Building Performance Analysis in Revit 2016 R2 with Autodesk Insight 360AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #76 (November 20, 2015)


Dan Stine, CSI, CDT
Registered Architect and Author

High performance design is an important aspect of building design. LHB, the Minnesota based firm I have worked for since 2003, is actively involved in research and development in this area. The firm was involved in the development of the State’s B3 Benchmarking program (required program for all Minnesota public buildings) and Regional Indicators Initiative (which collects and analyzes performance metrics for entire cities). In Minneapolis, our new office was third in the state to achieve LEED CI Platinum (Commercial Interiors). Additionally, USGBC’s Minnesota Chapter is located within our Minneapolis office through donated space. Finally, LHB’s trademarked program, Performance Metrics™, tracks the Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of buildings we design and is used for research, validation and marketing to future clients.

Autodesk Revit has several Building Performance Analysis (BPA) tools available to those engaged in the art of building design. This article will provide a brief overview of what’s available and then provide a more detailed look at the essentials of running an energy simulation from within Revit. This will include an introduction to the new 3D energy model view in Revit 2016, the automatic zoning feature in Revit 2016 R2 (update for subscription customers) and an overview of Autodesk Insight 360 cloud service that was just announced at Greenbuild 2015.

Here is a list of some of the tools Autodesk offers:

External to Revit
  • Insight 360 (new tool just announced by Autodesk at Greenbuild 2015)
    New cloud-based tool enabling a new way to experience building energy and environmental performance and the collective actions that lead to better outcomes throughout all stages of the building lifecycle.

  • Green Building Studio (GBS)
    Standalone cloud-based whole building performance analysis using the DOE2 simulation engine.

  • CFD
    Computational Fluid Dynamics and Thermal Simulation software which can be used to study air movement within buildings; e.g., displacement ventilation.

  • FormIt 360 Pro
    Cloud-based concept modeling tool with energy and solar analysis tools built in.


Within Revit
  • Energy Analysis
    Analyze a design’s expected energy use based on geometry and location on earth.

  • Solar Analysis (now part of the Insight 360 add-in for Revit)
    Visualize and quantify the distribution of solar radiation on various surfaces.

  • Light Analysis (now part of the Insight 360 add-in for Revit)
    Analysis for illuminance and validation for LEED v3 IEQc8.1 and LEED v4 IEQ Daylight Credit, Option 2.

  • Heating and Cooling Loads (now part of the Insight 360 add-in for Revit)
    Tool used primarily by mechanical engineers to size HVAC equipment.

  • Generate Insight (part of the Insight 360 add-in for Revit)
    Automatically varies building design inputs resulting in high and low possible annual energy costs with approximately +/- 10% accuracy. Inputs can then be adjusted, e.g., glazing properties, to see instant feedback on performance impacts.

All of these tools are geared towards the architectural discipline, with the exception of CFD and Heating and Cooling Loads—which are typically used by mechanical engineers.

Energy Simulations within Revit

The built-in ability to run an energy simulation within Revit represents the most democratized opportunity for design professionals and students – period. If you or your firm have Revit, you have access to this feature. There are no add-ins or additional software costs. This is not to say it is free—Revit has to be on subscription, as the simulation itself is actually run in the Cloud using Autodesk’s GBS engine. However, subscription is becoming the norm with Autodesk’s new sales model.

Note: Energy simulations and Insight 360 do not require cloud credits at this time.

When getting started with the energy simulation features, you may wonder where to begin given all the settings and related commands.

Here is a basic overview of the workflow:

  • Create a Revit model using masses, building elements, or both

  • Create Energy Model

    • Views created: 3D Energy Model, Analytical Spaces (Schedule), Analytical Surfaces (Schedule)

    • Use this tool to delete and recreate the Energy Analysis Model (EAM) anytime the Revit model changes

  • Run Energy Simulation: A360 login required

  • New: Launch Insight 360 for interactive project exploration

  • Optional: Open in Green Building Studio for more advanced options

Following these steps will provide super-fast access to estimated Energy Cost and EUI information at any phase in a project. Next, we will take a detailed look at each of these steps. Understanding what Revit wants (subliminal plug for Luke Johnson’s blog) will facilitate efficient and accurate use of this tool.

