August 5 2008

ECOTECT (Building Performance Simulation Software)

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ECOTECT software is designed to aid in the simulation, analysis and optimization of high performance buildings and systems. It is especially useful in the design and delivery of sustainable 'green' projects because it allows architects and engineers to test, evaluate and respond to a variety of strategies. The design and performance analysis tools also take advantage of cutting edge 3D spatial models to help users visualize simulation output, smoothing the translation of simulation results into the project design. Using simulation software, design professionals are able to continuously study and predict how decisions will impact the performance of the building from the early phases of design through occupancy without significant investment in mockups or manual calculations. ECOTECT and other similar software have the potential to revolutionize the building industry by giving architects and engineers the power to use performance based criteria in the design of projects.

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ECOTECT was originally created by Square One Research Ltd and Dr. Andrew J Marsh based on the Isle of Man, UK. The company, founded in 2000, "focus[ed] on promoting and supporting the development of leading-edge simulation and analysis software solutions [through] software development, on-line educational resources and research publications." Just recently, highlighting growing importance of sustainable building design, ECOTECT was (28 June 2008) purchased by software giant Autodesk, presumably for integration into the BIM suite of building design products. (Interestingly, GreenBuildingStudio (GBS) was also purchased around the same time by Autodesk)

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It is important to note that the program was 'written and developed' by architects and engineers for the purpose of aiding the design process. The interface and setup of tools as well as workflow within the software should be more intuitive to architects than other DOE2 etc building performance simulation software packages. The software can be categorized into modeling, visualization and analysis components and applied in combination to generate analytical data on building properties. Featured design analysis tools include: shadows and reflections, shading design, solar analysis, lighting design, right-to-light, acoustic analysis, thermal analysis, ventilation & air flow, building regulations, and resource management.

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In my opinion, the biggest strength of the software is the way it helps users visualize very complex simulation data. As a user of EnergyPlus, Energy-10, eQuest and GBS I am fully cognizant of the output from DOE2 and other simulation packages. My old professor Khee Poh Lamm, professor at Carnegie-Mellon's Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics, reminded me regularly that a data output file tells a designer nothing about the performance of a building. Lots of analysis still needs to be done to edit out the relevant information and produce a report. In ECOTECT, data is presented as gradient color or grayscale layers on top of 3D building geometry. Models can be rendered in a number of ways and from different vantage points. The advanced graphical interface culls extraneous information and shows the user the information that is needed to evaluate a particular condition. It is this ability, to easily relate complex performance data to a broad group of designers, which makes the ECOTECT software so unique.

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Ease of use (and current users of DOE2 software will likely agree) is a major obstacle in the adoption of simulation software. I applaud the creation of software that accommodates the design process as well as the strengths of architects and engineers, creating a truly accessible resource for information from which to design buildings.

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Hossein medi

Dear Sir/Madam, I'm working on passive performance of atrium offices and need to simulation for thermal performance as architect friend.

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