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FS59 - Options Appraisal Tool for Architects

Written by: CIC Start Online

"Options Appraisal Tool for Architects (OATA)" by University of Strathclyde Glasgow and NORD Architecture


Scottish Building Professionals are familiar with simplified assessment methods such as SAP and SBEM. The SAP user interface is easy to use (E.G. Wall = area + U Value) and is defined by a worksheet which lets you see what changes with different parameters. There are some concerns about the accuracy of some of its results particularly for very energy efficient modern homes (AECB 2008).

Dynamic Simulation Tools can provide very detailed results but may suffer from a steep learning curve and over parameterisation (Counsell, Khalid et al. 2010). There is a gap between the current SAP methodology and Dynamic Simulation methods for a new Advanced Energy
Modelling of Domestic Systems Method which could be used as an Options Appraisal Tool for Architects.

Inverse Dynamics Energy Analysis and Simulation (IDEAS) - The drive towards a low carbon building has seen the increased use of many different systems, such as novel insulation, mechanical and natural ventilation, space heating and applications of renewable energy. The use of such systems simultaneously can increase the complexity of their control. Understanding the dynamics and sizing of these systems at the conceptual design stage will allow for better initial and better retrofit appraisals.

Assessing the dynamics of such systems in relation to energy consumption is an area where simplified methods such as SAP are limited. IDEAS (Murphy and Counsell 2011) is a simplified dynamic method of assessing the controllability of a building and its servicing systems. This dynamic method produces SAP compliant results.

The project's objective is to analyse and report on the feasibility of a computer based tool to facilitate efficient, effective and creative designs of low impact homes in the conceptual phase of the design process. Leading researchers identified that in complex systems, most of the
performance and subsequent cost in manufacturing the system is determined in the conceptual design phase, whilst less than 5% of the cost is incurred. The conceptual design phase is important, but often overlooked. One of the major problems to overcome is the way the industry is structured. Many of the conceptual design decisions for the building as a whole are made by architects, who like all the industry, do not possess all the necessary knowledge to make well informed decisions on the design at the early stages. This outcome of this feasibility study will be a full analysis of the requirements and capabilities of a computer based tool which can be used primarily by architects to analyse the environmental and energy requirement impact of adopting various building technologies. Leading from this, it is envisaged that a prototype tool will be developed by the BRE Centre at the University of Strathclyde in close conjunction with the NORD Architecture.

A joint Case Study between the BRE Centre in conjunction with the NORD Architecture SME will be conducted during this study. The Case Study proposed for this project will benefit from lessons learned from NORD and the BRE Centre. Previously, NORD and the BRE Centre have worked in collaboration and other bodies to design and install new high performance solutions to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of existing houses and evaluating their environmental performance. The Case Study purpose is to make use of an Options Appraisal Tool for Architects (OATA) in a real world example building from NORDʼs current portfolio (a number of NORDʼs current projects
are seen as relevant but one at 87 Milngavie Rd, Glasgow, is proposed due to the scale of works). The Case Study outcome will be a full analysis of the requirement capabilities and behaviour of an OATA such as:

  • Installing a new heating system into a building: What is the effect on Mean Internal Temperature (MIT) and what are the likely running costs of the new heating system?
  • Improving the insulation of a building: What are the pay back periods of the installation?
  • Adjustment of the structure of the building: What is the effect on MIT if glazing is increased? Are overheats over summer months
  • likely without sufficient solar blinds? 

From this, a decision can be made to determine if the IDEAS methodology can act in this capacity or if some minor additions would be required. For example, additional work would be required if a graphical interface was required in an OATA; a potential
route for this extension could see the development of IDEAS simulation within Google Sketchup.

Key words: new buildings, domestic buildings, non-domestic buildings, refurbishment, dynamic simulation, cost calculator 


Prof. John Counsell, University of Strathclyde Glasgow

For NORD Architecture

The outputs of this study will be disseminated in due course.













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