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What tools exist in the market to do energy simulations using the compute cloud?

asked 2014-09-01 15:51:29 -0500

Monika Sharma's avatar

updated 2014-09-22 11:28:24 -0500

As an example, one can use Amazon EC2 which stands for elastic compute cloud. EC2 provides resizable compute capacity over the cloud and I would prefer to use this facility to do energy modeling.

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Is this question about EC2 specifically--and in particular about running simulations on your private EC2 account--or is it about simulation on the cloud in general?

__AmirRoth__'s avatar __AmirRoth__  ( 2014-09-17 13:30:23 -0500 )edit

@Amir Roth, my question is about running simulations on cloud in general.

Monika Sharma's avatar Monika Sharma  ( 2014-09-17 13:37:40 -0500 )edit

@Monika Sharma. Sorry, one more question. Are you looking to use the cloud to offload individual hand-crafted runs or to perform larger parametric studies like sensitivity analysis, design, optimization, calibration, etc.?

__AmirRoth__'s avatar __AmirRoth__  ( 2014-09-18 14:18:34 -0500 )edit

@Amir Roth, I am interested in using the cloud to perform parallelized simulations or to run hundreds of instances at one time.

Monika Sharma's avatar Monika Sharma  ( 2014-09-22 11:17:00 -0500 )edit

@Monika Sharma - can you choose an answer to the question based on the choices so far?

Clayton Miller's avatar Clayton Miller  ( 2014-10-09 10:05:32 -0500 )edit

6 Answers

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answered 2014-09-10 10:37:39 -0500

updated 2014-09-10 10:57:14 -0500

This hasn't been "officially released" yet as part of OpenStudio, but it's available and we appreciate feedback from folks.

This is a link with install and rudimentary usage instructions for more direct and unfettered access to OpenStudio's EC-2 capability. It goes far beyond what PAT can do, and includes Latin Hypercube Sampling and multiple Optimization algorithms. The basic interface is a spreadsheet for specifying an analysis, and Ruby scripts that parse the spreadsheet to create an analysis. Once you're running in the cloud, the master server contains a pretty nice set of visualizations that allow you to explore data, download results in the form of csv, R data frames, or individual models with SQL output.

A few additional notes that are relevant at the time of this posting:

  • There is a linkage between PAT and this spreadsheet workflow. This allows PAT to be used locally to sanity check an analysis, then export it for expansion via the spreadsheet. We'll have more detailed documentation once the feature is hardened and we have better workflows, but it's useful in its current state.

  • The Ruby scripts that convert the spreadsheet to the JSON and related files that the master EC-2 server consumes are a good starting point for anyone wanting to create their own applications that leverage EC-2.

  • The master server utilizes a combination of Ruby on Rails, R, MongoDB, and light web interface to interact with results. R is used to manage worker assignments and related algorithms. A handful of algorithms are currently supported, and it's fairly easy to add new ones, assuming they support R parallelization.

  • The EC-2 worker images include OpenStudio, EnergyPlus, AND Radiance. We have yet to build examples that leverage the cloud for integrated E+/Radiance analysis, but it's in there.

  • This framework can also be made to run on local clusters (via Vagrant) or other cloud services. We've not really packaged those as turnkey solutions yet. We plan to expose the image repo soon, so that clever people can port it to other services.

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Following on to what Larry said regarding Radiance on the OpenStudio EC-2 images, we are keeping the Radiance installations on these images very current and lightweight, and a Radiance-based cloud example is in the works.

rpg777's avatar rpg777  ( 2014-09-10 11:31:14 -0500 )edit

Am I correct in understanding that the cloud functionality of the Analysis Spreadsheet and PAT are designed specifically for running parametrics for a single model? Is there an option for queuing and running a set of completely different models through either the API or add-on scripts?

jmcneill's avatar jmcneill  ( 2014-11-13 11:18:24 -0500 )edit

We do use the framework to run parametrics with multiple buildings. One way is to save multiple copies of the spreadsheet with different seed models, then submit those runs sequentially to the cloud. (They will be queued for you.) Results have to be merged manually from downloads of the CSV or R Data frames - kludgey. Our preferred approach takes a broader view of measures that are used to procedurally build the baseline up before applying EE Measures. We define them as "pivot variables" in the spreadsheet to ensure we evaluate each building instance along with EE combinations

ljbrackney's avatar ljbrackney  ( 2014-11-13 16:18:44 -0500 )edit

answered 2014-09-04 02:49:50 -0500

To me OpenStudio, the free E+ GUI from NREL, is really the tool that has drawn my attention on cloud computing. Within their Parametric Anaysis Tool (PAT) they offer a simple "plug and play", GUI-based way of using Amazon EC2 to compute multiple simulations.

