Building Energy Modeling (BEM) Software Comparison

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Demystifying Building Energy Modeling Software: A Comprehensive Comparison

Building energy modeling (BEM) software provides an invaluable tool for architects, engineers, and building owners, aiming to minimize energy use, reduce carbon footprints, and enhance indoor environmental quality. BEM software ranges from basic tools for preliminary assessments to advanced solutions for detailed design and operational optimization.

  • Several popular BEM software:
  • EnergyPlus

             EnergyPlus, developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is a robust and detailed simulation engine known for its accuracy and flexibility. It is best suited for detailed design and simulation.

  • OpenStudio

Developed by DOE, OpenStudio adds a user-friendly graphical interface via a SketchUp plugin. It’s open-source, and its capabilities can be extended through Ruby scripting. It offers a solid choice for detailed design, simulation, and parametric analysis.

  • eQuest

eQuest is an easy-to-use tool that offers both detailed and simplified modes, making it ideal for users at different stages of the design process.

  • DesignBuilder

DesignBuilder is a commercial tool that provides a user-friendly graphical interface and uses the EnergyPlus simulation engine. It offers detailed outputs and is well-suited for LEED and BREEAM modeling

  • IES VE

The IES Virtual Environment (VE) is a comprehensive suite of tools that allows for the whole building design, including architectural design, energy modeling, and daylighting analysis. It provides highly detailed outputs and is well-suited for LEED and BREEAM modeling.

  • Revit

Revit, part of the Autodesk suite, is primarily a Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. Its strength lies in its powerful BIM capabilities

  • Comparison of several popular BEM software:
SoftwareProsConsUse Case
EnergyPlusHighly accurate, detailed outputs, extensive weather data, freely availableSteep learning curve, requires separate graphical interfaceDetailed design and simulation
OpenStudioFree, integrates with EnergyPlus, SketchUp plugin, extensible via Ruby scriptsSlightly complex, not as visually appealing as some commercial toolsDetailed design and simulation, Parametric analysis
eQuestUser-friendly, detailed, and simplified modes, free, good for LEED compliance modelingLess detailed results compared to EnergyPlusPreliminary and detailed design
DesignBuilderEasy-to-use graphical interface, detailed outputs, EnergyPlus engine, good for LEED and BREEAM modelingCommercial software, hence comes at a costDetailed design, LEED and BREEAM analysis
IES VEIntegrated suite for whole building design, detailed outputs, daylighting analysis, good for LEED and BREEAM modelingCommercial software, more expensiveWhole building design, Daylighting, Detailed design
RevitPowerful BIM capabilities, integration with BEM via plugins, Autodesk ecosystemCommercial software, BEM capabilities not as extensive as dedicated toolsArchitectural design, preliminary energy modeling

The Quest for the Best Building Energy Modeling Software: An In-Depth Examination

Including criteria ASHRAE Std 140 approval, power, flexibility, feature richness, learning curve, existing user base, reports, customization, and cost-effectiveness.

  • Given these parameters, comparison is narrowed down to the following software packages:
  • EnergyPlus+OpenStudio+Trimble Sketchup
  • TRACE 700
  • Carrier HAP
  • IES VE
  • DesignBuilder
  • eQUEST
  • And some wildcards to consider:
  • AECOsim
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