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Simplified Modeling Tools

asked 2014-11-24 09:37:55 -0600

updated 2015-07-11 19:08:23 -0600

I am carrying out a research project on simplified building energy modelling tools, and I am looking for simplified tools that provide reasonably accurate estimates of annual energy consumption (isn't everyone ;-). Ideally the tool would allow for the input of approximate building geometry and floor area, envelope performance (perhaps a way to choose from different constructions), lighting, equipment and occupant loads, and some way of selecting different HVAC system types and efficiencies. I know in Canada we have RETScreen and the Screening Tool. Are there similar such tools developed for US/Europe that you might recommend investigating?

Thank you, Dan

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Wow, I'm super happy with all of the helpful responses that this question got. Thank you everyone!

Daniel gravatar image Daniel  ( 2014-11-26 09:08:37 -0600 )edit

@Daniel, are you looking for simplified calculations or simplified inputs for more detailed calculations? Or both?

__AmirRoth__ gravatar image __AmirRoth__  ( 2014-11-27 11:51:47 -0600 )edit

I'm interested in tools which simplify the modelling process by simplifying the input process. The goal is to characterize the accuracy of tools which simplify the modelling process and to determine under which circumstances the simplified tools can provide reasonably accurate results for compliance modelling.

Daniel gravatar image Daniel  ( 2014-11-27 13:02:12 -0600 )edit

@Daniel, another question is whether you need the tool to give you the actual detailed model you can inspect, modify, and even take elsewhere or you are satisfied with shrink-wrapped tools that take simplified inputs, run the simulation, and display results?

__AmirRoth__ gravatar image __AmirRoth__  ( 2014-11-29 11:15:13 -0600 )edit

I'm satisfied with shrink-wrapped tools that provide the results straight off, but also interested in other tools that may allow further development of the model.

Daniel gravatar image Daniel  ( 2014-12-01 08:15:03 -0600 )edit

6 Answers

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answered 2014-11-24 11:53:26 -0600

updated 2020-02-03 04:23:31 -0600

CEN/ISO 13790 is the European Standard for algebraic annual and hourly energy consumption calculations ( OpenStudio has an implementation (not available via the UI yet) and there is also a spreadsheet version developed and maintained by Georgia Tech although I cannot find the link to it right now. @Ralph Muehleisen from ANL is a good contact for this methodology.

Tools that generate detailed models from simplified inputs include the EnergyPlus Example File Generator (EEFG) which gives you an IDF file and the OpenStudio ModelMaker ( which gives you an OSM. Speaking of OSM, you can programmatically generate an OSM model from high-level inputs using the API or collections of measures. The OpenStudio team is currently reimplementing DOE's commercial prototype buildings in this form.

DOE's Commercial Asset Score ( creates OpenStudio models, but will not give them to you (Edit: 07/08/2015 it now allows you to download the OSM). LBNL is putting together a Commercial Building Energy Saver counterpart to Home Energy Saver. That service will be up in the next 6-12 months. Not clear whether it will make the model available or not.

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I don't know that the Georgia Tech spreadsheet has ever been officially publicly released. As @Amir Roth says, feel free to contact me for information on the OpenStudio implementation, a stand alone C++ implementation that is not yet released, or a MATLAB implementation of the the monthly ISO method.

Ralph Muehleisen gravatar image Ralph Muehleisen  ( 2014-11-24 16:34:51 -0600 )edit

Would you describe this as a tool that allows for simplified input of building parameters, or one which simplifies the calculation process by using a simplified algorithm, or both?

Daniel gravatar image Daniel  ( 2014-11-25 13:04:59 -0600 )edit

These tools are both simple in input and simplified in algorithm. Geometry is simplified to 8 walls (N, NE, E ...), one roof. Building is one zone only. Walls/windows are described by simple U values, SHGC, etc. Internal loads are defined in terms of power densities (W/m2). Ground heat transfer is ignored (ISO 13790 has a method but it's not included yet in any of our implementations or the GaTech version). Schedules are highly simplified too. I have a spreadsheet interface to generate an input file for our C++ standalone and/or MATLAB version.

Ralph Muehleisen gravatar image Ralph Muehleisen  ( 2014-11-25 22:58:28 -0600 )edit

Thank you Ralph. That sounds very interesting. If you are able to contact me at, anything you would be willing to share would be much appreciated. We are carrying out a research project for Natural Resources Canada.

