Screenshot of the software.

Autodesk Insight360 allows architects to explore the energy impacts of different design choices as they design. Insight360 uses EnergyPlus to calculate heating and cooling loads.

Credit: Autodesk.

It’s Greenbuild week. And that means another EnergyPlus-related announcement or product launch by Autodesk!

Autodesk’s relationship with DOE and EnergyPlus has been marked by Greenbuild milestones. At Greenbuild 2012, the company announced that it is translating EnergyPlus from FORTRAN to C++ and granting the translated code back to DOE.

After a one-year break — it took over a year to complete the translation and for DOE to begin developing on the new platform — Greenbuild 2014 saw the launch of EnergyPlus Cloud, a high-throughput simulation service that also used parallelization to speed up individual runs. That launch led to speculation that Autodesk would soon be offering cloud-based EnergyPlus analysis from within its suite of design tools.

That speculation was confirmed last year with the release of Insight360, an “analyze-as-you-design” suite of tools for Revit and FormIt. It is well-understood that many design decisions that have deep and lasting impact on energy efficiency are made by architects early in the life of a project. Orientation, building form, glazing ratio and type, shading all impact building thermal load and occupant comfort. Getting these right — or least not wrong — is critical to achieving and maintaining energy performance. Insight360 lowered the barrier to analysis for architects by allowing them to analyze designs from within the tools many of them already use, FormIt for conceptual design and Revit for more detailed design.

The initial Insight360 version used EnergyPlus only to calculate heating and cooling loads. DOE-2, a faster but less-detailed engine, was used for the longer annual simulations that evaluate energy impacts. Autodesk opted for this split approach because EnergyPlus did not execute annual simulations quickly enough to provide responsive feedback required for productive design. Fast-forward to 2016 — literally and figuratively — and Insight360 offers annual EnergyPlus energy simulations. The new offering was enabled by a collection of speed improvements in EnergyPlus implemented jointly by the EnergyPlus development team and Autodesk engineers.

“All of the development we have done over the past few years with the DOE and EnergyPlus has been leading to this,” says Ian Molloy, senior product manager for Insight360 at Autodesk. “Its a huge milestone. We are absolutely thrilled to now be able to offer the power of EnergyPlus to all of our Revit and FormIt users through Insight.”

The new simulation capabilities will give more consistent results as well as additional insight into energy savings, finally putting the full power of EnergyPlus into architects’ hands.

“In addition to improving energy range sensitivity, this development provides a connection to and consistency with more advanced EnergyPlus users and practices.”

DOE and Autodesk will continue to work on improving EnergyPlus and expanding access to it. To hear about future developments, check back with us at Greenbuild 2017.

Dr. Amir Roth
Amir Roth is the Technology Manager for BTO’s Building Energy Modeling (BEM) sub-program. He has served in that role since 2010.
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