One of the most important changes we can make in the fight against climate change is to make buildings more energy efficient both through retrofitting existing buildings and making new construction ultra-efficient. Luckily, that task is becoming easier for building designers. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory released an updated plug-in for Google's SketchUp building modeling software this week, expanding the potential for architects and designers to implement green building features from the drawing board.
The OpenStudio plug-in brings more energy efficiency modeling tools to the open-source software. Designers can now easily determine the best window placement or solar panel positioning and because the plug-in is integrated with NREL's EnergyPlus software, the building's heating, cooling, lighting and ventiliation systems can all be simulated.
SketchUp also can pull data from Google Earth, allowing users to enter in the exact longitude and latitude of the building location and see how landscape features can influence their design. All of these tools will allow designers to keep energy efficiency in mind from the very beginning through the end of a project, meaning any inefficient designs can be cast off right away, saving time and money.
Ultimately, NREL would like OpenStudio to also link in with construction-cost databases to factor in building costs and with the LEED certification program to allow designers to meet LEED standards even at the modeling stage.
The OpenStudio plug-in for SketchUp is now compatible with Windows 7, Linux and Snow Leopard.