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What's your favorite early-stage-design software and why?

asked 2015-04-09 18:02:26 -0500

updated 2015-07-12 12:10:55 -0500

I have been long thinking if I were to choose only one tool that would give me the adequate flexibility to do conceptual design stage analyses what that would be?

Please name your favorite tools/GUIs and the pros and cons.

I am particularly interested in options that allow FAST and RELIABLE access to weather analysis, massing, shape, orientation, daylighting, and natural ventilation studies with easy transition/integration with more detailed HVAC and passive systems analysis.

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answered 2015-04-19 23:30:20 -0500

updated 2015-04-20 02:07:21 -0500

I'm definitely biased but I want to second @Julien's suggestion. I think Ladybug + Honeybee addresses your needs for early stages of design. Ladybug provides a great range of weather data analysis, and Honeybee supports connections to Radiance, Daysim, EnergyPlus and OpenStudio. We also developed several components for result visualization for Ladybug+Honeybee.

Since the development is on top of Grasshopper iterative modeling is pretty easy in comparison to other platforms. For more advanced analysis you can always export your model to OpenStudio for designing advanced systems.

Here is a presentation that we did at IBPSA-NYC last year. It should give you a better idea of the possibilities or you can watch these videos:

Part 1: Part 2:

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Thanks @Mostapha Roudsari for re-affirming my interest in Ladybug and Honeybee. I am new to it but from whatever little I have seen so far, I am very confident that your tools can do pretty much what I had in mind. A few follow up questions:

  1. Based on your experience, what do you think is the learning curve for someone who hasn't used Rhino and Grasshopper platform before?

  2. What are your thoughts on the Energy Performance Calculator ( plugin for grasshopper as an alternative for E+?

Amir Rezaei's avatar Amir Rezaei  ( 2015-04-20 09:43:03 -0500 )edit
  1. Are there any other documentations for the Ladybug and Honeybee other than the videos? I mean like an extensive help file that outlines the development, underlying assumptions, etc..

  2. Not having used the E+ integration inside the tools yet, are the E+ objects limited to Ideal loads only? What type of HVAC systems are already estimated by the Ideal Loads objects?

  3. Are E+ natural ventilation objects supported? Or other type of NV calculations are supported?

Amir Rezaei's avatar Amir Rezaei  ( 2015-04-20 09:48:25 -0500 )edit

Apologies if the questions may sound not researched, because they are but I thought it is easier to ask the source.

Amir Rezaei's avatar Amir Rezaei  ( 2015-04-20 09:48:37 -0500 )edit

1.1. It really depends on the person and also what you want to do. I know of users who started with no knowledge and started to help other people after two weeks since they had a good background in modeling with other similar tools. Since you already know other tools it shouldn't take you long to get started with Ladybug+Honeybee. Ladybug in particular is very easy to start. Honeybee is not and it is designed that way so we make sure you know what you do.

1.2. EPC is now also part of Honeybee so you can export Honeybee zones to EPC for your calculation. Developed by Patrick and Sandeep.

Mostapha Roudsari's avatar Mostapha Roudsari  ( 2015-04-21 13:52:52 -0500 )edit

2.1. No. We have extensive videos but not pdf documents. You can find the links on Grasshopper group and Facebook page.

2.2. We support all the default OpenStudio HVAC types. I suggest you to watch Chien Si's videos: (

2.3. We are partially supporting EP natural ventilation components. Still need to implement AFN objects.

Mostapha Roudsari's avatar Mostapha Roudsari  ( 2015-04-21 14:02:46 -0500 )edit

answered 2015-04-16 02:45:28 -0500

updated 2015-04-16 02:48:37 -0500

Though I have not used it extensively at all, you might be interested in checking out Rhino with Ladybug/honeybee as it could be a good candidate.

You could start by analyzing the climate using Ladybug, then using Honeybee to run E+ simulations with ideal loads on (and leveraging Grashopper's interface to change the shape of your building for example), and later on either model HVAC in honeybee or export to OpenStudio to finish the job. Honeybee also appears to have build in modules to create ideal shading scenarios, etc.

Rhino has a 90-day trial period, and Grashopper, Ladybug/Honeybee are free. There's a learning curve but its manageable.

@Mostapha Roudsari or @Chienman could probably tell you more about it.

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Thanks @Julien Marrec for your thorough response.

Amir Rezaei's avatar Amir Rezaei  ( 2015-04-20 09:53:15 -0500 )edit

answered 2015-04-15 07:42:42 -0500

I guess you would have to make a difference between "tools that allow you to quickly create models" (i.e. OpenStudio for EnergyPlus/Radiance and SU2RAD or Groundhog for pure Radiance ) and "tools that advice on what the design should be" (I am not aware of any of those that is currently in development or use... I heard of a few, though, some years ago)... I guess you will find more of the first kind than of the latter, and I think this applies to all design-related fields. For example, if you want to design a bridge, you make a proposal of how the steel might be arranged and then perform a structural analysis to see if your proposal was good (I understand that is how it works today).

I had this discution a few times in my last job. They always told me that the last advisor they had relied only on a highly educated common sense to make proposals and design alternatives. I believe that most of the people actually do that. However, building simulation tools allow checking if a design proposal is good or bad (just as the structural engineer designing a bridge) and also adding numbers to the analysis (i.e. everybody know that a lower WWR lowers the Solar Heat Gains and increases the insulation of the building... but, how much? what would be an appropriate WWR in this particular case?).

Long story short, I do not believe that any tool, nowadays, can "advice" very well on building design. However, there are tools, like the CLIMATE CONSULTANT that help getting an overview of the weather from a Weather File. This information is a very valuable input for your design process.

At least this would be my approach... first, study the weather; second, study the building requirements (internal loads, etc.); third, study the site available (size and shape, surroundings); fourth, use a tool that allows me quickly creating and evaluating design alternatives (i.e. OpenStudio and Groundhog).

Long post... sorry. Regards!

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Thanks @gmolina for your thorough response. I agree with your differentiation in the beginning but I may have not explained myself well. My focus is on best workflows relying on a combination of tools, in fact. That being said, I do not consider tools like OpenStudio viable options for early stage design evaluations as it takes considerable amount of time generating several shape and form options and creating required objects to run an adequately precise energy simulation.

Amir Rezaei's avatar Amir Rezaei  ( 2015-04-15 10:18:03 -0500 )edit

Add to that the need for evaluating passive strategies with enough details, then creating multiple options in OS or E+ is a lot of work. Weather study is definitely a must at the beginning but I think I particularly am interested in interfaces that can bring together fast geometry/massing options creation and easy connection to higher level energy evaluations in tools like E+ without the need to spend a lot of time to input details for HVAC and passive strategies (natural ventilation, etc.)...

Amir Rezaei's avatar Amir Rezaei  ( 2015-04-15 10:22:04 -0500 )edit

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Asked: 2015-04-09 18:02:26 -0500

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Last updated: Apr 20 '15