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Building Performance Modeling

Tutorial ECOTECT

Fig. 1.

© Ardeshir Mahdavi, Georg Suter, Ulrich Pont, September 2005

Abteilung Bauphysik und Bauökologie,
TU Wien

Table of Contents:
i. Basic Information on Ecotect & the course
ii. Basic Modelling
iii. Windows & Doors
iv. Material Assignment
v. Zone Setting & Thermal Performance Simulation
vi. Parametric Studies
A. Floor Plans, Sections,
B. Materials
C. Zone Settings

Ecotect Version 5.20 ( c ), Demo & Tutorials available at www.squ1.com

Used Abbreviations:
LMK – Left Mouse Button Click
RMK – Right Mouse Button Click
LM – Hold Left Mouse Button
RM – Hold Right Mouse Button

i. Basic Information on Ecotect & BPM

Square One, Ecotect v5.20 © , Demo & Tutorials available (www.squ1.com)

Full Installations:
PC-1-Room (TU Wien Archlab, login necessary, username and password: available via EDV-Lab www.archlab.tuwien.ac.at )
PCs at BPI-Seminarroom.

ecotect – interface

. Main Menu Date-Time Toolbar

Main Toolbar Options Toolbar


Modelling Toolbar

Status Bar View Toolbar

Fig. 2. ECOTECT User Interface

Control Panels

Pan – Zoom – View control:

Views can be modified with the view menu (Fig. 3.) or the keyboard shortcuts (try F5,F6,F7,F8)

Pan: holding down the mousewheel or

Zoom: mouse wheel
Rotate view: RM

Making Screenshots:
via view-menu or view toolbar
pressing print-button (keyboard)

Measuring Tool (Modelling Toolbar, Fig. 4.), Point-to-Point-Measuring.
The measurements stay on the Drawing Canvas until the view is changed.

Fig. 4. Measuring Tool Fig. 3. View Menu

ii. Basic Modeling - Starting from Scatch:

1. Start Ecotect 5.20 c

2. New zone „construction lines“ in the zone manager (control panels, Fig. 5.)
(Create New Zone Button)
Bold = Active Zone

NOTE: To make a Zone the active zone ( = the zone you want to draw on), simply RMK on the
zone and select make current in the context menu. In this context menu you can execute
further operations concerning zones, e.g. moving elements on a zone, deleting zones, etc.

3. Construction of the contour of the building

line tool (Modelling Toolbar)

NOTE: Due to selecting the line tool, the date-time-toolbar disappears, coordinate-toolbare
(Fig. 6.) appears.

Fig. 6. Coordinate Toolbar

LMK on the the dx-textbox.

Toggle between dx,dy,dz via the Tabulator-Key.

Startpoint of the first line: Fill in coordinates 0, 0, 0 + ENTER:

Endpoint: 0,18000,0 + Enter

NOTE: Be careful while drawing. Although you can draw in a click to click mode and see the
distance you draw dynamically attached to the element, drawing exact is quite challenging. If
there is already most of the menu, snapping points are quite helpful. Snap-points can be
modified via File/User Preferences or via the Snap Buttons display on the Status Bar (Fig.
6a.)Using the coordinate manager is safe concerning the right measurements, but ecotect
dynamically determines the direction you want to draw to, and sometimes places the coordinates
in the opposite or any other direction (depends on position of cursor).

NOTE: Units are in Ecotect always mm. Coordinates are relative coordinates. The Endpoint of Fig. 5. Zone Management/Control Panels
the First Line iss et Startpoint for the next line.

Next Coordinate Points:

12000 , 0 , 0
0 , -6000 , 0
-6000 , 0 , 0
0 , -12000 , 0
-6000 , 0 , 0 (closes the line)
Question: You have just joined this object up. Fig. 6a. Snap Buttons / Status Bar
Would you like to turn it into a closed,
planar object?
Select No.

NOTE: When clicking on the start point again, ecotect asks you, if you want to turn the polygon in a closed planar object.
This means, that the lines are turned in a plane, and that the plane can only be selected as a whole.

Escape to end line command

4. Additional Lines:

First Line (Between Wohnküche and Schlafzimmer (South):

Startpoint: 0 , 4500 , 0; Endpoint: 6000 , 0 , 0

Second Line: (Between Bad/WC and Gang)

Startpoint: 6000 , 12000 , 0; Endpoint: 0 , 6000 , 0

Third Line: (Between Schlafzimmer (North) and Gang)

Copy the second line:
Check Box: „Apply to Copy“ (Fig. 7.)