Figure 1. Energy Analysis tools on the Analysis tab in Revit 2016 R2, plus the Insight 360 add-in.

Creating the Revit Model

The obvious first step is to create the model. The ideal design process would be to start with massing, quickly studying how shape and orientation impact performance. As the project develops, Revit building elements can be added to the mix for known aspects of the design, for example, curtainwall, windows, sunshades, etc. At some point, the mass elements are abandoned in favor of a more detailed model based solely on Revit building elements.

Here are a few things to keep in mind concerning Revit model creation.

Massing

When using masses, be sure to select the mass and specify the floor levels as shown in the image below—using the Mass Floors tool. Also, use masses to define external shades such as adjacent buildings, just don’t specify a mass floor for them. The Revit project must have at least one mass with mass floors assigned to create a valid Energy Analysis Model.


Figure 2. Masses must have ‘mass floors’ specified to create a valid EAM.
Combined Massing and Building Elements

The image below is an example of using massing and building elements together. This example makes the glazing size and locations explicit rather than being generically based on a percentage of surface area and fixed sill height. Another example might be to use masses to study future expansion in the context of an existing Revit model.


Figure 3. Masses and Building Elements used together in energy analysis.

When you get to the point in the design where you need to add masses to create sloped walls (e.g., using the Wall by Face tool), then it is time to stop using masses in the energy analysis. It is not possible to include some masses and exclude others.

Building Elements

Most Revit models can be used to create a decent EAM. The elements listed in the image below, when set to Room Bounding, are used in the EAM creation.


Figure 4. Building elements used in EAM creation; some sub-categories are not included.

The tricky thing is dealing with aspects like sun shades as they are often modeled as Generic Model. As seen in the list above, this category is not used, as it could contain any number of irrelevant items. Also note that doors are recognized but converted to walls.

The EAM will also include elements, set to Room Bounding, contained within linked models—as long as the linked model itself is set to Room Bounding in the host model—an Edit Type property.

One final comment about building elements is that their Thermal Properties, assigned via materials, can be used in the energy simulation. For layered system families, such as walls, floors and roofs, the thermal properties are calculated for all layers (e.g., brick, air space, insulation, etc.). Notice highlighted Resistance (R) and Thermal Mass properties for the selected wall in the image below. However, as discussed later, applying and/or using building element thermal properties is not required. Generic assembly overrides can be applied, which is great as this would be putting the “cart before the horse.” We are using this process, partly, to determine what the thermal properties should be!


Figure 5. Thermal properties associated with building elements can be used in the energy simulation.
Design Options

Revit’s Design Options feature partially works for energy modeling in the preliminary design phase. The EAM is defined by elements in the Main Model and the Primary design option. To study another option, use the Make Primary command in the Design Options dialog, and recreate the EAM. If using design options for construction documents, e.g., a deduct alternate, it is not possible to change the primary options as annotations will get messed up.

Don’t make a copy of your project and work in a separate file—it is not very BIM-like. There are always exceptions, but the energy analysis workflow is designed to work within the context of an active project.

Rooms and Spaces Not Required

It is helpful to understand that Rooms or Spaces are not required when using the Use Building Elements analysis mode. If they exist, some information is used. However, the EAM is generated from Room Bounding elements. Additionally, Area and Volume Computations does not have to be set to calculate volumes.

Just in case these two terms are not clear, understand that Rooms are typically placed by Architects and Interior Designers, while Spaces are placed by MEP designers. These two elements are placed and look the same in the model, but Rooms contains parameters like Department and Wall Finish and Spaces have engineering data such as Electric Loads and Heating/Cooling Loads. Also, when a Space exists within the same enclosed area as a Room (even when the Room is in a linked model), it has the ability to read the Room Name and Number. Spaces can only be placed using Revit or Revit MEP.

