Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
Sefaira for SketchUp plug-in for real-time energy analysis debuts
November 12th, 2013 by Susan Smith
Sefaira’s CEO Mads Jensen talked about the new Sefaira for SketchUp, a SketchUp plugin that provides architects with real-time energy analysis without leaving their native design environment.
Sefaira makes software for high performance building design, to help architects with the design process. “Building design is incredibly complex, and all the elements such as energy efficiency, occupant behavior, maintenance and operation, start with great building design,” said Jensen. “The design can take months or years of work, and through that process we make thousands of decisions to impact that building. We have not always had good software to help designers to make decisions for energy use, lighting, etc. at the design level.”
Sefaira was founded in 2009 but took several years to create their core software technology. They launched their first commercial products last summer for architectural design companies. Most of their clients are U.S. firms with several in the UK. There has been great demand for their existing products, which is a web app.
The introduction of Sefaira for SketchUp offers analysis capability that provides designers with energy modeling inside the design environment, right inside of SketchUp. “This is a new approach to building design,” said Jensen. “For the first time, they’ll be able to see real physics-based analysis of their building in real time, on their model in terms of energy performance. It’s very intuitive, very easy to use, an embedded part of the design process.”
In the software demo, the model was changed in real time and the feedback updated automatically in a panel on the right hand side of the screen to show how a design is performing in SketchUp. The architect can be making modifications to her building design and energy use as she tries different scenarios and gets feedback simultaneously. This way the energy flows graph shows the end uses of energy such as heat, cooling, lighting and appliances and their effects on the proposed building design. This way the designer can make informed decisions about what features to include in the design such as form, orientation, and façade.
“Architects never had the ability to do these types of studies in real time prior to this software,” said Jensen.
Customers have reported that the early stages of design move so quickly and design changes so rapidly they don’t have the time to export a model to a separate tool to do an analysis, get feedback and then go back into the design environment, so it didn’t happen. “Our response is to go where the architects and meet them right in their design environment,” Jensen said.
“There are so many small decisions to make in your design process, i.e., how do you place windows, how big do you make them, that once they’re locked in in the early design stages, it doesn’t change that much. The project owner who is paying the bill, has signed off on a certain ascetic vision early on so if those decisions are not made with performance in mind, you’re not going to get the best performance.”
Historically, we know that designers would go through the entire process of designing a building and in the later stages of design a couple of weeks was spent on doing an energy simulation. At that point, the designer would not be choosing from various options, which would be the best. “Now you’re moving analysis up earlier in the process, and because you’re doing it early you’re evaluating the performance of all those options early on, so you can find the best design for performance.
At heart, Jensen said better buildings could be built because of this ability to explore various design alternatives and make a more responsible and sustainable design decision.