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OpenStudio: Building Design Expertise at Your Fingertips

October 4, 2011 - 2:50pm


The National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed the OpenStudio Application Suite and Development Platform to help architects and engineers model whole-building energy use.

Like many weekend warriors, I enjoy tackling small home improvement projects, like replacing a door or installing an underground sprinkler system. But I want to get expert advice before I start, so I can avoid costly mistakes and achieve the best results.

Commercial building designers faced with energy efficiency concerns share the same feeling. It’s complicated trying to make decisions about advanced HVAC systems in different climates or determining potential energy savings from winter daylighting. That's why the Energy Department created OpenStudio, a software kit and suite of advanced energy modeling tools.

Engineers, architects, and others can explore the most efficient improvements available for commercial buildings with this free application suite. Through its user-friendly interface, design teams can use OpenStudio to understand the cost implications of their specific plans.

One of the key components of this system is its ability to tap into the Energy Department’s advanced whole-building energy modeling program, EnergyPlus. Designers can draw the building in detail using site photos and other inputs to get an accurate representation of the building. OpenStudio then converts the information into data that EnergyPlus uses to help designers understand the impact their design choices are having on cost, energy efficiency, and code compliance. The plug-in also speeds up the modeling process, which is otherwise complex and time consuming.

The OpenStudio kit enables software developers to create specialized tools for building design customized to their needs.  With this functionality the toolkit can help users manage the analysis of hundreds of thousands of simulations, or develop their own graphical user interfaces to help designers solve specific problems.

The Energy Department recently released a new version of the tools armed with many features aimed specifically at addressing efficiency challenges in existing buildings. Anyone can download the OpenStudio suite of tools and software development kit for free.  

So, instead of heading to the building supply store to talk to someone in the plumbing aisle, commercial building designers can access information from industry experts. Because OpenStudio's platform is constantly evolving (improvements are made quarterly), users can get the very latest information in the most usable format. Something anyone, from commercial building designers to weekend do-it-yourselfers, can agree is crucial to a project’s success.

See the OpenStudio demo to learn more.