Demystifying Building Energy Modeling Software: A Comprehensive Comparison

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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.

In this blog post, we will compare several popular BEM software options. By the end of the article, you should have a good understanding of the features, strengths, and weaknesses of each tool.

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


EnergyPlus, developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is a robust and detailed simulation engine. Known for its accuracy and flexibility, EnergyPlus is free and open-source, but its main disadvantage is the steep learning curve due to the lack of a graphical user interface. It is best suited for detailed design and simulation.


Also developed by DOE, OpenStudio leverages the EnergyPlus simulation engine but adds a user-friendly graphical interface via a SketchUp plugin. It’s open-source, and its capabilities can be extended through Ruby scripting. The interface might not be as appealing as some commercial tools, but it offers a solid choice for detailed design, simulation, and parametric analysis.


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. It’s free, and while it does not provide as detailed results as EnergyPlus, it’s often used for LEED compliance modeling.


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. The primary disadvantage is that it comes at a cost.


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. However, it is a commercial tool and is more expensive than some alternatives.


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

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