I thought I was finished with my Thermal Bridging Simulation Adventure; turns out I was wrong. To help you review my coverage of the topic, click through for post 0, post 1, post 2post 3, post 4, and post 5. As I was waiting for post 5 to be shared, Scott Newland of Newland Architecture, a friend and fellow ArchiCAD user in Minnesota who had been following along with the posts, shared some of his own testing with EcoDesigner STAR Beta. I immediately contacted him, got some more info, and am here to share it with all of you.

ArchiCAD envelope detailsOne of his initial tests was to do a basic thermographic analysis of a floor edge detail. These details are from a conjectural Passive House design that he’s working on. It’s interesting to see that the detail shows a clear split between external insulation and the internal frame wall. From my basic understanding of Passive House, that’s what we want to see.

As a counter point, Scott also modeled and ran the thermal simulations on some crappy details. The results are quite amusing, and should be fairly clear for a non-professional to look at and understand that something bad is going on. That this is not the way to build. It’s a little hard to read, but his labeling is pretty hilarious too. My favorite notes are “shoddily installed insulation by cut-rate subcontractor” and “stop this insulation short like this.” Scott’s main concern is that the thermal contours, especially as seen in the bad details, should be more responsive to the materials. Stepped insulation, for example, should affect the internal temperatures more than it shows. I don’t know if this is just a symptom of the unfinished Beta release or something that the developers need to look into more. Or maybe the results are accurate and our understanding of what temperature changes should be are wrong. I don’t know.

But it’s a great question. It does make me wonder—for the bigger picture of energy evaluation—do we need Thermal Bridging Simulation to give us even more detailed images? Do we want more detail? Of course. We’re architects. We always love more detail and data.

Zaptastic DetailsBut do we need more detail? Once we feed this data back into the larger energy model, would having even more refinement make a difference to the overall results? In the bigger picture, what amount of change in the details is required to really effect the performance of the model (and final building)? If the stepped insulation where just a block of insulation in Scott’s detail, would that really change anything? These are just rhetorical questions: simply wondering about the concepts of energy modeling, rather than the specifics of these details.

Some other thoughts

I so much appreciate Scott sharing these details (and everything else he’s shared with me in the past, including this super popular post on my blog). It’s great to see what other people are learning while exploring the beta of EcoDesigner STAR. Look at Scott’s details again. Notice something else we’ve talked about in the past? Color! This is obvious, in a way. If you’re going to print (or share digitally) the results of the Thermal Bridging Simulation, it’s going to have to be in color. I’d love to see the cellulose insulation in color too, but it’s pretty easy to read the details: what’s rigid insulation, what’s wood, what’s dirt. I also really like that all the annotation is in red. Makes it easy to differentiate what’s real stuff and what’s just a label. Furthermore, putting the thermal images next to the construction details is a nice communication technique.

Well now THAT’S all for now. Want to know a bit more about Scott Newland and his ArchiCAD experience? Here you go:

Scott has embraced ArchiCAD for several years, coming from a 2D AutoCAD world.  He was introduced to it by fellow Minnesota architect Robert Gerloff, who amazed with his templates and efficient use of the software in his residential work. Check out Newland Architecture on the web and I recommend you follow Newland Architecture on Facebook and watch for more examples of his ArchiCAD explorations and design work (no pressure Scott!).

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