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Modelling Software

There are a wide range of thermal modelling tools available. The following is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you know of a tool that you think is missing from this list, please e-mail us some details and it will be added willingly.

ESP-r is a dynamic thermal simulation environment for the analysis of energy and mass flows and environmental control systems within the built environment. ESP-r (the r stands for Research and EU Reference) allows researchers and designers to assess the manner in which actual weather patterns, occupant interactions, design parameter changes and control systems affect energy requirements and environmental states. It was developed by the Energy Systems Research Unit (ESRU), based within the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

EnergyPlus is the merger of two older and well established tools, DOE2 and Blast. Basically it performs hourly simulations of buildings, air handling systems and central plant equipment to provide mechanical, environmental and architectural engineers with accurate estimates of a building's energy needs. The zone models of BLAST (Building Loads Analysis and System Thermodynamics), which are based on the fundamental heat balance method, are the industry standard for heating and cooling load calculations. BLAST output may be utilised in conjunction with the LCCID (Life Cycle Cost in Design) program to perform an economic analysis of the building/system/plant design. Developed by the US Department of Energy.

Building Design Advisor

BDA is a computer program that supports the concurrent, integrated use of multiple simulation tools and databases, through a single, object-based representation of building components and systems. Based on a comprehensive design theory, the BDA acts as a data manager and process controller, allowing building designers to benefit from the capabilities of multiple analysis and visualisation tools throughout the building design process. The BDA has a simple graphical user interface that is based on two main elements, the building browser and the decision desktop. Developed by Konstantinos Papamichael at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Tas is a software package for the thermal analysis of buildings. It includes a 3D modeller, a thermal/energy analysis module, a systems/controls simulator and a 2D CFD package. There are also CAD links into the 3D modeller as well as report generation facilities. It is a complete solution for the thermal simulation of a building, and a powerful design tool in the optimisation of a buildings environmental, energy and comfort performance. Tas was developed by EDSL.

The NatHERS software was originally developed by the CSIRO, and is now administered as an initiative of the Ministerial Council on Energy. It is intended to provide quick, comprehensive and effective assessment of house design in an easy to use format, providing a rating out of 5 stars, where the greater number of stars represents a greater level of thermal comfort. It supports the state-based energy rating schemes as required under the Building Code of Australia regulated by the ABCB,

and is assessed by ABSA accredited assessors. The NatHERS thermal calculation engine has now been superceded by the AccuRATE engine (see next), and is expected to be phased out completely by the end of November 2007.


The NatHERS thermal calculation was originally released in 1990, and in 2006 various improvements and a new user interface have been added to create the second generation AccuRATE software. Among the significant changes include the provision to assess thermal performance against 69 different climate files (opposed to 28 in NatHERS), integration with the Windows Energy Rating Scheme (WERS) and a new star rating scheme of up to 10 stars, where the maximum rating represents a home unlikely to require artificial heating or cooling. The AccuRATE thermal calculation engine also forms the core of other energy rating software used in Australia, such as BERS and FirstRate. AccuRATE software is developed by the CSIRO and distributed by Hearne Software. BUNYIP
BUNYIP is a computerised design procedure for accurately estimating the costs and amounts of energy used in commercial buildings. The software package, developed by the CSIRO Division of Building, Construction and Engineering, enables design office assessments of new buildings and retrofit proposals. It is especially useful in comparing design options and lifecycle costs. It can also be used for research and educational purposes. The core of BUNYIP is a component-based thermal model of a building and its services systems. This is backed up by a climatic database for numerous locations in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. The model allows almost any building to be analysed, as the user can select and combine building or system elements as desired. A large range of air handling, heating and cooling component models are included. Bunyip is no longer available.

ESPII is a suite of five computer programs used for estimating the energy consumption of a building over a given period of time taking into account the site location, the building structure and the type of building services installed to maintain the desired environmental conditions. It enables a designer to investigate many alternatives and make energy comparisons quickly and effectively for a very wide range of building configurations and air conditioning systems using actual measured climatic data. ESPII is a metric version of the American program ESP-II developed for APEC by Ferreira and Kalasinsky Associates Inc., New Bedford, Massachusetts, under the direction of the APEC Energy Analysis Committee. ACADS-BSG has the licensing rights of this program in Australia and New Zealand.

ECOTECT is a conceptual design analysis tool that features overshadowing, shading design, lighting, acoustic and wind analysis functions as well as thermal. It uses the CIBSE Admittance Method to calculate heating and cooling loads for any number of zones within a model. These loads factor in direct and indirect solar gains (with the option of calculating full overshadowing percentages for each hour of the day throughout the year), internal gains, inter-zonal heat flow and pull-down loads due to intermittent usage. It can display hourly internal temperatures and load breakdowns as well as annual temperature distributions and the effects of thermal mass. ECOTECT was developed by Dr. Andrew Marsh of SQUARE ONE research. Visit the ECOTECT home page here].