Written by Mike Williams, Chris Frankowski and Jennifer Harmer
Energy efficient building designs don’t happen by accident; they are designed by professionals who use energy modelling to gauge and improve a building’s energy performance before it’s built. A new tool will help compare and share such energy modelling data across Ontario.
A growing number of incentives, voluntary and mandatory building standards aim to reduce emissions from new construction projects. As a result, energy modelling has become a mainstream design exercise that is now completed on hundreds of projects annually in Ontario. Unfortunately, the data contained within energy simulation files has not been leveraged to analyze performance trends or to benchmark similar buildings to improve energy performance.
To remedy this, RWDI Engineers – in partnership with the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) and Toronto’s Architecture 2030 District – is developing a tool that will automate the harvesting, reporting and aggregation of information available in energy model files. This cloud-hosted tool called COMPASS will automate reporting to six of major energy reporting programs in Ontario (see below).
Beyond automating and simplifying reporting, the tool strives to enhance energy literacy in the design community, while being free of charge for end users. Once the tool is completed, it will automatically harvest over 400 building characteristics from eQuest, IES-VE, and EnergyPlus simulation files into a central database. Users of the tool will be able to engage with the data through a series of data visualizations, and will be able to download aggregated datasets and undertake their own analysis.
The initial target user group are building designers including architects, engineers and energy simulation professionals who are responsible for completing most energy simulations in Ontario. Future users of the tool could include building code officials: Benchmarking data could enable increased efficiency and accuracy when reviewing energy simulation files that are submitted with building permit applications.
The Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) recognized the project’s significant potential to support the transition of newly constructed buildings to a low-carbon future. As a result, concept development funding to seed the project was approved in the spring of 2017.
Fast forward to the end of the summer 2017 and the OAA team, which includes RWDI as the technical development lead, has completed several key milestones including:
- A robust matrix of variables that identifies over 400 key building characteristics – from window-to-wall ratios to heating plant efficiencies:
- A script that automates the harvest of the 400 variables from the simulation files that are produced by eQuest, which is one of the most widely-used energy simulation tools. The script auto-populates several program submission forms in seconds; see below for a demonstration of the script in action.
The complete findings of the project, including the full variables matrix and script, are included in a final summary report.
The TAF-funded technical development of tool was an important first step. However, further funding was required to complete the user interface, data visualizations and data security protocols. The development team, led by RWDI with support from the OAA and Toronto’s 2030 District, successfully applied for funding from IESO’s Conservation Fund. The team is currently on track to launch the tool in the spring of 2018.
Background: Energy Reporting in Ontario
The COMPASS tool automates reporting to six of the most prominent new construction energy reporting programs in Ontario:
- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED): a voluntary rating system managed by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) to evaluate the environmental performance of a building and encourage market transformation towards sustainable design.
- High-Performance New Construction (HPNC): is the IESO’s demand-side management program that incentivizes new construction projects to reduce energy use beyond building code-required minimum levels of performance.
- Toronto Green Standard (TGS): is set of green building best practices, including beyond-code energy performance targets, that are required for most new construction projects in the City of Toronto. TAF has been a key advisor on creating and updating the TGS standard.
- Ontario Building Code (OBC): saw a major updated at the start of 2017 and now includes some of North America’s most stringent code-required levels of energy performance.
- Savings By Design (SBD): is Enbridge and Union Gas’s demand side management program that provides funding to complete an energy simulation and integrated design charrette at the early stages of a project design.
- 2030 Challenge: is a voluntary and visionary program initiated by Architect 2030 that challenges building developments to strive towards a net-zero level of energy performance by the year 2030. In Ontario, the 2030 Challenge is supported by the OAA with strong advocacy and support from Toronto’s Architecture 2030 District.