But this is definitely not the only way of using cloud computing. You can do it with the bare version of EnergyPlus coupled with JEPlus, and that has been true for a long time (see this video from March 2012).

Also please note that Amazon EC2 isn't the only solution to cloud computing. DesignBuilder (DB) apparently has, I believe only since their recent v4, a Simulation Manager that allow you to use another cloud computing solution called JESS (I cannot comment on it as I have never used DB). JEPlus lets you do that too, but DB being a GUI, I figure this would be the closest alternative there is to the OpenStudio PAT.

And if you only want to run multiple simulations, you could also simply run them on different cores of your computer, or on a local network server.

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answered 2014-09-07 13:46:51 -0500

If you want to create your own version with more control, there is also an open source project called "Pollination":

The current workflow is designed based on using Grasshopper and Honeybee but you can customize it to fit your needs.

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answered 2014-09-20 15:40:45 -0500

A good number of applications can run energy (and lighting) simulations in the cloud. As @David3 mentioned, Autodesk has been doing this for a while now with GreenBuildingStudio. Since you mentioned EnergyPlus specifically, they are not running EnergyPlus yet, but they intend to. Sefaira ( also has cloud capability. OpenStudio. JESS/JEPlus has been mentioned. Apidae ( is another cloud simulation platform that was "unveiled" last week at SimBuild. And other vendors are in the process of adding this capability. DesignBuilder is currently testing a cloud execution feature.

The high level point is that cloud simulation is quickly become a basic feature, not a premium or distinguishing one. Simulation—especially large scale simulation for design optimization, uncertainty quantification, parametric analysis, calibration, etc.—and the cloud were made for each other. I believe that in 2016, we will have SimBuild sessions named "BIM on the desktop" or maybe "BIM on Oculus Rift" because "BIM in the cloud" will be commonplace and boring.

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(full disclosure - I work for Sefaira) In terms of UI and integration with Sketchup and Revit, I haven't seen anything better. Most useful at bid/concept stage rather than full validation of a zoned model but cloud allows you to not just simulate once form (or budget) is fixed but when you really need it.

Rob O's avatar Rob O  ( 2014-09-30 03:52:36 -0500 )edit

answered 2014-09-04 06:45:37 -0500

Firstly, as an extension to the answer from Julien, jEPlus+net is the forerunner of JESS (and is the tool demonstrated in the linked video. It can still be downloaded from but is no longer supported. This is probably one of the simplest routes to setting up your own server farm, whether in the cloud (e.g. EC2) or on a local network.

I have some experience of setting up and running jEPlus on a single EC2 instance, and it wasn't particularly cheap. I would highly recommend using either the service from OpenStudio, JESS (which is great, but may or may not continue in the future), or rolling your own solution using jEPlus+net if you have access to servers.

If that is the route you take then there are a couple of papers that might be worth checking out - Simulating a Nationally Representative Housing Sample Using EnergyPlus, Hopkins et al (2011) which is what first got me interested in this topic, and Large-scale building simulation using cloud computing for estimating lifecycle energy consumption, Richman et al (2014) - more recent but paywalled unfortunately.

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Thanks Jamie for your kind words! JESS will live on after moving a new home. We are working to re-launch it in a few days' time.

Yi Zhang's avatar Yi Zhang  ( 2014-11-12 16:32:40 -0500 )edit

Glad to hear it!

Jamie Bull's avatar Jamie Bull  ( 2014-11-13 12:01:08 -0500 )edit

answered 2014-09-20 10:56:27 -0500

David3's avatar

Energy analysis for Revit uses Green Building Studio to run analyses in the cloud on amazon. It's runs multiple simulations in parallel with the new RunSets feature, fully configurable to set up parametric runs that kick off for all Revit simulations for your company.

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Asked: 2014-09-01 15:51:29 -0500

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Last updated: Sep 22 '14