Virtual Design Studio (VDS)

The Virtual Design Studio Project is working on the Development of an Integrated Computer Simulation Environment for Performance Based Design of Very-low Energy and High IEQ Buildings.

VDS Research Focus

The objective of the project is to develop an integrated simulation environment, as part of a “Virtual Design Studio”, to design very-low energy buildings with high indoor environmental quality. The project team will develop a method for integrating conceptual to detailed design processes, with which designers can quantitatively evaluate the predicted performance of various design options, iterate and optimize the design. The core of the integrated simulation environment is a CHAMPS-Multizone program for energy efficiency and IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality) analysis, which enables the simulations of combined heat, air, moisture and pollutant transport for whole buildings across different design stages. EnergyPlus will be enhanced to interact and couple with CHAMPS-Multizone. A common format for data sharing and example databases of HVAC equipment and construction materials/assemblies will be developed for data exchange. A user friendly environment/platform integrated with existing Building Information Models (BIM) will also be developed.

Background Information

Buildings designed and constructed using a performance-based energy and IEQ design process that optimized the interaction between building envelope and HVAC systems can save between 30% and 75% energy costs while providing better IEQ. The “Virtual Design Studio” will enable efficient and accurate evaluation of various architectural and mechanical design options to maximize the energy saving while ensuring a healthy, comfortable and productive indoor environment. The outcome of the project is also expected to stimulate the use of integrated design processes and help create high-paid jobs from both supply and demand sides. Therefore, the proposed project will be in direct support of the country’s economic recovery and development effort. The project is cost shared by Syracuse University and Syracuse Center of Excellence at the level of slightly above 20% of the total project costs.

The VDS Research Team

A team of HVAC engineers, architects, simulation tool developers, and energy and IEQ consultants conduct the proposed project. Specific tasks include: 1) Establish and define detailed requirements for the simulation framework including design input parameters and required simulation outputs at each design stage, required iterations for design optimization, and the detailed functionalities and features for the new simulation framework; 2) Develop an approach to organize and account for the design parameters at different stages and the logics & procedure for its implementation including a hierarchical structure for process and parameter representation, and a method for intelligent reduction of input data required for early design stages through building/climate/scenario classifications and parametric analysis; 3) Develop the simulation framework including CHAMPS-Whole Building, EnergyPlus, CHAMPS-BES (for building envelope system), a “virtual building” database, coupling methods and data transfer modules among these computer programs; 4) Develop a method for integrating existing databases into the simulation framework including a common format that is based on Industrial Foundation Class (IFC), example datasets for HVAC equipments and construction materials/assemblies, and linkages to Building Information Models (BIM); 5) Test and evaluate the simulation framework by comparison with data from a full-scale testbed building; and 6) Disseminate the integrated design approach and simulation framework through designer workshops, classroom teaching and international collaborations.

The team has compared building design process and practice in US, UK, and Germany and review the integrated design approaches in the literature. A five step design, construction process has been proposed for the simulation and monitoring framework including “Assess, Define, Design, Apply and Monitor (ADDAM)”. The Virtual Design Studio (VDS) will address the first three of the ADDAM process. Desired functionalities of VDS has been defined, and a software specification has been developed. The team is currently focusing on implementing the VDS using a C++/QT programming environment and developing a method to integrate/embed VDS.

Team Members:

  • Prof. Jianshun Zhang
  • Prof. Micheal Pelken
  • Lixing Gu
  • Hugh Henderson
  • Dan Rice
  • Yixing Chen
  • Shewangizaw Semahegn
  • Zhaozhou Meng
  • Francesca Ling
  • Robbin Mocarski