When Rooms/Spaces exist, these are the parameters used:

  • Rooms
    1. Room Name and Number
  • Spaces
    1. Space Name and Number
    2. Occupancy; number of people
    3. Lighting and Equipment Loads
    4. Plus
      1. Building Construction (via Energy Settings dialog)
      2. Zones (i.e. collections of Spaces)

Tip: Use the Space Renaming Tool add-in to make the Space names match the Room names (subscription benefit).

Selecting and then using Spaces does allow for more detailed inputs, as just seen in the list above. Additionally, when Energy Settings > Export Categories is set to Spaces, the Building Construction option becomes available (see next section for more on this). Just remember, Rooms or Spaces are not required to start getting useful information on the performance of a design.


Figure 6. Additional properties embodied in EAM when Spaces are used.

Spaces also have the ability to be grouped into Zones – another Revit or Revit MEP specific command. These allow things like Outdoor Air Information and Heating / Cooling set-points to be entered as shown below.


Figure 7. Additional properties embodied in EAM when Spaces and Zones are used.

Energy Settings

In the Energy Settings dialog, there is one critical setting related to running the simulation and a few more that must be considered to generate a valid EAM. To study the real-time impact on overall performance, all other inputs can be adjusted in the cloud later.

The Energy settings essential to a valid Energy Simulation are:

  • Location

The Energy settings essential to creating a valid Energy Analysis Model (EAM):

  • Analysis Mode
  • Ground Plane
  • Project Phase
  • Analytical Space Resolution
  • Analytical Surface Resolution
  • If using masses (separately or in conjunction with building elements)
    1. Core Depth (or Perimeter Zone Depth)
    2. Divide Perimeter Zones (or Perimeter Zone Division)

Now let’s take a look at each of these settings to better understand what they do and why they are important.

Location

The Location setting provides localized weather and utility data which is vital in creating a legitimate energy simulation. There are two steps involved in accurately specifying location; Project Address and Weather Station.

Project Address specifies the project location on earth. This can be a city, a specific postal address or Lat/Long values. If the project site does not have an address, enter the City name and then drag the Project Location Pin (red) to the desired location on the map. You can zoom and pan in this map view as well as make the dialog larger.

Once the geographic location has been specified, the Weather Station options should be evaluated. Revit will automatically select the closest option, but this may not always be the best selection. Consider the example shown in the image below. In my location, two of the closest stations have an 800 foot elevation difference. Additionally, depending on project location in this area, one of the two buoy-based weather stations may be closest—which would not be ideal (this is the largest freshwater lake in the world).

FYI from Autodesk’s help page:
“Weather stations include ‘actual year’ virtual weather stations and typical year weather stations (TMY2 and other formats) based on 30-year averages of weather data, typically taken from airport locations.”

Don’t bother to change anything on the Weather tab as this data only relates to Revit’s Heating and Cooling Loads feature.


Figure 8. The Location Weather and Site dialog.
Analysis Mode

Analysis Mode determines if Revit should use Masses, Building Elements, or both to create the EAM.

The Analysis Mode options are:

As it turns out, the “Use Conceptual Masses” only option uses an older internal algorithm, so don’t use that one. Rather, use the combined option which will work on mass-only models.

Ground Plane

Properly setting the Ground Plane parameter ensures that spaces which occur below this level are understood to be below grade by the cloud-based GBS calculation engine. For masses, the EAM will not generate glazing below the ground plane and a different construction can be selected for underground exterior walls. Keep in mind, when using Building Elements the toposurface elements are NOT used.

Project Phase

For projects with phasing—e.g., existing, new construction, phase demolished—be sure this is set correctly. The phase settings for the 3D Energy Model view have no impact on the EAM created.

