The practice of designing our built environment is moving forward toward a more sustainable future, and building simulation plays a critical role its realization. Certification programs and code requirements have both created a market for building simulation while proving that it can provide sincere value to the design process. However, this relatively new skill set typically remains silo-ed in the engineering discipline, and the current state of software development impedes an integrated workflow between simulation and design. Much room still exists for innovation with this relatively new tool and its use between both architects and engineers.
Multiple indicators point toward building simulation’s growing popularity in the architecture and engineering industries. In 2012, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) produced a guide to integrating energy modeling in the design process for both architects and engineers alike. Out of the 104 firms that have signed on to the AIA 2030 Commitment, 57% of the gross square footage within these firms’ portfolios used energy modeling to predict operational energy consumption2. Above-code programs around the country are embracing using energy simulation to comply with voluntary programs. ASHRAE and other engineering organizations continually produce rich design resources for building simulation such as COMNET3, or have used simulation to create documents such as the ASHRAE Advanced Energy Design Guides. Additionally, major periodicals such as High Performance Buildings and GreenSource Magazine routinely show both simulated and actual performance data alongside centerfold-like architectural photography. Finally and perhaps most importantly, clients are becoming more and more attuned to how energy efficiency plays into their triple-bottom-line. This enlightenment is evidenced by the fact that more than twothirds of Fortune 500 companies issued sustainability reports with emission data in 2012.
Building simulation has the potential to redefine how we work by making performance-based design a reality throughout the entire design process. It is the key to link aesthetics with performance, to provide a means for engineers and architects to work together, and to achieve persistent energy savings in the built environment. Simulation tools are developing at a rapid pace, and as the demand increases for this skillset, will we be prepared to meet it?
The depth and breadth to which building simulation suffuses our local architecture and engineering community was, at the undertaking of this study, unclear. To remain both competitive and progressive in the quickly evolving building industry, design teams need insight into the market adoption of building simulation to gauge their competitiveness. As building simulation becomes more popular nationally and locally, measuring the trend of its adoption involves understanding if, why, and how firms use simulation in their practice. To understand this trend, the University of Idaho Integrated Design Lab (UI-IDL) surveyed architecture and mechanical engineering firms that work predominantly within the Boise area. The UI-IDL aggregated the results of the survey into accessible infographics that describe how building simulation is used by Boise firms in 2012.