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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
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 »

Interview with Sefaira CEO Mads Jensen: new HVAC design product preview at AU 2014

January 13th, 2015 by Susan Smith

Sefaira Systems is the new product from Sefaira for heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) design engineers that provides real-time performance analysis of mechanical systems and envelope options in record time, according to the company.

On the heels of previewing a new product for heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) design engineers and showcasing its latest performance analysis tools for architects at Autodesk University 2014 in December, Sefaira’s CEO Mads Jensen provides an update on Sefaira and the state of performance-based design.

Sefaira Systems is the new product from Sefaira for heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) design engineers that provides real-time performance analysis of mechanical systems and envelope options in record time.

Sefaira Systems is the new product from Sefaira for heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) design engineers that provides real-time performance analysis of mechanical systems and envelope options in record time.

AECCafe Voice: What makes Sefaira the leading company in the area of performance-based design?

 Jensen: Early stage building design is a fast-paced process that requires designers to make many important decisions within a short period of time. They need tools which require minimal input, allow them to collaborate with their project team, and provide performance feedback fast enough to be integrated into the design process.

Sefaira empowers designers during this design phase by providing real-time performance feedback directly in their design environment. It enables them to make informed design decisions and balance the trade-offs between energy and daylight performance. Sefaira offers tools for designers, sustainability experts and MEP engineers and Sefaira’s data and reports can be used to explain and promote design decisions to other members of the project team.

Because of Sefaira’s speed and ease of use, our customers say that it is the best tool for performance-based design.

AECCafe Voice: You mention that the energy performance standards, some of which are initiated by cities or countries, are putting pressure on construction. Isn’t that pressure also falling on architects and engineers at the conceptual end of the process?

Jensen: It is. Energy performance goals are set at the beginning of a project and designers need to work towards these goals from day one. As these standards are getting stricter, it has become very difficult for design teams to meet them at a reasonable cost, unless they design for performance already during the conceptual design phase.

The difficulty they’ve been having is that during conceptual design less information is available to understand the expected performance of a building. The greatest value of analysis during this early design phase therefore lies in comparative analysis, i.e. the direct comparison of different design options. Comparative analysis allows designers to identify conceptual designs that have the best performance, and that provide the best starting point for further performance optimization later.

Sefaira is an invaluable tool for designers at this early stage, because it allows them to compare different options before they have detailed information available to run later stage energy models.

AECCafe Voice: What is a typical workflow for those using Sefaira – where does it arrive in the process and how does it evolve through to project completion?

Jensen: At the beginning of a project, we typically see designers using one of our design environment plugins – such as those for Revit and SketchUp. These give real-time feedback on the energy and natural daylight performance of the building being designed, enabling the architect to explore their design options from right within their design workflow. Once they have established a basic design that achieves their aesthetic and energy targets, they typically then upload their building model into our rich web application. This application enables them to explore more detailed decisions, compare options and generate reports for the rest of the design team and the next stages of design.

AECCafe Voice: You say that designers can create energy efficient buildings without incurring additional capital cost – but what about the cost of the materials that are energy efficient?

 Jensen: The important thing is to think holistically. Certainly, comparing, say, a window assembly with a more energy-efficient assembly, you’ll typically see that the higher-performance window will be more expensive on an initial capital cost basis. But very often, better building performance can reduce the cost for heating and cooling systems, in the form of lower HVAC equipment size. The result of a well designed building is therefore often a net positive saving, even if some parts of the building is more expensive. In essence, performance-based design helps the designer explore all the different design options, to find out which are most cost effective. We’ve seen some very innovative buildings, which combine excellent performance with lower capital costs than traditional buildings. Sefaira software helps design teams understand these tradeoffs – without having to engage in a substantial consulting project.

AECCafe Voice:  Please describe Sefaira’s product portfolio.

Jensen: Sefaira delivers software for high-performance building design. Its products enable architects and engineers to leverage real-time performance analysis to create buildings that have the very best performance characteristics in terms of energy use, daylighting quality, carbon emissions, thermal comfort, construction and operating costs.

Sefaira Architecture helps architects and other building designers understand their design’s energy and daylight performance right from the earliest stages of design. It helps them deliver better designs with more confidence that they can be realized without substantial later-stage changes.

And, this month, we are launching Sefaira Systems, our new engineering product – that will help HVAC design teams assess and compare HVAC system design and sizing options within a few hours rather than a few days using traditional approaches. This allows consulting and design engineers to integrate more easily in the early stage design process, as they can use the architect’s CAD/BIM model directly for the sizing and analysis, without having to recreate the model in a separate analysis application (or to use spread-sheets, which can be a less accurate way of sizing systems). This way engineers can give architect teams very high quality information in an extremely short timeframe.

AECCafe Voice:What is the pricing model for these products?

Jensen: All products are offered on subscription, and licensed on a per-user basis. We have defined several packages, aimed at customers of different sizes. New users can be added to these packages. The precise pricing depends on the size of the package. It’s also possible to buy a package containing both Sefaira Architecture and our engineering product for those firms who have both types of user.

AECCafe Voice: What CAD or BIM products do they integrate with?

 Jensen: Sefaira currently integrates with Autodesk Revit and Trimble SketchUp. We offer plugins that provide energy and daylight analysis directly within the CAD environment and both Revit and SketchUp models can also be uploaded into Sefaira’s web app for more detailed analysis.

We are continuously evaluating our customers’ needs to decide which additional CAD/BIM tools we might want to support in the future.

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Categories: 2D, 3D, AEC, AECCafe, architecture, AutoCAD, Autodesk, BIM, building information modeling, buildingSMART, Cloud, collaboration, construction, consumerization, engineering, field solutions, project management, Sefaira, sustainable design

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