This is my last semester at Penn, and in the architecture department, that usually means it will be the most difficult and time-intensive semester of your undergraduate career. So while my Econ-major friends are taking 3 credits and having fun on the weekends, I’m spending free time working in teams and learning how to use a new piece of software: Autodesk‘s somewhat unknown Ecotect Analysis.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bitter about the dichotomy of work vs. play; most of us architecture students would much prefer learning a new piece of software or discussing the latest smart building material over a night of drinking, so this is pretty exciting stuff. I had never heard of Ecotect prior to about a month and a half ago, and what I knew was very limited.
At first glance, the software allows a designer to input a building model into the program and utilize it to calculate energy loads and see the effect of natural lighting upon the building. Even this limited interpretation of the program’s use is surprisingly important and useful: by simply using a computer program, a designer can make decisions about the efficiency of the building before it even leaves the drawing table. These simulations can allow the designer to make more careful decisions about window placement, sun shading, and other factors that effect the efficiency of the building in relation to its sun exposure.
But Ecotect is not only used for these limited applications. It can calculate wind directions and ventilation for a particular area, aid designers in placing artificial lighting, provide data for acoustical analysis, and it also works almost seamlessly with other modeling and designing programs.
Essentially, a designer can work with this software in order to create a building that is environmentally sensitive with little to now extra work on their part. It will save energy costs in the long run and saves headaches when it comes to construction. This leaves us no excuses for not factoring in these environmental indicators that will help make better living and working spaces and lessen our footprint on the earth.
I can understand, however, that there is some sticker shock to buying the software: $2400(+/-) for most firms is a lot to ask. If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you could probably deduce that I’m a proponent for higher governmental involvement in sustainable building and design. It’s therefore probably easy to understand my solution to this problem: There are plenty of small government subsidies for sustainable projects in both residential and commercial sectors (in PA you can get funding for anything from PV panels to efficient windows), so it’s logical that some sort of subsidy could be set up to help firms pay for this software. In the long run, the efficacy of using this software is well worth its up-front cost, but as always, the issue comes down to motivation: Architecture and design firms need a reason to pay for it.
In the technological age that we live in, we really have no more excuses for not building and living sustainably. It’s really just a matter of choice.