EAM Creation Level of Detail

These two properties control the accuracy of the EAM when it is created:

  • Analytical Space Resolution (default: 1’-6”)
    This allows small gaps to exist in the model—both exterior and interior. Remember, Revit ignores elements in several categories such as Generic Model and In-Place families, so gaps are not uncommon.

  • Analytical Surface Resolution (default: 1’-0”)
    This setting works in conjunction with the Analytical Space Resolution setting to control the accuracy of the surface boundaries.

If portions of the Revit model are complex and not coming out right in the EAM, these values can be lowered. It is recommended that both of these values be adjusted proportionally. Lowering these values will result in a more accurate EAM but will take longer to create—the simulations will take more time to process as well. Large projects may require these values to be increased.

Automatic Thermal Zoning Settings

These two properties control the inclusion of space sub-divisions in the EAM:

  • Core Depth (or Perimeter Zone Depth)
    The distance to measure inward from the exterior walls to define the core zone.

  • Divide Perimeter Zones (or Perimeter Zone Division)
    Check this box to divide the perimeter into multiple zones.

These settings are used to divide large spaces into smaller subdivisions for more accurate simulations. These settings used to only work on masses, but, new to Revit 2016 R2, they now also apply to large spaces defined by building elements. For example, we recently worked on a 200,000sf office and warehouse building. The large warehouse space would have benefited from this subdivision feature.

When creating the EAM for building elements, the interior walls are typically sufficient to naturally ‘zone’ the model. In these situations, set the Core Depth to zero and uncheck the divide option.

Additional Considerations

All other settings not mentioned yet do not have to be set prior to creating the EAM or running a simulation. These inputs are all automatically varied over the possible ranges and can be adjusted in Insight 360 to see instant feedback on performance impact.

By default, when exporting Spaces, the thermal properties for building elements are defined in the Building Construction dialog shown below. Unchecking the Override option for a category will cause Revit to use the thermal properties defined by the materials applied to each building element. If an element does not have thermal properties applied, these defaults will be used. Keep in mind, none of these values need to be set.


Figure 9. Building Element analysis properties: use generic overrides based on element category.

The Conceptual Constructions dialog shown below defines the construction defaults for Mass elements (and when the Rooms option is selected and ‘Use Thermal Properties’ is disabled), assuming vertical surfaces are walls, top horizontal surfaces are roofs, etc. Again, it is no longer important to adjust these prior to running a simulation.


Figure 10. Mass Element analysis properties: define generic constrictions.

For combined mass and building elements where the building elements define all glazing (like the combined example shown previously), set the Target Percentage Glazing to 0%.

Irrelevant Settings

Some settings have no impact on the Energy Simulation—see image below. These relate to other analysis tools such as Heating and Cooling Loads and gbXML exports. Changes made to these parameters are a waste of time!


Figure 11. Parameters not used at all in Energy Simulation.

Create/Delete Energy Model (previously Show Energy Model)

Clicking this tool creates the analytical model, resulting in three related views:

  • 3D Energy Model
  • Analytical Spaces (schedule)
  • Analytical Surfaces (schedule)

This is a new feature in Revit 2016 and, as covered in the next section, allows the designer to visually validate model fidelity prior to running a simulation.

As mentioned, the analytical energy model is created from Room Bounding elements within the Revit model. The result is a simplified model consisting of surfaces somewhat analogous to a SketchUp model. By selecting surfaces and adjusting the 3D Energy Model view’s visibility, the designer can make sure there are no anomalies before starting a simulation. For example, we had a project where precast panels were modeled separately and then Edit Profile was used, as shown in the image below, for an overhead door. This created a problem in the EAM as the opening was hosted by one precast panel and the adjacent voids represented significant leaks in the space—larger than the Analytical Space Resolution value.


Figure 12. Problems in Energy Analysis Model due to use of Edit Profile on walls.

