The green team

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AEC Magazine checks out the latest product offering from Glasgow’s Integrated Environment Solutions (IES) and discovers a user friendly package that is really pushing the boundaries of green building design.

Green building design has been much lauded in recent years. However, the reality is that many of these exemplary ‘sustainable’ buildings are the result of client demand or skill of the designer, not any high standards within the AEC industry. Most new building projects continue to adhere to the minimum regulatory compliance.

IES has included a new rendering engine in its products. Derived from games technology, it has the capability to real-time render massive city projects

Buildings that only reach minimum standards are unlikely to use sustainability software tools and Building Information Modelling (BIM) products, which add many more layers, and hence cost, to the design and documentation process.

Yet the more assistance from AEC software, the greater the chances of exceeding minimum building regulation standards — for the same cost.

Combining the new graphics with the graphical feedback, it is now much easier to visually see the impact of design decisions and compare different designs

Integrated Environmental Solutions’ (IES) 2012 product range has gone some way to closing the gap between cost and exceeding regulatory standards. Best known for its high-end VE-Pro modular system aimed at building performance professionals, IES has updated most of its core products. It has recently launched an Optimise consultancy service and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Italian Green Building Council. AEC Magazine spoke to IES managing director Don Mclean to discuss the new technologies.

Latest release

In 2013, IES has introduced a new Voluntary Environmental Rating Systems (VERS) service called IES TaP (Track a Project), which rates building projects against standards such as BREEAM and LEED.

“In the past we have, through our Navigator products (LEED Navigator, BREEAM Navigator) provided a step by step iterative process of simulating and analysing designs, through to producing complete reports suitable for submissions,” says Dr Mclean.

IES’s GAIA application for architects provides many useful calculations for building design. Here the Climate Energy Index (CEI) results clearly shows the energy required to maintain a comfortable working environment depending on occupancy

“The gathering together of all this information can be troublesome for customers, so we have introduced a new online management technology which reminds users when submissions are due and can monitor the accreditation process through the project against their targets. We have been working on this with BREEAM and now looking at other bodies. It means that accreditation can be achieved within the project, not after the building is built.”


IES recently received a BREEAM badge of recognition for TaP. “There is a lot of work for a BREEAM administrator to make sure they bring together all the logistics of a project. With our TaP solution, typically we can save two weeks a month in just managing those logistics. We accumulate all the information that is required for submission in one place, online and everything can be sent off with the click of a button.

“The next stage will be letting the BREEAM assessors access the data online, removing the need to send documents. We are talking to a number of other building rating accreditation bodies around the world about how we can do that as well.

“We hope, as the process becomes easier, more firms will look for building rating compliance.”

IES’ latest release has also introduced spreadsheet editing of building elements for rapid change and optimisation without having to go back and edit the model; alongside enhanced HVAC and optimisation for construction; glazing and energy performance.

The company has been working with Daikin and Monodraught to enable the drag and drop feature of their window and ventilation systems into IES analysis models. This will hopefully reduce model creation time.

Sun studies have been beefed up and now the software offers an Ecotect-like visual feedback that immediately tells the architect the solar impact on every surface.

There is also a new basic rendering engine that can handle huge models. Dr McLean sees this increase in analysis model size as a growing trend.

“More and more people are using our software for things like masterplanning and they want to get bigger models in, so we have developed the technology to deal with much bigger models than we have typically been able to manage.

IES product suite


Free download VE-Ware is an add-on for SketchUp and Autodesk Revit and provides annual energy and carbon analysis. VE-Ware is simple to use — create the geometry, set a location, define materials, heating/cooling systems, room types and press a button to get the results (energy consumption, CO2 emissions, SBEM compliance). Change the definitions and repeat to make improvements. This is a great free way to get immediate feedback of a basic design.


VE-GAIA is targeted at architects for use in conceptual design. Analysis ranges from choosing the best site of a building, orientation, rainfall recycling, solar, daylighting, building loads, carbon output and mass. It can be used for quick checks but also allows customisation and much greater depth than freeware applications. VE-GAIA is its own virtual environment, based on the high-end VE-PRO engine. Geometry is exported from Autodesk Revit, SketchUp, etc. It has an easy to use interface with graphical feedback and clearly written results combining numbers with explanations of the results. It creates reports and tracks progress.

