for these conditions rather than designing buildings that are totally dependant on mechanical heating and cooling.

In a nutshell they should,INSULATE,INSULATE AND INSULATE.

Roofs ,floors,walls should be properly insulated stop that transmission,are at least limit it.

Yes it does cost more to do this but the building will function better for its purpose.It makes more sense to pay a bit more on proper insulation to help the building to maintain a constant temperature and lower the buildings transmission of heat than to spend thousands more on the energy required by these mechanical heating and cooling devices .

This was one of highlights of my trip as I literally experienced a poor performing building in terms of energy efficiency and thermal comfort and it was something i will treasure as it was first hand experience in learning about how buildings perform or under perform to stay warm or maintain a constant temperature.

Architects need to first exhaust passive design methods before implementing mechanical cooling and heating devices as they are merely treating a problem and not resolving it,until this becomes a standard,we will continue to debate on high energy consuming quick fix heating and cooling devices  vs initial smart passive  design more bout that later…

Ecodesigner in action

Mission-To analyse a Holiday house in Johannesburg indepth,we will analyse the buildings Energy Consumption,Carbon Emissions,Carbon Footprint,Heat gain and Green Energy Production in an attempt to make our building more Energy efficient and to battle the evil forces of Global warming.To accomplish such a daunting task , we are going to need something powerful and special.We will be using a new Add on for Archicad 14 named Ecodesigner.

We will try and accomplish this by following 5 simple stages .


Stage 1-Analysis

The Johannesburg Holiday Home before any design changes

                        Ecodesigner evaluation sheet                                                                                       

                          Ecodesigner  Materials list

             Ecodesigner Mep Systems and Energy settings


Firstly I will use Ecodesigner to to generate a report on this building that will tell me exactly what i am working with.I will then go through a step by step process to reduce this buildings energy consumption and also will attempt to reduce its carbon footprint.This building has a flat roof and makes use of air-conditioning to cool it as the openings it has is not sufficient enough to cool it.Let me start by generating a report on the buildings currents status.The Building currently has a high Carbon footprint.It currently generates  5362kg of Carbon per year and its Energy consumption is really high at 19861kwh per year.My mission is to bring these values down by making simple design changes.The material lists indicates the materials being used the building as well as the materials u values,infiltration and areas of the materials.The Mep systems and energy settings indicates the that the building makes use of mechanical cooling to cool the building and makes use of natural ventilation and makes use of natural heating and uses electricity for hot water generation and uses compact fluorescent globes for lighting of the building.


Step 2-Materials and insulations

The first change I made was that i selected my materials for my roof and changed the fill that i was using for my concrete roof to flat roof composite structure.this was to ensure that my building was using the correct fill for the flat concrete roof based on its construction.These changes were done in Archicad and would therefor update when I entered Eco-designer.

Next I selected a few walls in archicad and changed their fill from masonry block to  215 block insulated cavity and plastered composite fill,therefor using a fill which reflects the type of materials and construction I will be using with the insulation.

Now in stage 2 we have simply changed our materials for our roof from light weight concrete to a composite structure of the concrete flat roof and for external walls we simply used a material or composite fill with more insulation and a lower u value.The same for the flat roof,it has a lower u value.remembering that the definition of u value: A measure of the flow of heat through an insulating or building material.Therefore our building has a high Transmission rate and by adding materials with a lower u value we hope to lower its transmission .

After making these small changes to our building we notice quite a few things off our second  energy evaluation sheet.The first thing to note is that our buildings uses less energy and its energy consumption value has decreases significantly by about 5000kwh.The next thing to notice is that our carbon emissions or carbon footprint has also significantly decreased by almost 2000kg of carbon per year.We were successful in lowering the buildings transmission significantly.Therefore we were successful in this stage…


Stage 3-Green energy and Mep enhancements

At this stage we are notice that our building is mechanical cooling values are very high and therefor uses a lot of electricity or energy to do so.We are going to try and rectify this by making a few changes.