Daniel gravatar image Daniel  ( 2014-11-26 08:57:59 -0600 )edit

DOE's Commercial Asset Score now (07/08/2015) allows you to download the Open Studio Model.

d3j409 gravatar image d3j409  ( 2015-07-08 15:48:14 -0600 )edit

answered 2014-11-24 16:01:52 -0600

Waseem gravatar image

Just to add to Amir's answer. In UK, SBEM provides an analysis of the building's energy consumption. SBEM calculates monthly energy use and carbon dioxide emissions of a building given a description of the building geometry, construction, use and HVAC and lighting equipment. It was originally based on the Dutch methodology NEN 2916:1998 (Energy Performance of Non-Residential Buildings) and has since been modified to comply with the recent CEN Standards (Copied from NCM:SBEM).

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SBEM is indeed a good and free implementation of the CEN/ISO 13790 methodology mentioned in the other answer. If you have no need of the rest of OpenStudio, you might take a look.

Ralph Muehleisen gravatar image Ralph Muehleisen  ( 2014-11-24 16:36:29 -0600 )edit

I will download SBEM and check it out. Looks like a good option.

Daniel gravatar image Daniel  ( 2014-11-25 13:03:19 -0600 )edit

answered 2014-11-27 05:09:31 -0600

Xandrika gravatar image

There is a pretty new tool called Sefaira that look pretty easy. It shows impact on energy use directly while modelling in Sketchup or Revit. They use ASHRAE’s Radiant Time Series methodology. However, I am not sure how validated it is. They have done comparison study with eQuest and IES-VE.

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Do you think it would appropriate for compliance modelling? I.e. comparing the energy of a proposed and reference model?

Daniel gravatar image Daniel  ( 2014-11-27 13:05:25 -0600 )edit

Xandrika, do you know where we can get the comparison study with eQuest and IES-VE ?

MikeBarker gravatar image MikeBarker  ( 2014-11-28 07:16:00 -0600 )edit

@MikeBarker Please, contact Fabian Metz ( for further details.

Xandrika gravatar image Xandrika  ( 2014-11-29 22:42:16 -0600 )edit

Sefaira is not appropriate for compliance modelling for LEED purposes, although I wouldn't think most of the tools indicated in response to this question would be appropriate either.

anchapin gravatar image anchapin  ( 2020-02-03 07:36:05 -0600 )edit

answered 2014-11-25 14:37:50 -0600

Here are two more tools you might look at:

  1. NREL's Model Maker takes simplified inputs, makes assumptions to expand the inputs to make a detailed EnergyPlus model, runs the model, and gives you back the results.

  2. The eQuest Schematic Design Wizard takes simplified inputs and makes assumptions to expand the inputs into a detailed DOE-2 model.

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Good suggestions. Thank you!

Daniel gravatar image Daniel  ( 2014-11-25 14:59:25 -0600 )edit

answered 2014-11-24 16:41:06 -0600

updated 2014-11-24 16:49:37 -0600

In addition to SBEM and the OpenStudio implementation of the ISOmodel, another simple model/interface you might consider is ComCheck which is designed for use in checking compliance with prescriptive building energy code. I used to teach it to students as a great simple building envelope energy modeling tool. There are desktop and web versions.


I don't think that comcheck does any real energy modeling though. As I recall (it's been a few years since I used it) it is an interface to a regression analysis of a pile of simulations done by Pacific Northwest National Lab. It may also no longer give an EUI but only the amount that the building "fails" or "passes" code by. I think the detailed reports may give the actual estimated EUI though.

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Thank you! I wouldn't have thought of COMCheck, but I think it's worth a look.

Daniel gravatar image Daniel  ( 2014-11-25 13:02:53 -0600 )edit

answered 2014-11-28 08:53:49 -0600

I am not sure if it could be something you are interested in but have you heard if the Simulation Platform? It is an online platform to simply building energy simulation. I am not really familiar with it but I've heard about it a while back and it looks like what you are looking for so it might be worth checking it out : Simulation Platform

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Yes, definitely an interesting tool that we are looking into. Thank you.

Daniel gravatar image Daniel  ( 2014-11-28 09:02:59 -0600 )edit

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Asked: 2014-11-24 09:37:55 -0600

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Last updated: Feb 03 '20