LEED Navigator and BREEAM Navigator

With increased interest in voluntary standards such as LEED and BREEAM, IES offers two specific compliance products, LEED Navigator and BREEAM Navigator, which analyse designs for key compliance in education, healthcare, retail, offices, core and shell. These applications offer step-by-step guidance to assist in submitting for accreditation.

VE-Pro modular system

VE-Pro has a mixture of tools covering light, solar, low carbon, energy, HVAC, climate, regulatory compliance, costs, airflow, egress and validation. Models are imported in GBXML, DXF, SketchUp or Revit for analysis. It also offers management of compliance documentation.

“While we can handle large buildings — we have one client currently working on an 8,000 room model of a hospital — there is a need to analyse buildings simultaneously at the master planning stage and address the environmental issues raised at that scale. In our old software this would have been difficult to do.

“Clients are now looking at how to make the community, whatever size it is, as sustainable as possible, interacting with all the utilities as efficiently as possible.

“Unfortunately, when we talk about smart cities, what is really being talked about is just data collection, not the act of making it any more sustainable.

“While connecting up different aspects of the workings of city may help, it doesn’t make the city operate sustainably. So we have set ourselves the task of enabling our software to create masterplan models that can be taken through the design process, starting with optimising the performance of the individual buildings through to the efficiency of how the community in groups of buildings can operate efficiently. This is some way off but we are targeting our development towards this kind of system.”


This month IES has launched a new consulting service alongside Aecom, Mott MacDonald, Ingenium Archial, Davis Langdon (an Aecom Company), CIBSE and Loughborough University.

The service includes a tool that incorporates simulation-based optimisation for the automatic generation of design solutions, which minimise the carbon emissions, capital costs, and life cycle costs of a building.

This tool makes it possible to assess hundreds of design options simultaneously, and automatically score the results against selected criteria.


Dr McLean feels the industry has made substantial progress over the past few years using analysis tools more often and earlier on in the design process.

“Five years ago architects were using analysis without really understanding the results. Nowadays there are many more literate and more demanding architects that actively want to understand the performance of a design. This is a significant change in the industry.”

IES has undoubtedly had a fruitful year, boosted by the growing interest in building design analysis. Perhaps we are entering a new age when engineering and aesthetics can work together to produce not only beautiful buildings but highly efficient ones too.

Green building design: alternatives

Sefaira Green Building Software

A relatively new kid on the block, Sefaira is a web-based sustainability analysis program that is easy to use and offers whole-building analysis — including energy, water, carbon and renewable energy usage potential.

The interface is simple and allows for quick iterative design options to be explored.

The software offers great charting and easy to understand numerical reports, together with response curves, which allow multiple design options to be simultaneously compared. Prices from $1,200 per user per year.

AEC magazine will evaluate this new software in-depth next month.

GreenspaceLive gTools

gTools is a suite of online tools that provide energy analysis capabilities for SketchUp models.

The service offers a gbXML plug-in with auto surfacing for SketchUp (gModeller), a collaborative workspace (gWorkspace), a building analysis application and certificate generator (gEnergy). Models are exported via gbXML to the cloud application for storage and viewing anywhere. gEnergy can be run on these models to get results and for iterative improvements. The system includes built-in versioning.

The software creates Energy Performance Certificates and interfaces with the SBEM engine to calculate the emissions for PartL2 and section 6 in Scotland and Part F in Ireland. Prices start from $29.99 a month.


Sketchup has a number of low cost analysis tools.

EnergyPlus OpenStudio for SketchUp

OpenStudio is a free, open source, cross-platform (Windows, Mac, and Linux) collection of software tools to support whole building energy modelling using EnergyPlus and advanced daylight analysis using Radiance. It is created by the US government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and is both a software development suite and a developer platform.

VE-Ware for SketchUp

VE-Ware from IES is free and does simple whole building analysis.

Autodesk Ecotect and Green Building Studio

Acquired by Autodesk and put in the cloud, Green Building Studio forms part of Autodesk 360 cloud services. The software performs whole building analysis, optimises total energy use and carbon footprint. It claims to have extensive weather data available for most project sites. It offers carbon emission reporting, ‘daylighting’, water usage and costs, and natural ventilation potential. As the software was developed in the USA it is LEED-centric and supports the Energy Star scoring system.

Ecotect is a visual analysis tool. While available stand alone, Autodesk is integrating some capability into Autodesk 360 cloud suite, Revit and Vasari products.


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