My brain hurts. And I am reminded of the graphs I drew over at Shoegnome on why people fail at BIM. Take a quick moment and read it. Then come back here.

Read it? Good.

Because we’re about to embark on a many month adventure into BEM (Building Energy Modeling).

I’m scared and nervous and already want to quit.

I’ll be honest. I never did more than launch EcoDesigner or ArchiCAD 16’s Energy Evaluation a handful of times. I might have pressed a few buttons and marveled at the options, but then I quickly retreated to ‘I don’t have time for this‘ or ‘I’ll learn this later‘ or ‘I’m not an energy guy.‘ Okay, that’s not truthful enough. I have zero experience with GRAPHISOFT’s energy modeling tools. I am admitting my ignorance and saying enough is enough.

This will Be Hard. This will be worth it.

Path-to-ArchiCAD-17We have a few months until the next version of ArchiCAD comes out and EcoDesigner STAR is officially released. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether that means 4 months or 8 months. But we can assume that it’ll be sometime later in 2013. That’s the world we live in now: yearly software releases (note: I have no special knowledge of this so I could be completely wrong about release timing).

You in?

If you see me slack off and not post about my adventures with EcoDesigner STAR, call me on it. I’ve got a lot of other things to do in the coming months, but that’s no excuse. I can talk endlessly about ArchiCAD, but let’s make sure I’m talking about what’s going to move us down the BIM path. It’s time to learn BEM. Let’s be ready so that when the next version of ArchiCAD is released, we’ve already adapted our techniques and vision to make designing with Building Energy Models our new normal. Sound good?

Lesson Zero

I’m going to master the Thermal Bridge Simulation first. That seems like it’ll fit into my current working method and get me hooked. Here’s the intro video:

Lesson One

This one is simple. When drawing your details, they need to each be in their own detail window. And you can’t have garbage floating off around the detail. ArchiCAD will try to analyze everything in the view. My current method is to draw details from scratch in a huge grid like we all used to do in the dark days of CAD (though by using Trace and Reference, I’m using the model as an underlay and details evolve FAST). Well GRAPHISOFT is finally giving me a compelling reason to change and I now realize the value of grabbing the details from the model. But more on that another day.

Lesson Two

You need to draw air. All of it. Both airspace in the detail and also fills so that ArchiCAD can recognize what’s outside and what’s inside.

Future Lessons…

More will be coming. But I want your help too. Share with me what you’re learning. Let’s work together and tackle this before Summer.


  1. Jared Banks

    Already learning a lot and wanted to clarify some things I’ve learned since posting. What I’ve written about pertains to scratch built details. If you are using the Detail Tool things are a bit different. Here’s two brief examples (we’ll go into more depth in future posts):

    Lesson 1: Anything outside of the dashed detail area will be ignored, including fills etc.

    Lesson 2: You don’t need to draw the inside and outside area with fills. The simulator wizard detects the dashed detail boundary and works out the area with no fills – these are then selectable as either inside or outside in the wizard. Everything within the detail boundary that is a cut fill will be analyzed.

    I probably should have also mentioned that in these investigations I expect to get things wrong. That’s part of the learning experience. And fortunately since I’m baring my ignorance for all to see, those with special knowledge can correct me. 🙂

    By the way, post #2 should be coming early next week.

  2. Harry Applin

    I enjoy your blog. I learn something new everyday and I am not even using ArchiCAD this year (though I am hoping to get back to it). I watched the webinar on EcoDesigner Star and was overwhelmed by all of the information. I appreciate you going through one step at a time.

    • Richard

      Ok we are trying to learn how to use Ecodesign star.
      Where is the help menu a few basic get going instructions,
      like how best to populate the thermal Blk column,
      A few basic pointers. Its like trying find your way round a room blindfolded.


  3. Richard

    Thermal bridge simulation Flaky. Has crashed the computer 5 times. Has an error message that gives no info on how to fix the issue.
    Fills missing at end of simulation.
    Stretching a fill or changing a fill in the detail can give you an error on a calculation that was previously successful. Sometimes I wonder how much testing goes into a new tool.

  4. Paul

    Im a bit concerned already that it seems you cannot carry out a Thermal bridging analysis on a an internal structure that doesn’t include exterior air. It might be that I need to do an analysis of an interior wall and possible thermal bridging losses into the ground/foundations.

    I was hoping for a much better help file/instruction manual. Where can I find out detailed explanation of how to interpret results?


  5. Jared Banks

    Richard, I understand your frustrations. I hope you are reporting all the bugs you are finding to the design team via the beta site. Also… some of the crashing might be due to the issues that caused Hotfix #3 to be recalled (which I admit is a mixed blessing of an answer).

    As to the question about no instructions and lack of testing… that’s what is happening right now. Instead of small private tests, Graphisoft has opened up this phase to everyone. That way more of these glitches are found now rather than later when it is officially released. More eyes, more searching. The lack of instructions is one of the reasons why I decided to take on this endeavor to share my explorations publicly.

  6. Jared Banks

    (hopefully some of my upcoming posts will answer some of your existing questions)

    Feel free to post your questions as well and we’ll see about crowdsourcing the answers.

  7. Jared Banks

    Paul, just a thought… you could set the internal and external air temperature and external heat transfer coefficients to be identical. Then select one side of the wall as ‘external’ and one as ‘internal’. I imagine that’d replicate the situation you’re looking for. I’ll put that on my ‘to investigate’ list.

  8. KeesW

    Architects analysing thermal bridges? Is that what we are about? We obviously have to understand the principles, but doing it? Its a bit like structures – whilst I was an architectural we did the same stuff as engineers for 4 years and it has given me a good grasp of the principles. But don’t ask me to do it now! Since then, architectural courses in AUS have increasingly focussed on the pretty stuff, and building technology is being taught in the context of design, rather than as a separate subject. It seems to me that calculating and analysing thermal bridges indicates a trend that will reverse this preoccupation with design as the fundamental skill of an architect. What do you think?

    • Jared Banks

      My view of the thermal bridging analysis and much of the rest of EcoDesigner STAR (or the built-in energy modeling within ArchiCAD) is that it’s ALL about design. What this tool provides is more than just numbers and reports. Sure it does that. Sure it will give you the documentation to help get certified in all sorts of energy programs (PassivHaus, LEED, etc.). But that’s just a side benefit of this tool. What it’s really about, IMHO, is turning energy modeling into a design tool. The thermal bridging analysis is very easy to do. As easy as doing a flow diagram or a site lines analysis by hand. EcoDesigner STAR and all it’s parts are about design above all else.

      Architects talk big about doing green design. About caring about energy usage, etc. But to really do that, we need the tools. And EcoDesigner STAR provides us such a tool. So will this reverse the preoccupation with design as a fundamental skill of an architect? Absolutely not. This will keep us valuable and relevant. Because if we don’t pay attention to energy then someone else will. And then guess who’s controlling design at that point? Not us.


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