Critical decisions on building form, massing, and envelope construction and configuration greatly impact a building’s energy and daylighting performance and must be made early in the design process. Using Building Energy Modeling (BEM) and other analyses, design teams can evaluate many different options to inform these decisions, reducing costly late-stage design modifications and maximizing building performance.
Unfortunately, incorporating BEM into the early stages of design is notoriously difficult. Turnaround times are short and budgets are tight—sometimes nonexistent if an architecture firm is bidding on a project. Hiring outside consultants or using in-house modeling specialists isn’t always feasible. Companies such as Sefaira, Autodesk and cove.tool have created early-stage BEM tools for architects. However, some design firms have chosen to develop custom, in-house workflows to facilitate energy modeling at the start of a project. One such firm is Perkins&Will, a global design firm with a focus on sustainability.
Late last year, Perkins&Will launched a web-and-cloud-based, early-stage building performance analysis platform called SPEED (Simulation Platform for Energy-Efficient Design) (use this link to watch the SPEED video). SPEED enables energy, daylighting, and solar analysis with turnaround times of under 24 hours.
SPEED supports parameterized and custom geometry at multiple levels of detail. Architects can vary high-level parameters such as internal loads, fenestration and shading configurations, and materials and constructions on a whole building or individual facade. SPEED uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) to run hundreds or even thousands of design options, automatically selecting and configuring HVAC systems based on building type and performance targets. Architects can then use statistical analyses to identify the most impactful variables and create interactive result visualizations for both individual designs and multidimensional design spaces. Ultimately, SPEED allows project teams to select the designs that best meet their energy-performance needs.
An installation-free web interface that is tailored to early-stage design and Perkins&Will’s practice lets designers ramp up to productivity quickly, while direct management of cloud resources saves on computing costs and allows designers to evaluate more options. Perkins&Will designers have quickly become fans of the platform.
“SPEED strikes the right balance between ease-of-use and quality of information. And because it was developed by a dedicated research team at our firm, we have great confidence in its accuracy and its compatibility with our workflow,” said Matthew Pierce, senior project designer. “The clear presentation of its information and ability to compare scenarios make the analysis actionable and easy to communicate.”
“Having quick and easy energy and daylighting analysis at my fingertips has opened up a whole new dimension in my approach to sustainability,” added Sustainability Advisor Fatemeh Shahsavari. “Tools like SPEED will become the norm for designers someday, and it feels great to be on the front lines of innovation.”
Perkins&Will’s Energy Lab created SPEED with the help of open-source software from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building Technologies Office (BTO), including EnergyPlus, Radiance, and OpenStudio Server.
“Designing, developing, and implementing a large-scale design and analysis platform such as SPEED took a massive collaborative effort,” said Director of Energy Lab Benjamin Welle. “The availability of open-source tools like OpenStudio Server coupled with technical support and guidance made this project possible, and laid the foundation for rapid, disruptive innovation moving forward.”
“SPEED evolved through practice-informed research,” said Director of Research John Haymaker. “We carefully studied how our designers were making decisions. We then worked with academic, government, and industry partners to create a platform that enables them to ask better questions, sooner. Ultimately, SPEED enables our design teams help our clients systematically evaluate trade-offs and optimize their designs.”
Since its rollout in 2019, SPEED has been used on 120 Perkins&Will projects across the country, ranging in size from 25,000 square feet to 2 million square feet, in multiple sectors. In total, designers have run over 84,000 and 50,000 energy and daylighting simulations, respectively.
“We’re committed to research and development that leads to practical, innovative solutions for our clients,” says Perkins&Will CEO Phil Harrison. “SPEED is one of our most exciting tools, as it allows us to dramatically improve how we deliver high-performance environments. We are grateful for our collaboration with the DOE, and look forward to our continued partnership.”