Mark the second line with LMK,

Open the context menu via RMK, select Transform/Move (Fig.8.) Fig. 7. – Apply to Copy / Options
Pick a handle point on the line, Move it (2000 , 0 , 0)

Bathroom Contour:
Startpoint: 3500 , 18000 , 0
0 , -3000 , 0
2500 , 0 , 0

5. Fit grid to objects (View Toolbar, Fig. 9.)

Fig. 9. View Toolbar

NOTE: Fit grid to objects extends the construction grid on your model. Fig. 8. – Context Menu

Model should look like Fig. 10.:

Fig. 10. Model Lines

6. Creating Zones

Zone Tool.
Start with contour of Schlafzimmer (South);
Clicking 3 Cornerpoints, then Escape to close the Zone.
Name: Haus1_SchlafzimmerSouth

Note: Zones consist of walls, ceiling and floor. A Zone has to be a closed
space for thermal performance calculations. Zones can be created via the
zone-tool, which means the created zone is automatically closed and thus
a new zone is created in the zone manager. Zones can also be created
via other elements (planes), which are not automatically closed and do not
automatically create a new zone in the zone management.

Height is set automatically.

Changing height:
Select floor plane via LMK
(spacebar for toggeling selection)
In the selection information: change Extrusion Vector for Z-Axis
(Fig.11.; to 2800).

Note: To change the height user preference: File/User

Preferences/Modelling (Value for Default Zone Height). Every Zone is Fig. X.
created with that height

Change height in User preferences to 2800.

Create Zones for „Haus1_Wohnküche“, „Haus1_Bad“,
„Haus1_Gang“ and „Haus1_SchlafzimmerNorth“

Note: Creating neighbouring zones means, that some adjacient elements

(floors, ceilings, walls) are created twice (For example two stories, one
babove the other, share a element between them, which for the one zone
is the ceiling, and for the other zone is the floor.). Thus having two
elements for one real object can be correct.

The model should now look like in Fig.12.

Fig. 11. Selection Information / Control Panels

Fig. 12. Zones

7. Creating Roof Zone

Create New Zone „Haus1_Dachraum“ (via Creating New Zone in the Zone Management)

Change the current layer to „construction lines“.

Line Tool
0 , 0 , 3500
0 , 18000 , 0
12000, 0 , 0

Model should now look like Fig.13.

Now we create the 2 roof planes via the plane tool

(Fig 14.).

NOTE: The plane tool works like the zone tool. Planes are
closed via Escape. Fig. 13. Construction Lines for the Roof

Close the roof with further planes (Sidewalls, Floor)

Set the „Haus1_Dachraum“-Zone to a Thermal Zone.

(Fig. 15.; The small T in the zone Management).

NOTE: Wether or not a zone is marked as thermal or non

thermal depends on its relevance for thermal calculations and
on its nature. The roof zone may not be heated, but has a
relevance as a thermal buffer. That is why the roof zone has to
be a thermal zone.

An example for a not-thermal device is a shading panel above a

window on the outside of the building. Althought the shading
device has an influence on solar gains of thermal zones, it is not
a thermal zone itself

Delete Layer Construction Lines (Context Fig. 14. Roof Planes


The Model should look like Fig.15.:

Fig. 16. Completed Basic Modelling

Fig. 15. Thermal/Non-Thermal Zones

iii. Windows & Doors

NOTE: Windows and doors are considered as child objects of other

model parts (e.g. walls, ceilings, etc =>„parents“).

inserting windows and doors:

Select the parental object

Hit „insert“ button
Choose the fitting child object (window, door, void, panel) and its
measurements in the Insert Child Object(s) Menu (Fig. 17.)

NOTE: Normally Ecotect suggests as insertation point the exact middle

of the parental object. The position of centre position X,Y,Z can be
modified in this menu.

To adapt positions of child objects after insertation, select them, Fig. 17. Insert Cild Object(s) Menu
RMK to context menu, transform/move
(coordinate manager and/or mouse can be used for measured
movements, Fig. 19.).

An alternate way is selecting the child object and move it in ist plane via the x,y,z-Keys on your keyboard (x,y,z =>
positve direction; SHIFT + x,y,z => negative direction. Fixed transformation value – can be modified via options
toolbar – Fig. 18.).

Fig. 18. Options Toolbar

NOTE: If there are two adjacient elements, e.g. two zones share one wall, there is no need to insert the child object in both
zonal representations of this wall. ECOTECT determines automatically the position of openings in the wall.

Insert all windows and doors to their positions. Finished Model should look like

Fig. 19. Moving Child Objects

Fig. 20. Model with windows and doord

iv. Material Assignment:

NOTE: Thermal Performance Modeling strongly depends on the

characteristics of the materials used in a building. ECOTECT needs at least
the U-Values of the building components to perform any thermal calculation.
ECOTECT has the possibility to calculate some characteristic values like the
u-value, the admittance, etc. out of very few parameters like the width,
density, specific heat and conductivity. Other values - like thermal lag – can
not be calculated and need to be inserted manually.

