Energy modelling skills for Architects.


I am a recent graduate with 2 years of experience currently working at a globally-sized firm.

During past interviews at some large firms, my interviewers displayed a particular interest in the building performance analysis that I had conducted during my design process.

I am interested in knowing whether energy modelling / building performance analysis is a good extra skill to develop as an architect. I am somewhat technically-minded and I wonder whether this would allow me to have greater input throughout the design process. 

This skill set is obviously more applicable to the more complex and sustainability-oriented projects delivered by a particular type of firms within the industry. I also understand that there are consultants who offer these services. Do you think that developing this specialism and providing integrated design & analysis could improve my career as an architect in the context of working within large firms?

I also wish to know what kind of background (e.g. Building Physics, Environmental Design) would be the most relevant in order to develop in this direction. 

Again, I am not looking to get pigeonholed but to enhance my skill set and deliver more value in the design process.

Please feel free to share your experience.

Jan 23, 20 6:16 pm

I think its a great skill set to possess, very timely in an era of decarbonization, and you would be viewing some very interesting work through a very particular lens. You are early in your career, so learning this angle will help you later as your experience and responsibility grow. Being technically minded will help because you will need to foster a particular type of curiousity that is useful in this profession.

Jan 23, 20 9:55 pm

I work for an engineering firm and they just sent me (architectural) along with 2 mechanical engineers to an energy modeling coarse.  Its defiantly they way the industry is going.  There is a real lack of skilled people that understand the process and requirements, at least in my neighbourhood.

Jan 24, 20 10:53 am

Thanks for your reply. What does your energy modelling course involve? Could you provide a link to the curriculum? Also, what kind of background do you think is most suitable in order to make the most of such as course? Finally, which software are you being trained on?

Wood Guy

I agree with the above--I think every architect should have a decent understanding of energy modeling. (Then again I also think they should actually understand structure as well.) I do only residential design but include energy modeling on almost every project, and do some consulting on energy-related items as well. I could probably make the consulting thing a full-time gig, even in my sparsely populated state, if I didn't enjoy the design end so much.

The industrial revolution is over, we are in an information revolution, and in the early stages of a carbon revolution that is ramping up quickly. There have been orders-of-magnitude increases in understanding just in the last couple of years, and I don't see that slowing down, no matter what many entrenched entities would prefer.  

Jan 24, 20 12:27 pm

Wood Guy, thanks for your reply and also for your high quality contributions to the forum in general. In which phases of the design process do you engage with energy modelling?

Wood Guy

Thanks for the kind words, jwsd. I typically do an energy model in Design Development, after the schematic design is nailed down but before all of the design decisions have been made. That way we can adjust the assemblies, window layout and specs, etc.. If net zero energy is a goal we can make sure we have enough south-ish facing roof to support the energy demand. Sometimes there will be more modeling during CDs, for example if we can't use our preferred window or if the heating system changes due to pricing or contractor input.

atelier nobody

Energy modeling skills are very good to have. Beware of getting pigeonholed if you're too good at it, though (unless it's a pigeonhole that appeals to you). Same goes for just about any specialized skillset.

Jan 24, 20 2:25 pm

Hi, thanks for your reply to my thread. Do you have energy architects in your firm who specialize in energy modelling? Do you think that they are deprived of growth or opportunities in a particular area as a result of having this skill set?

atelier nobody

The ones I have known have generally combined energy modeling with knowledge of sustainability more generally (including LEED accreditation) and, yes, once pigeonholed as "the sustainability person" none that I have known have ever gotten out of that role.


what do people use to do the energy modeling at different scales (woodguy's residential vs large firms)

Jan 24, 20 2:31 pm
atelier nobody

Here in California we have a program that is very specific to the CA Energy Code, called EnergyPro, but it doesn't give a very sophisticated model, and not BIM-linked. For real energy modeling, Revit has some built-in capabilities, and there are a number of plug-ins for both Revit and SketchUp, but it's been a few years since I got my hands dirty with energy modeling, so I'm sure I'm not up to date on the latest.


I am Canadian and National Resources Canada provides free software. Its just difficult to use at the beginning but follows requirements for the National Energy Code compliance

Wood Guy

I use BEopt, a free download from the Department of Energy which runs on the Energy Plus modeling platform, with an overlay that calculates the most effective path to net zero energy (or other targets). I also use the PHPP, the international Passive House modeling program, built in Excel. I'd like to learn WUFI Passive, used by PHIUS, in part because it includes hygrothermal modeling, but mainly because its graphic interface is a lot more user-friendly than the 36-pages of spreadsheet that PHPP uses. Other programs that friends use include Trane/Trace, Wrightsoft, Enertrope, and REM/Design.


It's been quite a minute since I've done any of this, but my only experience was using Energy Plus plugins to sketchup during school. It was interesting, but not having anyone specifically to direct me, I can't say it was as accurate as one would hope. We've received comments from consultants who have used EnergyPro, which we then integrate into our mechanical and building envelope detailing, but we never "see under the hood" so to speak.


also (again at woodguy) your finehomebuilding 2016 house with the boulder "retaining wall".  Is there magic behind those boulders, ala  mesh reinforcing, or are the rocks enough?  Very interesting design btw.

Jan 24, 20 2:37 pm
Wood Guy

Ha, thanks Jose--I was happier with previous iterations of the exterior but it was a very challenging program on a very tight timeline (and budget) so I eventually had to set my pencil down and move forward. I'm working on improved iterations that I plan to offer as semi-custom/pre-designed plans.

Mike Guertin, the owner and builder, took care of the boulders on his own. It was a challenging site and we had to have retaining walls of some sort, and that area has a lot of those large boulders. Mike has other properties in the neighborhood with a similar detail. I believe they just stacked them up carefully and backfilled with freely draining material. 

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