So far, most of the tools available for conducting commercial energy audits don’t help predict the full effect that an energy conservation solution could have on energy consumption.
The tablet-based simuwatt Audit, however, should have the capability to do just that. The application is a culmination of three different projects:
- NREL’s OpenStudio platform, which uses data collected during an audit, along with the Building Component Library (see below), to create a whole-building energy model and analysis. Through Google SketchUp, it produces 3D renderings of buildings and systems based on the envelope, plug load, tenants and occupants, daylighting, etc. Because the program is free and open source, facilities managers can work with development teams to add plug-ins or submit code to NREL for possible integration into OpenStudio.
- The Building Component Library (BCL), which is an online repository of energy data that includes separate building components and energy conservation measures. This allows facilities managers to break down energy audit information into usable data by looking at components and conservation measures separately. Users can download a “component” (a type of HVAC system, for example) or a “conservation measure” (such as adding window film to all windows), and place it into their model to view the possible impact.
- concept3D geometry capture software, which lets users draw 3D building models as they perform audits.
The data collected from each audit will be stored in a central database; facilities managers and energy auditors won’t have to start over each time they conduct a commercial energy audit. Collecting and housing this data could also allow commercial building professionals to conduct portfolio-level energy analysis that may assist in predicting economies of scale for renovations or retrofits.
The NREL predicts that simuwatt Audit, when released, will allow facilities managers to conduct investment-grade audits that cost up to 75% less than traditional audits. It will also allow energy audit data to be stored and retrieved in a consistent, reusable format.
Starting next month, field testing on simuwatt Audit begins on U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) sites, including West Point and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. If the testing is successful, the application could be rolled out early next year.
Would you be willing to try simuwatt Audit for your commercial energy audits? Why or why not?