Who this is for: Architects or engineers who are trying to integrate building performance analysis into their firm’s processes, are getting started with BPA themselves, or are trying to improve project collaboration.
Takeaway: Using workflow diagrams to map-out thought processes and information exchange can save headaches and hang-ups, while improving the quality and rigor of your analysis.
By: Adam Menter
I work with students and educators to help them integrate sustainable design into their projects and teaching (see Autodesk Sustainability Workshop). When working with architecture students on building performance analysis, I became concerned that many students were not using the power of analysis to improve and optimize their designs.
As I’ve spoken with more professionals about it, they’ve echoed very similar concerns about their firm’s processes.
Rather than using analysis as an integrated and iterative part of their process, too many are simply using analysis tools to fulfill some project requirement. With today’s tools it’s easy to present impressive-looking analysis results and graphs without knowing if the results are valid, and what to do with them.
Simply knowing your goals and metrics goes a long way
The first step is going into the analysis process with a clear picture of what you’re trying to learn and what aspects of the design you’re trying optimize. That can help you understand what tools to use and what to look for in the analysis results. Just this can save a lot of time.
We began developing a series of workflow maps to help students structure how they approach analysis. If we could help make the process for using these tools well more explicit, maybe analysis results would improve – and maybe it’d be easier for people to take the plunge and adopt new tools and methods of working.
For a more in-depth explanation of this approach, see this article. Some examples of these basic maps are here:
- Sun and Shadow Studies: Vasari/Revit, Ecotect
- Solar Radiation Analysis: Vasari, Ecotect
- Climate analysis
- Wind Analysis in Vasari
The original inspiration from this work came from an Autodesk University Presentation by Asbjorn Levring and Daniel Nielsen in 2011. Their presentation can be seen here.
Mapping Design Process and Information Exchange
Along the way we began working with a research team at Stantec, Adam Rendek and Matt Grinberg, who were working to map-out and improve their own energy modeling workflows. Their goal is to improve collaboration and the effectiveness of their analysis, both within their firm and within the industry at large.
As Stantec built-out their map, they found that the thing that bogged them down the most is not the inadequacy of the tools or a convoluted process, but clarity on the basic information exchange that should happen. So they made the iconography of their workflow map richer to show the level of confidence of the information exchange – and what level of specificity/detail should be known.
Workflow icons show level of confidence and level of detail.
The resulting map tracks information flow and energy modeling throughout all phases of the design process. It is idealized and more involved than they’re able to do on most projects. But it is effective at establishing a common vocabulary that they hope will serve as a basis for many different types of projects.
Although Stantec is still in the initial phases of deploying this work internally, response seems to be strongly positive so far. It has been helpful in improving collaboration by creating a common vocabulary, and Adam & Matt hope to work closely with several project teams over the next year to put it into practice. They will also be speaking at several conferences, including the ASHRAE conference in Denver.
For more information on Stantec’s map, and to start using it on your own projects, see this blog post.
We hope to continue to develop this work to help architects and engineers approach analysis strategically and get the most out of their results.
Tell us what you think:
Have you tried similar processes in your workflow and how has it worked out for you? Are these approaches valid and valuable to your firm?
Would you like to see more of this kind of thinking baked into Autodesk products and documentation?