The image below shows the categories and sub-categories in the Analytical Model Categories tab of the Visibility/Graphics Overrides dialog, automatically turned on in the 3D Energy Model view. All other categories on this tab are related to structural analysis and can be ignored.

As more analysis tools like this become available, it is important that models are created correctly. For example, ceilings should not be used for floors or floors for countertops. If thin floors are used for finishes on top of a structural floor, they should have Room Bounding unchecked.


Figure 13. Analytical Spaces and Surfaces in Visibility/Graphic Overrides dialog for 3D Energy Model view.

The analytical model can actually be seen in any view by adjusting the Visibility/Graphic Overrides. However, the 3D Energy View provides dedicated and instant access. The Hide/Show Analytical Model toggle on the View Control Bar, in the lower left corner of each view, will toggle the Analytical Model Categories on or off for the current view.

Note: This tab used to be exclusively for structural analytical visibility control.

It is important to understand that the analytical surfaces do not update automatically as the model changes. When the Revit model changes, the EAM must be deleted and recreated.

A few of the sub-categories may be confusing. Revit Windows are translated to an analytical surface called Operable Windows even though they may not actually be operable, and Curtainwall walls are all called Fixed Windows.

Visually Review Energy Model

It is important to visually validate the Energy Model prior to running a simulation to ensure valid results. If there are problem areas, the Revit model needs to be adjusted and the EAM recreated. The analytical surfaces cannot be modified directly in any way.

In the 3D Energy Model view, some of the Model Categories are turned on (and set to be partially transparent). It may be helpful to turn these off to clean up the view.

Two things to look for are missing spaces and excessive shades. In the 3D Energy Model view, the sub-categories can be adjusted to isolate these items; or the Hide/Isolate feature can also be used. The image below shows just the Analytical Spaces; both occupiable spaces and plenum spaces (i.e., above ceilings). There are no large missing spaces within the building so all is well. Remember, the Analytical Space Resolution aims to simplify model complexity and, as such, some smaller spaces may be omitted.


Figure 14. 3D Energy Model view adjusted to show only Analytical Spaces.

The next image shows just the Exterior Walls, Fixed Windows and Operable Windows analytical surfaces. The Function setting (i.e., Interior vs. Exterior) for walls does not matter as the EAM algorithm automatically determines this. Notice that three interior curtainwall Walls appear due to their close proximity to the exterior.


Figure 15. 3D Energy Model view adjusted to show only Exterior Walls and Windows analytical surfaces.

Review the Analytical Surfaces schedule to verify the right mix of surface types. If there are only shades and/or no windows, that would be a "red flag.”


Figure 16. Analytical Surfaces Schedule showing surface types.

The schedule can also be used to verify rooms and areas. The rows without a room name are void/shaft and plenum spaces. Splitting the screen to show both the Analytical Space schedule and the 3D Energy Model view facilitates highlighting a space in the 3D view by selecting a row in the schedule.


Figure 17. Analytical Spaces Schedule showing rooms and areas.

Due to the voids and plenum spaces, don’t expect the total square footage (SF) to match the total in a room schedule.

These two schedules are based on the Analytical Surfaces and Analytical Spaces categories. Don’t get confused by the title Analytical Spaces—the term “Spaces” does not relate to Room versus Space elements.

Note that only elements in the Main Model and the Primary Options are used in the EAM. If you want to use Design Options, the desired design must be set as Primary before creating the EAM. This should be fine early in the design process, but later (e.g., bid alternates), changing the primary designation can mess up construction document views.

Run Energy Simulation

Tip: This step is part of the built-in Revit tools. When using the new Insight 360 feature set, this step can be skipped.

Before running an Energy Simulation, make sure the EAM is up to date—simply delete and recreate it. Revit will provide a prompt if the EAM appears to be out of date.

The Run Energy Simulation dialog requires a Project Name and a Run Name. For the first run, be sure to specify a meaningful name. For subsequent runs, make sure the existing project name is selected and provide a new Run Name. Multiple runs may be compared—a feature which will be covered later.


