Thursday, August 1, 2013

Energy Modeling

Energy modeling is a tool used by Kinsley Construction during the design, pre-construction, and construction phases of a building project to assist owners in decision making.

Energy modeling is used throughout the design process to provide life cycle cost analysis of various energy efficiency measures and alternatives to aid in making design decisions.  Everything from schematic level decisions such as building placement and orientation within a given site, to HVAC system selections, to the quantity of insulation to include within exterior walls can quickly be assessed and summarized to aid a building owner in making a decision.  The end result of this series of informed decisions is a high performance, optimized building with little money wasted on features or equipment that won’t offer a favorable payback.

Sample Results from Building Energy Modeling - Annual Utility Usage
One benefit of Kinsley’s participation in this building optimization process is the potential for mechanical and electrical systems to be reduced in both capacity and space requirements.  Smaller ductwork, piping, conduit, and equipment can help alleviate conflicts during construction and limit scheduling delays.

One of the biggest advantages for Kinsley when performing life cycle cost analyses is the generation of reliable and accurate capital costs for various options.  Kinsley has a wealth of previous project cost estimates and subcontractors that they can rely on to get quick and accurate cost estimates for all energy conservation measures.

Energy modeling is not limited to new construction.  Many owners have existing buildings in need of substantial renovations and upgrades.  One service offered in these circumstances is a thorough walkthrough and audit of the existing building envelope and engineering systems.  The intent of the audit is to develop a comprehensive list of all energy use within an existing building and to use that list to generate a calibrated energy model and help determine the most effective capital improvement options.

A calibrated energy model uses the results of the building audit, and then adjusts equipment, building envelope, and scheduling variables in order to get the results to closely match actual utility bills.  Calibrated energy models can be used to benchmark an existing facility in order to compare its energy use against similar facilities across the country.  This relative energy score can then be used to target the worst offenders on a campus or the worst performing buildings in a client’s portfolio for renovation.

Another application for energy modeling is the documentation of compliance with federal grant, rebate, and financial incentive programs.  Alternative sources of funding for construction projects is available, however a large number of these government programs are beginning to require independent, third party energy modeling to validate the energy savings of a proposed building in order to qualify for the incentives.  The requirement that the energy modeling be performed by a third party, not a representative of the owner or design team, opens up an avenue for the construction manager to step in and fulfill a need.

Much like Building Information Modeling (BIM), energy modeling requires a collaborative effort of all project team members to be a successful and worthwhile exercise.  The results of the energy model are only as good as the inputs, and extensive communication and coordination is required across all design disciplines in order to ensure the accuracy of the model.  For this reason, it becomes a natural fit for a construction manager to offer these services.  Historically, it has been our responsibility to ensure the coordination of all parties throughout the construction process.  The spirit of sustainable design is the idea that all building systems and components work together and complement one another to function in the most efficient way possible.  Energy modeling is one tool available to the design and construction team that can provide an approximation of that final product.

Kyle Flanagan P.E.
MEP Coordinator