Cloud-based energy efficiency developer Sefaira has launched a new, real-time analysis plug-in for SketchUp. AEC got a sneak peek before the official launch.
Sefaira’s cloud-based performance analysis service performs iterative analysis on models created in or imported through SketchUp. Aimed at the early concept design phase, it provides an astounding amount of guidance to refine the performance of proposed models.
Using the cloud as its medium, Sefaira has a lot of processing power available to deliver quick results on these complex calculations. The solution excels at analysing parallel strategies, allowing the creation of ‘bundles’ for variances in the design to guide the architect on performance and cost. Results are provided in documents that can be used when applying for LEED, BREEAM and Part L compliance.
As with most building analysis tools, prior knowledge of physics and the technical aspects of performance strategies are required to get the most out of design variables. These include materials, structure, orientation, U-values, brise soleil, photo-voltaics, solar shading and natural ventilation. This limits the appeal of Sefaira to specialists within design teams and puts analysis at the back-end of modelling.
The SketchUp plug-in
With the new Sefaira SketchUp plug-in, live energy analysis feedback is brought into a palette within the SketchUp interface. As the model is edited, and elements are attributed as Sefaira objects (walls, floors, glazing etc.), the energy analysis updates, giving the architect a great insight into the energy flows in and out of the building through a graphic design that clearly highlights bad energy design practices.
The ‘energy flows’ graph details end uses of energy such as heating, cooling, lighting and appliances. Heat gains and losses from the building are shown graphically, enabling the designer to make the right decisions and attain building performance targets typical for the designated usage.
Sefaira for SketchUp provides live feedback as the model is edited. Increase the glazing and see the solar gain grow and the corresponding increase in cooling energy usage on the display. This really informs at the concept design stage and does not require jumping out to another package to get that feedback.
The version we saw was limited in its ability to analyse models over 200 surface planes. We were told that after launch this would be increased but there will be a reasonable limit to keep the analysis as near instant as possible.
While it is only a fraction of the full product’s capabilities the company has managed to simplify the output into a display that anyone can understand. This is a considerable achievement, which should greatly broaden the appeal of analysis to designers.
Initially Sefaira offered per seat annual licensing but this has now changed to an annual $5,000 subscription that allows for unlimited seats with as many analysis passes as you want. This change has seen its use explode within its clients, which include the likes of Foster + Partners.
The new Sefaira for SketchUp application is now included in the subscription. This limits the appeal of this application to firms that can afford and want the complete Sefaira service. I suspect many small firms would appreciate having access to just the SketchUp capability to check their early designs. Hopefully, in the future, the company will offer this kind of functionality for a lower price, without the full analysis back-end.