Figure 18. The Run Energy Simulation dialog.

Once Continue is selected, the EAM is uploaded to the cloud and processed by the GBS engine. A brief pop-up message will appear when the simulation is complete.

Review Results

Tip: This step is part of the built-in Revit tools. When using the new Insight 360 feature set, this step can be skipped.

When the simulation is complete, click the Results and Compare button within Revit. This opens the dialog shown below. Notice the Project Name and Run Name are listed on the left (right-click them for options).

Be sure to double-check the floor area and location for good measure. Notice that a Total EUI in kBtu/sf/yr is provided for each run. This number, and others listed, can be used to compare runs. However, in the early design stages, there are still several inputs to be explored. So don’t take these numbers to the bank just yet. In fact, it is good practice to inform the client that all results from energy modeling are not perfect and should mainly be used in a comparative fashion—i.e. ‘this form’ performs XX% better ‘than that form.’


Figure 19. The Results and Compare dialog.

Scrolling down in the dialog, one can see various graphs which help tell the story about how the building performs based on the current location, form and inputs. To highlight the possible variation in results, compare the next two images which contrast the same project/inputs in Minnesota and Arizona (note the mBtu value scale on the left). Looking at the Monthly Cooling Load graph for both locations, it is also apparent that the building elements having the most impact on performance vary. This highlights specific areas in which adjustments to the design can have the biggest impact. In this example, the Window Solar and Misc Equipment consume more resources in Minnesota, whereas Window Conductive is the largest driver in Arizona for our building example.


Figure 20. Comparing the Heating and Cooling Loads for the same project in Minneapolis, Minnesota, versus Phoenix, Arizona.

Insight 360 – The Revit Add-in

Autodesk has just released this new tool which also combines separate add-ins and formalizes Autodesk Labs and Vasari tools! The installer can be found via this link: https://insight360.autodesk.com. This can only be added to Revit 2016. Once installed, the new tools can be found on the Analyze tab in Revit.


Figure 21. Insight 360 tools on the Analyze tab in Revit

The five different Insight 360 add-in for Revit tools are discussed below:

Generate Insight

This tool will send the energy analysis model (EAM) to the Autodesk A360 cloud for simulation. Although not required, the EAM should be created and reviewed prior to selecting this option. If this tool is selected prior to creating and validating the EAM, the Generate Insight command will create one and send it to the A360 cloud; however, in this case, the EAM will not be visible within Revit. If the EAM does exist, it will automatically be updated when the Generate Insight command is selected.

Tip: Prior to selecting this command, select Location, specify Energy Settings and Create/Validate the energy model.

An email will be sent indicating that the analysis process has started.


Figure 22. Email from Autodesk indicating the Insight project has been received.

Insight 360 automatically varies building design inputs resulting in high and low possible annual energy costs with approximately +/- 10% accuracy. Inputs can then be adjusted, e.g., glazing properties, to see instant feedback on performance impacts.

Once the simulation is complete, another email will be sent with a link to the project. You must sign in to Autodesk A360 to access the information.


Figure 23. Email from Autodesk indicating the Insight project simulation is complete.
Insight 360

Once an analysis has been performed, the results can be seen by clicking the link in the email or selecting the Insight 360 tool within Revit. This is similar to the way the Results and Compare command works. More on this part after this overview section.

Heating and Cooling

This Heating and Cooling (H/C) feature does not quite replace a tool like Trane Trace, but it might someday. Think of this as Version 2 of current built-in H/C tool which requires an insane number of hoops be jumped through in terms of modeling Spaces. This tool uses the same Energy Model discussed above using EnergyPlus hourly simulation for design days.

Lighting

This tool allows for daylighting calculations in Revit based on location, sky conditions, surface reflectance and glazing visual transmittance. Previously, this tool was hard-wired to only validate LEED credit compliance. This new version included with the Insight 360 tools allows for custom environment settings as seen below.

