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Building Design Advisor

To make decisions, building designers need to predict performance with respect to various performance considerations, such as comfort, safety, aesthetics, cost, etc. To accurately predict energy and environmental impact performance, designers need to use sophisticated simulation tools, like the DOE-2 building energy simulation and the Radiance lighting/daylighting simulation and rendering software. These tools, developed by researchers, for research purposes, are not easy to use.

Screenshot of the Building Design Advisor

The Schematic Graphic Editor

Most sophisticated simulation tools expect the description of the building and its context in input files that use specific keywords and syntax. The preparation of the input files requires significant time, even for experienced users. Depending on the complexity of the building, it may take several days to prepare a DOE-2 input file. Since each tool uses a different building representation, the use of multiple of tools requires repetitive preparation of input files, using different formats and keywords, which is even more time-consuming. Finally, sophisticated tools require significant details about the building and its operation, which are not usually available in the early, schematic phases of building design, when decisions may greatly affect energy and environmental performance.

The Building Design Advisor (BDA) is a Windows 95/98/NT software application, which facilitates the integrated use of multiple building performance prediction and analysis tools, from the initial, schematic phases of building design to the detailed specification of building components and systems. The BDA software uses an expandable, object-based representation of the building and its context, which is mapped to the different representations of different simulation tools, like DOE-2 and Radiance. Based on a comprehensive design theory, the BDA acts as a data manager and process controller, automatically preparing the input to and handling the output from multiple simulation, visualization and analysis tools, allowing building designers to benefit from their prediction capabilities throughout the building design process.

Screenshot of the browser for Building Design Advisor (BDA)

The Browser

The BDA has a simple Graphical User Interface that is based on two main elements, the Building Browser and the Decision Desktop. The user interface is complemented by a Schematic Graphic Editor (SGE), a separate application that communicates continuously with the BDA and allows designers to quickly and easily specify the geometry of basic building elements, such as walls, windows, overhangs, etc.

As users specify the geometry of the building in SGE, the BDA automatically assigns "smart" default values to all non-geometric parameters required by the analysis tools from a Prototypical Values Database. These default values can be easily reviewed and changed through the Browser. In this way the BDA supports the use of sophisticated tools from the initial, schematic phases of building design.

The Browser allows building designers to quickly navigate through the multitude of descriptive and performance parameters addressed by the analysis and visualization tools linked to the BDA. Through the Browser the user can edit the values of input parameters and select any number of input and output parameters to display in the Desktop.

Screenshot of the Decision Desktop illustrating the ability to compare multiple designs with respect to multiple criteria.

The Desktop

The Desktop allows building designers to compare multiple designs with respect to multiple criteria, as addressed by the analysis and visualization tools linked to the BDA. The Desktop offers graphic display of data, supporting a large variety of data types, including 2-D and 3-D distributions, images, sound and video.

The initial version of the BDA software had links to a simplified Daylighting Analysis Module, an HVAC Auto-sizing Module, and a simplified Energy Analysis Module and was released in January 1999 through the Internet. The 2.0 version of the BDA, currently under development, is linked to the DOE-2 building energy simulation program. Beta versions are available for review and evaluation at the Building Design Advisor web site. Work is also under way to link the BDA to the Desktop Radiance day/lighting simulation and rendering program and the ATHENA materials life cycle and environmental impact software. Plans for the future include the development of links to commercial CAD software, electronic product catalogs of building components and systems, cost databases and estimating modules, and building rating systems.

— Konstantinos Papamichael

For more information, contact:

  • Konstantinos Papamichael
  • (510) 486-6854; fax (510) 486-4089

Building Design Advisor

This research is supported by Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and the California Energy Commission (CEC) through the California Institute for Energy Efficiency (CIEE). This research is also funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE), Office of Building Technologies.

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