Materials can be assigned via Material Assignments / Control

Panels (Fig. 21.).

NOTE: What is the difference between „Primary“ and „Alternate“? If a

building component (e.g. a wall) is not adjacent to another one, Ecotect uses
the primary material (example: a wall is the border to the outside, thus not
adjacent – primary material is used.). If a building component is adjacent to
another one (for example the wall between two zones), Ecotect takes the
„alternate“ material (if primary and alternate differ). With this concept, Ecotect
helpes to keep the model simple and flexible, because there is no need to cut
a linear building component into two or more components for correct
modelling reasons.

To assign a material:
Select Building component (e.g. a wall)
Select your primary and alternate material from „material
Make sure, that „automatically apply changes“ is active or hit „Apply
Changes“ button

How to create new materials

NOTE: Unfortunately Ecotect comes with a very limited range of materials,

so that it is necessary to create new materials. Materials can be created just
for one model or can be added to a global library.

Open Material Properties (Main Toolbar) or double click

on one material from the material assaignments to open the
material property manager (Fig 22.)
Fig. 21. Material Assignments/Control Panel

Fig 22. material property manager

2 9
Specify a new name and desription and specify the category of building component (Fig.22. – 1).
Click on Add new element (Fig.22. – 2)

Now the new element is added to the model library.

Specify the values needed for the building part (Fig 22. – 3) or go to the layer register card (Fig.23.)

Fig. 23. Layer Registercard

Here building components can be created layerwise. Layers can be inserted and deleted via context menu (RMK),
predefined and own materials can be used, and values for width (mm), density, specific heat, conductivity and
hatch (for the ilustration) can be defined.

„Calculate Thermal Properties“ updates the values in the properties menu.

„Apply changes“ to save, „Add to global Library“ saves the material in the global library.

v. Zone Settings & Thermal Performance Simulation

To perform Thermal Calculations choose Calculate/Thermal Analysis. (Fig. 24.)

Ecotect asks if it should Recaculate the Model: Yes

Ecotect calculates the model.

Ecotect gives information about potential modeling errors and opens the
calculation window (Fig.25.)

Fig. 25. – Calculation Window

NOTE: The calculation window consists generelly of three parts: The upper side
gives graphs about the specific calculation. These graphs are generated on the text
results, that are portrayed in the lower right of the window. On the lower left you
have options and control buttons for modifying results and data.

NOTE: On the right side of the graphic charts Ecotect provides tools for zooming,
panning, saving and scaling the current graph
Fig. 24. Calculate Menu

To get proper results, the location of the examined building has to be determined. Ecotect uses Weather-Data-
Files for defining the climate of a location.

LMK on Weather Data File.

Weather Data Files should lie in a folder in the Ecotect root directory.
The needed weather data file of Vienna/Austria is not included, but can be downloaded via www.squ1.com (exact

Open weather data file, Ecotect should ask, if it should update the location information: Yes.

Now the results of the calculations concern the right location, and thus are already representative.

Toggle the Thermal Calculation drop down and look at the different calculations (especially monthly
loads/discomfort which gives information about the heating/cooling loads of every month and the annual

For an exact calculation it is still needed to modify the information about HVAC-Systems, thermostat ranges and
operation schedules for different zones.

This can be done via the Button „Zone Settings“:

It should open the Zone-Management Window (Fig. 26.)

Fig. 26. Zone Management

Here can HVAC Systems, Operation, Thermostat Range, Occupancy, Heat Gains and Air Change Rates be

For Occupancy, Heat Gains and Air Change Rates Schedules can be set and saved(Fig. 27.).
Set the Zone Settings and Schedules for the model and recalculate the model.

Fig. 27. Schedules

vi. Parametric Studies:

- What happens to the results, if the orientation of the object is modified (e.g. +/- 45 °)

- What happens to the results, if the flat is in the middle of a bunch of flats (look at Fig.1.)

- Shading Devices

- What kind of modifications can be done, on the zone setting for lowering heating (and cooling) loads, without losing
(to much) comfort for the inhabitants?

- What kind of geometrical modifications can be done on the object to optimize the thermal performance (Heating

- Make yourself common with the meaning of the different results of the parametric studies in the thermal calculation
window, and try to explain, what caused the change of results.

- Due to the calculating engine of ecotect, it can not calculate the influence of temperature night set backs(Means
changing comfort bands through the course of the day). Think of practical ways to include the influence of night set
backs in the results. (Mean of result?)

- etc.