Designing or transitioning to a zero energy building can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to deciding where to start in the process. That’s why it’s important to get the best resources to help build a better future. The following design tools can help.

gif image, 64 bytes

The Advanced Energy Design Guide—Achieving Zero Energy series provides cost-effective approaches to achieve advanced levels of energy savings.  The guides offer contractors and designers tools and recommendations for practical products and off-the-shelf technologies needed to achieve zero energy. These guides have been developed through the collaboration of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), with support from the Department of Energy (DOE), to help meet all of an owner’s energy performance requirements.  Zero Energy Advanced Energy Design Guides are available for K-12 schools, office buildings, and multifamily buildings.

Free downloads can be accessed through the ASHRAE website. The guides include energy use intensity (EUI) targets for achieving zero energy, project profiles, cost-effective approaches to achieve energy savings, recommendations for practical products and off-the-shelf technologies, and tools to help contractors and designers.

gif image, 64 bytes

OpenStudio Energy Modeling Platform

The OpenStudio energy modeling platform uses EnergyPlus as the engine to simulate the thermodynamic heat transfer and fluid dynamics that drive building performance. This open-source software is available to the public and private sector and provides a range of functions for experienced energy modelers that are interested in replicating the analysis used for the AEDG in their own building projects.

The OpenStudio platform provides options for energy modelers to access and apply efficiency measures to their project’s particular building geometry, location, and operational schedules. This can be done by accessing the Building Component Library (BCL) through a tool or service that supports the OpenStudio platform, such as the Parametric Analysis Tool (PAT).

The BCL includes “Measures,” which are scripts that have been created to apply energy-saving measures to an energy model. For example, one Measure adds overhangs to all south-facing windows in a model, while another measure easily changes the efficiency of HVAC equipment. More complex Measures can even strip out and replace entire mechanical systems in a model. The BCL also includes “Components,” which describe detailed inputs of specific building elements such as a construction assemblies or the performance of a fan. Applications and services that support the OpenStudio platform can apply Measures and Components from the BCL to OpenStudio models. This enables building designers and modelers to easily add efficiency measures and packages of efficiency measures to project energy models for faster and more accurate evaluation.

PAT enables energy modelers to create and run customized parametric analyses (analysis of multiple energy-efficiency measures) on local or cloud-based servers. PAT applies Measures to baseline building models to quickly compare the energy impacts of different energy-efficiency measures, helping designers understand the energy impacts of alternative design options. It also enables users to create and view various output reports and output visualizations to present results in clear, understandable formats. With PAT, modelers can perform detailed and powerful parametric studies in a reasonable amount of time for relatively low cost, facilitating a more comprehensive approach to achieving higher performing buildings.

The OpenStudio platform uses a developer-friendly, open-source license and contains a lightweight command line interface that makes it easy for third-party organizations to incorporate the OpenStudio platform and BCL into their own tools and services. Furthermore, more sophisticated energy modelers can contribute to Component and Measure development within the OpenStudio modeling framework, while maintaining the license of content posted to the BCL. The user community may make contributions that add to or enhance existing components and measures to improve accuracy and help spread adoption of cutting-edge energy-efficiency measures.

Learn more about using OpenStudio:

Learn more about the Building Component Library:

Learn more about Measures:

Learn more about the Parametric Analysis Tool:

    gif image, 64 bytes


    Urban Renewable Building and Neighborhood optimization (URBANopt) is an advanced analytics platform for high-performance buildings and energy systems within one geographically cohesive area, such as a city block or district within a city. This tool offers open-source underlying workflows and measures that can be leveraged by the broader urban energy modeling community.

    URBANopt investigates:

    • Building energy-efficiency features
    • Energy storage strategies and technologies for buildings and districts
    • Aggregated grid services
    • Energy tradeoffs between building locations and geometry