Our first step we take in stage 3 is to open up eco-designer and open the Mep systems & Energy settings and add a heat pump to our building to cool our building which was previously mechanically cooled by air-conditioning.we are also going to change our interior lighting method from compact fluorescent to LED lights which uses less than a fifth of the energy that the compact fluorescents use.
Next in this stage 3 we are going to add a Solar collector for hot water generation and also we need to specify that we are using a heat pump for space heating in this green energy
setting in ecodesigner.Changing this should make our building not only more energy efficient but more Green.Lets run another Energy evaluation and see….
The First thing to take note of is that our Green Energy is running through the roof.Our building now generates its own energy to cool itself as well as its own energy to heat the water so it makes use of green solar energy.Our carbon footprint has also by lost 1oookg less carbon emissions a year and also our energy consumption has dropped by almost 4000kwh per year

Our building is now more efficient as it uses green energy to cool itself in the form of a heat pump and its solar collector also generates green energy.We will not stop there,we will still try to make this building more energy efficient and to drop that carbon footprint even more.there is still a few more areas we would like to address…


Stage 4-Analysis of Sun and shadows on facades.

Sun and projection settings in Archicad                                                              East  Perspective view of Building


 Sun settings indicating location and date.

The sun settings and date is set to more or less the hottest period of the year and set to 11am when the sun is shining directly on the east facade of the building.The purpose of this sun study is too see the suns position and and how it affects our building and where exactly our is the shadows been cast and also to see where is the heat entering the openings or the building as our heat transmission is still relatively high.Our east facade seems to be fine and the openings seem to be sufficiently shaded.

Lets move on to the west facade.  

  3d projection settings in Archicad                                                                                                        West Perspective                                                                                                                                   

Sun and location settings

In this view the camera is set to the west facade and the sun is shining directly on the west facade and the sun is set to more or lesss the hottest periods in the year and the time is set to when the sun is shining directly on the west facade,with this settings we are able to analyse the sun shadows and where the building is shaded and where it is not and also where the sun penetrates our building,from this analysis we see that our building seems to be sufficiently shaded as well as our opening so therefor we need to look at maybe a different approach to reducing our buildings transmissions and solar gain.


Step 5-Design changes

We have completed with our passive design changes, we are now to make major design changes or adjustments  to ensure our building performs better.

We start by removing the flat roof and placing a ceiling  to our building which will help insulate our building in an attempt to possibly lower the buildings transmission of heat.The ceiling we have added is your common gypsum board ceiling.

Now that we have added our ceiling board we can now add our pitched roof,the roof has a pitch of 30 degrees and covered by double roman that we have changed the roof to a pitched roof and added a ceiling board we should see that our transmission values have decreased.we now run our final energy evaluation.

Our energy evaluation sheet  reveals that I have been successful in lowering the buildings transmission significantly and also reducing the buildings energy consumption by more than 1000kwh per year as well as reducing the buildings carbon footprint by almost 400kg of carbon yearly.We have succeeded in dropping the buildings solar gain thus lowering its transmissions by changing to a pitched roof with a ceiling.The is therefor more insulated and less heat penetrates through the heat in solar gain and the building also stays cooler.

We have completed our mission and achieved a carbon emissions decrease from 5362kg to 2486kg and reduced the buildings energy consumption from 19861kwh to 9208kwh per year.We have achieved a rand saving from R17874-00 to R8287 per year.We have lowered the buildings solar gain and transmissions.Our building is now greener and more energy efficient.Mission accomplished.



Renderers make way for VBE(virtual building explorer)


Finally a breathe of fresh air to the world of 3d navigation and presentation,and all in a simple add-on product  called Virtual Building Explorer.I mean this is an amazing tool in its own right…truth be told in the first few minutes of playing with it,I wasn’t too impressed and wondered how this product differed from the the actual 3d explore mode in Archicad,then I decided to take a few minutes and go through the tutorials and was blown away about how much this little add-on was offering.It was almost like it was concealing an interesting bag of goodies.

Besides the fact that it generated a standalone executable file that needed no software or licence to operate  for your clients to use,and all the settings the designer and client could adjust according to their preference and the fact that it gives the client the freedom to navigate the site or model freely in a unique 3d environment,what really blew me away was the stereo view option.

This option of viewing your model in a red and cyan ,i was like wow,this was shear brilliance,this was now allowing you to view your 3d model in 3D.yep you heard me right,in 3D,using red and cyan 3d glasses.I think this was really clever on their side to actually provide this option especially now as 3d movies are more in demand,now clients have this option too with viewing their models.Big thumbs up to Graphisoft for providing this product ,really excited to see what else they have in store for us.