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Recommend a commercial EnergyPlus GUI?

asked 2014-12-12 17:24:28 -0500

jorn's avatar

Hello, can anyone recommend to me a commercial EnergyPlus GUI that they find most effective? I've tried to follow the OpenStudio development over the last few years, but it is apparent that it will never meet the needs of our consulting firm where speed and accuracy are essential. Too many errors and too weird a development environment... we are mechanical engineers and charging for our service on an hourly basis. I'm assuming its audience is labs and students? I don't know, but our practice is moving away from TRNSYS projects and having more EnergyPlus projects due to preference of boss.... Thank you! Jorn

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answered 2014-12-16 14:55:24 -0500

We use EnergyPlus in its raw idf / text editor form in commercial practice. Over the years we have developed spreadsheet inputs which help take a lot of the mundane data entry work away from us and it speeds us up no end. We use sketchup/open studio legacy to build the geometric model after that we don't really see the need for a GUI interface, being engineers we love excel and use that to sort our data inputs and then originally we put everything in manually but now as I said we automate it using super simple excel coding (looking to improve on this next year). The only difficulty is understanding EnergyPlus logic, but once you have that figured that out it really doesn't seem to matter to me whether you have a GUI or not.

Oh we do heavily rely on the ESO viewer to help us analyse and trouble shoot our model we would actually be completely lost without that.

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answered 2014-12-12 23:30:10 -0500

Haytham's avatar

DesignBuilder is very visual and easy to use, you can run the complete simulation without export the file to EnergyPlus, with detailed HVAC system you can have a template for the 8 systems - baseline Appendix "G",the HVAC and building 3D models are simulated simultaneously to ensure the dynamic interaction between the building and systems is treated accurately.
Comprehensive Ground Source Heat Pump, Underfloor air distribution, Dedicated outside air systems, and other systems have been added recently to version 4.

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answered 2014-12-18 14:35:23 -0500

I work for an energy consulting firm and we are using OpenStudio to model everything from multifamily to office high rise buildings. If you already know how to use EnergyPlus, even at a basic level, OS can drastically reduce modeling time. I think it is inaccurate to state that "it is apparent that it will never meet the needs of our consulting firm where speed and accuracy are essential" when talking about OS. The development is happening at a very rapid rate and it is getting better all of the time. My company does a high volume of energy modeling and on very short timelines and we have been successful with OS.

If you do want to use OS using the script functionality is extremely import in producing models quickly and accurately. If you do not wish to learn how to write basic ruby code then OS is not for you. If you are willing to learn, then scripts are by far the most powerful tool and are what makes OS a viable commercial modeling software.

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We're finding that firms making heavy use of OS tend to have one or two engineers who develop measures to automate repetitive tasks or encapsulate that firm's "best practice" for modeling specific systems. While the Building Component Library (BCL) enables firms to distribute such content privately within an organization, our goal is to create a rich library of publicly available energy conservation and reporting measures. The BCL currently contains content produced by multiple National Labs and private sector interests, and more is added frequently.

ljbrackney's avatar ljbrackney  ( 2014-12-18 22:58:46 -0500 )edit

High-volume != accurate. I assume that these simulations are for jumping through LEED hoops and not design? As in a below comment, actual vs predicted EUI:

What are we actually simulating then with all this OS detail? Measured results don't provide such evidence. I worry for those who think they can simulate their way to good design...scripting isn't the problem, it's the lack of understanding realities.

Sam's avatar Sam  ( 2014-12-19 10:02:26 -0500 )edit

answered 2014-12-17 17:12:05 -0500

ivanadriane's avatar

I am also curious to hear others opinions. Openstudio in my most basic understanding has a lot of potential when the user understands how to write measures to optimize workflows.

In terms of other EnergyPlus interfaces other professionals are using, I am curious to see which is most popular in a setting where speed and accuracy of simulating large commercial buildings come into play.

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I think "accuracy" is the key word. I don't think building energy modelers are incentivized to produce accurate models other than on aggregate levels. Plus or minus 15% energy consumption (whole building) is "good enough" and whose going to check anyway. Have you seen any studies comparing actual vs. simulated energy consumption? I think Berkeley showed the shot-gun blast that is measured vs. predicted EUI. Some will say, well the occupant usage cannot be predicted yadda yadda yadda. Well, than beyond basic design decisions, what are we simulating? Bells and whistles, kids. OS, pile them on!

Sam's avatar Sam  ( 2014-12-18 22:24:34 -0500 )edit

Are we talking about absolute or comparative analysis?

ljbrackney's avatar ljbrackney  ( 2014-12-18 23:02:00 -0500 )edit

Absolute is all that matters: one building is built and does it perform as predicted? Comparative in the sense of design alternatives? Systems-wise, any design engineer worth their salt knows what works where and why. Here is the scatterplot of actual vs. predicted EUI (CBI not Berkeley) on buildings where supposedly there was an active attempt at simulation accuracy.

Sam's avatar Sam  ( 2014-12-19 09:48:07 -0500 )edit

answered 2014-12-12 17:39:02 -0500

OpenStudio has commercial users also, but it's not for everyone and not really intended to be. You could look at DesignBuilder, AECOSim EnergySimulator or Simergy. Maybe others on the site who have experiences with one or more of these can list pros and cons.

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Asked: 2014-12-12 17:24:28 -0500

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Last updated: Dec 18 '14