Figure 24. Specifying custom environment settings in the new lighting analysis tool for Revit.
Solar

This tool is used to analyze solar radiation on surfaces based on a building’s location, orientation and form. This new version, included with the Insight 360 tools, has been enhanced to automatically select all roof elements. Several settings can be adjusted as seen in the next image.


Figure 25. Updated solar analysis tool provided with Insight 360.

Insight 360 – The Cloud-based Tool

Let’s take a closer look at what we can do with Insight 360. When the EAM is ready, simply click the Generate Insight command in Revit. Once the analysis is complete, the results can be accessed in the cloud in one of two ways: clicking the Insight360 tool within Revit or browsing to the website per the URL mentioned above (Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers only). The browser option allows the window to be resized and will not close if Revit is closed.

The next image is the initial view of the project in Insight 360 (shown in Chrome). Right away, we see the energy cost in the upper left (red circle). This value will change as we adjust inputs. Speaking of inputs, they have all been varied across all possible values. Thus, looking at the Benchmark Comparison tile, we see the high and low possible cost range—this means the best and worst possible scenarios based on energy usage.

Let’s take a minute to look at the User Interface (UI). There are several interesting aspects of the UI that should be understood to fully leverage this new tool. They are marked in the image below and discussed subsequently.


Figure 26. Initial project view in Insight 360.
  1. Saved Scenarios Slide-out Panel
    View saved scenarios in this slide-out panel. A saved scenario is a snapshot of a specific arrangement of input settings. This allows for quick comparison between specific or combined variations.

  2. Energy Cost
    Lists the current annual energy cost per m2 or ft2. Adjusting the inputs will instantly change this value. You can click this graphic to toggle between energy cost $/m2/yr or EUI kBtu/ft2/yr.

  3. Location
    Clicking here will toggle the EAM preview to a location map. The location can be verified but not changed here.

  4. EAM Toolbar
    The basic navigation tools on the left are generally self-explanatory. The center tools facilitate applying a section cut to the model and exploding the elements to better visualize complex conditions in the EAM. The tools on the right provide access to element information and general settings. See some examples in the next few images.

    Tip: By default, drag with Left mouse button to orbit and right button to pan. Spin the mouse wheel to zoom.

  5. Scenario Creation and Comparison
    Use these icons to save and compare scenarios. The Visualize tool provides access to solar, lighting and H/C analysis tools.

  6. Input Adjustment Tiles
    Each tile represents a specific design element. The initial view shows a generic image and the current (default) range. For example, Daylighting and Occupancy Controls ranges from “none” to “Daylighting and Occupancy Controls” (aka worst to best). Clicking this tile allows the designer to refine the range, or even select something very specific if known. More on this in a moment.

Figure 27. EAM view shown with section cut applied.


Figure 28. EAM shown exploded.


Figure 29. The Object Browser and Properties Palette provide a look “under the hood.”

Now let’s take a look at the most significant feature:  insight into your design and the interrelated results based on making various adjustments. This is analogous to a mixing board in a music recording studio—the combination of several adjustments produces a unique result.

First, we can see that adjusting some aspects of the design, such as orientation and location in this case, have minimal impact on overall performance (see image below). Clicking the Building Orientation tile reveals the relatively flat graph shown below. If the building orientation will not change, the range can still be adjusted to reflect this known bit of information. Note that the “0” position relates to the current orientation in the Revit model.


Figure 30. Cost range based on building orientation.

When we contrast the Building Orientation with another metric such as Lighting Efficiency, we see a more significant opportunity to affect the overall building performance, as shown below.


Figure 31. Cost range based on lighting efficiency.

Clicking on the graph opens the cost range view. If we want to see the relative change to the Energy Cost Mean by designing to the upper 1/3 range, we see about a ten percent change. Similar to the building’s orientation, if we get to the point where we know exactly what the lighting efficiency is, we can adjust the sliders to select a specific input. You can hover your cursor over the graph for additional information as shown in the image above.


