Design in a simulation environment
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When designing a building, the architect has typically relied on the input of outside experts to determine the performance of building systems. When done properly this collaboration can yield highly effective designs, but typically this reliance has left the architect outside of the loop on performance based decisions and impeded the development of innovative solutions. With the availability of powerful building simulation tools, designers can have direct access to building performance attributes and use them to qualify the environmental impact of design-decisions. With knowledge of fundamental principles in building performance and computer modeling, a designer can effectively harness the power of these tools from the beginning of the design process. While this does not eliminate the need for expert opinion, it allows the designer to further develop and have more control over the solution through collaboration. By working effectively in this digital design environment, the practice of architecture can meet its responsibility to reduce the impact of buildings on the physical environment. To test this statement, a brief overview of the integration of analysis tools in two projects that represent the current state of the art for digital performance simulation describes the need for multiple tools to achieve effective results. Based on this experience, a study was done to explore the capabilities of four representative simulation tools to support a design process that is entirely digital. The software evaluated was Energy-10, eQUEST, Sketch-Up with Demeter (a recently released plug-in for energy analysis) and ECOTECT. These tools were chosen because they have been targeted toward architects and claim to be easy to use. The results of this investigation were used to determine an appropriate tool set to develop a design for submission to the Leading Edge Competition, chosen because one of the requirements is that entrants perform energy analyses on their schemes to show how design decisions led to improved performance, making it a good vehicle to explore the process of designing in a simulation environment.