Building a Future Vision Starts with Common Language

Live from BEM Innovation Summit –

What’s the difference between a building energy modeler and a building energy analyst? This may just sound like semantics, but according to participants at RMI’s BEM Innovation Summit, the devil’s in the details.

Building a common language for energy modeling services is essential for defining and growing the market.
“Currently, we don’t speak the same language as our clients,” said Erik Kolderup of Kolderup Consulting.  “It is up to us to define the market for what we do, and what services people can buy.”

The terminology is not on the same page, said Linda Morrison of Ambient Energy. “We can build a better foundation by setting higher standards for communication and education.”

The need to take a fundamental look at a modeler’s role, and how this affects everything from building energy education and certification to consumer demand, was a central theme during initial panel discussion. Simply defining an energy modeler is anything but black-and white.

“When we say ‘energy modeling,’ many people think about what we do with current tool-sets,” said Joe Deringer of IBPSA-USA.  “We need a clear distinction between energy modeling as a practice, and the use of energy modeling tools.”

This distinction, participants agreed, is essential in getting practitioners “out of a box” that can limit the role energy modeling and modelers play in driving deep energy savings in building retrofits and new construction.

Communication, Integrated Design Key

Understanding the interaction of systems, reflecting these interactions in a model, and then, in turn using this model early in the design process to inform decisions are key to maximizing building energy savings.

But getting building energy modelers involved more consistently from the outset of a project requires a shift in thinking.

“Architects in the U.S. are looking toward high performance building codes that are on their way, and we can help fill the knowledge gap regarding how energy modeling can help them reach these goals,” said Bill Worthen of the American Institute of Architects. “By opening lines of communication, architects and engineers can better engage and speak a common language.”