Figure 32. Cost range adjustment for lighting efficiency.

As the inputs are adjusted, the Energy Cost Mean value continues to update. While the performance is below the ASHRAE 90.1 threshold, the circle is colored red as seen in all images previously. Once in the “middle” range, the color changes to orange. Once the Architecture 2030 benchmark has been reached, the circle turns green as shown in the image below.


Figure 33. Insight with several high performance selections made, resulting in a “green” circle.

To save scenarios, make changes to the cost range values and then click the Add Scenario icon in the upper right. These can then be used to compare the various effects of multiple sets of input adjustments. The example below shows a comparison between a medium and high performance scenario.


Figure 34. Comparing saved scenarios.

At the moment, the Insight 360 project cannot be shared with other users. Also, none of this information can be exported to images or reports. However, the entire page can be printed to PDF or hard copy.

Going Further

Green Building Studio (GBS) is the web service that runs DOE 2.2 and EnergyPlus simulations used by Revit’s Energy Simulation tool and by Insight 360. Use GBS to define custom settings for the analysis, such as currency, unit costs for electricity and natural gas, and the utility bill history with historical weather data.

Once a Revit Energy Simulation has been run, it can be opened in GBS as seen below. GBS allows multiple users to access the information.


Figure 35. Opening a Revit Energy Simulation in Green Building Studio.


Figure 36. An example of the GBS cloud service.

Conclusion

It should be clear that Autodesk is investing significant resources in the advancement of its performance design tools. It is definitely worth spending some time learning to use these tools. Hopefully this document will serve as a reference for those who are ready to jump in and get started!

About the Author

Dan Stine is a registered Architect with twenty-two years of experience in the architectural field. He currently works at LHB (a 250 person multidiscipline firm) in Duluth Minnesota as the BIM Administrator, providing training, customization and support for two regional offices. Dan has worked in a total of four firms. While at these firms, he has participated in collaborative projects with several other firms on various projects (including Cesar Pelli, Weber Music Hall – University of Minnesota - Duluth).  Dan is a member of the Construction Specification Institute (CSI) and the Autodesk Developer Network (ADN) and has taught AutoCAD and Revit Architecture classes at Lake Superior College, for the Architectural Technology program; additionally, he is a Certified Construction Document Technician (CDT). Dan currently teaches BIM to interior design students at North Dakota State University (NDSU). He has presented at Autodesk University, the Revit Technology Conference and Minnesota University.

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  • Autodesk's 2015 Building Design Portfolio
  • Improvements include expanding the capabilities of FormIt and Dynamo, extending the scope and scale of Revit especially for fabrication and construction, enhancing the point cloud capabilities across all of Autodesk's modeling products, tighter integration with Autodesk cloud services, and improved analysis and simulation.
  • Autodesk University 2014
  • News and updates from Autodesk University 2014, including A360 Collaboration for Revit and the Ember 3D printer, and presentations including the evolution of technology implementation at HOK and the use of AEC technology on Disney's Enchanted Storybook Castle in Shanghai.
  • Revit 2014
  • An indepth review of the new version of Revit, the key product in the 2014 Autodesk Building Design Suite, to see what additional BIM capabilities it can provide to AEC professionals across all the three design disciplines it targets: architecture, structure, and MEP.
  • Got Macros? Scripting and Coding for BIM
  • In this article, Karen Kensek, Assistant Professor in USC's School of Architecture, advocates the writing and use of macros in AEC firms to improve the efficiency of BIM, which "out of the box" is not synchronized with the way firms work.
  • Revit 2015 - Enhanced Hidden Line Control and More
  • This tutorial by Dan Stine looks at the main updates that are likely to affect everyday work in the just-released 2015 version of Revit, including a change related to the Revit user name and some view-related changes including Sketchy Lines, Anti-aliasing, Revit Hidden Lines control, and Revision clouds and tags.