SBIR-2014: Minimizing User Burden in Building Energy Analysis

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Lead Performer: ThermoAnalytics Inc. - Calumet, MI
DOE Funding: $145,684
Cost Share: N/A
Project Term: June 2014 - March 2015
Funding Opportunity: Small Business Innovation Research FY 2014 Phase 1 Release 2 Awards
Related Projects: EnergyPlus

Project Objective

ThermoAnalytics Inc. (TAI), in partnership with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP (SOM), will develop an integrated workflow for constructing energy models of single buildings and aggregates of buildings based on minimal user input. The proposed workflow represents a new paradigm for building energy analysis a process centered on information that users can quickly obtain, as opposed to current processes that require extensive thermal property and construction details that are burdensome for modelers to collect. The workflow will allow for fast and easy prediction of building energy usage. This will promote the integration of energy analysis into the design of buildings and urban areas which will result in significant reductions in national energy demand.

The process will start with building templates, designed by SOM, that will be integrated into the user interface and are suitable for preliminary energy analysis. Each design level will build upon the previous level, thus allowing users to construct increasingly detailed and accurate models. For improved accuracy, users will upgrade the model using automated processes and easy-to-make measurements. To achieve this, TAI will draw upon its experience of thermal and infrared simulation and testing to develop methods to measure the approximate thermal properties of windows, walls, roofs, and energy systems using commonly available infrared cameras and other instruments.

Users will be able to import infrared imagery, taken from aerial and/or ground-level, into an automated process that, when combined with location and weather data, will compute R-values, check for low-e coatings, and estimate information about the building envelope and energy systems. Infrared imagery has the advantage of observing actual thermal behavior, not theoretical performance, hence accounting for degradation of insulation, non-uniformity of installation, systems not operating at design performance levels, etc. The analysis of single buildings will be based directly on EnergyPlus. For the modeling of extended urban areas involving an aggregate of buildings, TAI will investigate integrating EnergyPlus into a combined building and terrain model that will estimate wind flow patterns and temperature distributions across urban areas.

To facilitate these investigations, TAI will develop an interface to adapt EnergyPlus models into TAI's RadThermIR simulation code, which can predict what infrared cameras and other test equipment will report under varying weather and environmental conditions.


DOE Technology Manager: Amir Roth
Lead Performer: Dr. David Less, ThermoAnalytics Inc.