Editorial: ASHRAE Energy Modeling Conference -- Day 3

Alan Jackson bio photo By Alan Jackson Comment

Okay, the moment we all were waiting for. And by we all I mean me. After some clear filler nonsense brought to you by Autodesk and someone featuring and Autodesk product (Ecotect), the event was closed out with an open discussion (a.k.a town hall meeting?) and presentation of the DOE road map and the unavailing of the long awaited EPGUI front-end to Energyplus brought to you by taxpayer money (DOE) and India (huh?). Previously featured in this post

Before the EPGUI was demo’d, Amir Roth who has recently filled the position left by Dru Crawley, gave an opening statement on the current state of Energyplus and the development road map. Notable points from Amir from user feedback, all of which I can validate listed the following issues with Energyplus in no particular order.

  • Speed
  • Support
  • Easy of use
  • Lack of Interface
  • Use in early concept design unclear « (I could argue the other side of this one).

Adding to that, key points were made about user requests for a GUI to be free ($) and open (open source). These are key items I will touch upon later. This is where I am going to air out all my opinions, and they are clearly that, opinions and are not necessarily shared by anyone but myself. For starters it is important to understand the history of this “GUI”. We Energyplus users have longed for the day when we had a coherent easy to use graphical interface for handling our building models. The most significant and useful development to date goes to NREL for there consistently excellent geometry builder plug-in for Sketchup and interface manager for materials, construction and templates, etc., OpenStudio, I’ve featured it on the site once or twice ;)

The feature set of OpenStudio has its holes. I have faith in NREL to fill those holes but in the meantime Bentley and LBNL are trying their best to get their foot in the door and fill the gap before anyone else can. It should also be noted that there are reliable rumors that Trane Trace, yes Trane Trace 700 is moving their back-end engine from DOE2 to Energyplus. Additionally, to combat this disruption the current heavyweight eQuest is weighing the benefits of open sourcing their software, or possibly just the calculation engine of DOE2 (no confirmation on this).

Back to EPGUI (see screen below). The interface was showcased by a gentlemen from Infosys who’s name escapes me. It is important to understand a few things about the demonstration. For starters the software is clearly in its early stages, easily many months behind Bentley’s AECOsim application. The presenter struggled to show features and did not ease anyones predisposition on the speed of Energyplus. Also the interface itself, surprisingly, took more hints from Bentley’s utility than it did the current leaders eQuest and Energyplus (which I am told accounts for ~50% of the market). What am I saying? While I can not argue whether a new rejuvenated interface is the answer to everyones dreams until I do a full hands-on it should be noted that neither Bentley nor LBNL mimic some of the key features seen in eQuest such as schematic wizards and detailed edit “spreadsheet” type inputs. However, the flow diagram of systems made famous in eQuest was featured in both Bentley and EPGUI.

Specify Lookup Table

Some editorial comments. Amir Roth made specific points about the way users view Energyplus and what needed to be done with an interface to address these issues. Many of the key issues outlined in his opening address were not answered with the product demonstration and were not mentioned in the subsequent open discussion at the end of the event. The key items I am referring to are these.

Open source. EPGUI will not be open sourced. The reason for this apparently is due to the fact that in addition to tax payer money from DOE and other sources there was private funding from Infosys who apparently were able to swindle everyone into developing a closed source application that is not cross platform like Energyplus is, and should be, considering both the DOE and NREL development of Energyplus and OpenStudio has been cross platform to date.

Free. While it was implied that the EPGUI would be free, the fact that it is closed source and being developed an maintained by a commercial entity leads everyone to believe that while a free version may exist, a “Pro” paid version will be made available likely including many of the features users want, which can only be distributed in a commercial form do to the closed nature of the development. Keep in mind this is a partial funded public project that is basically supporting the commercial interests of a publicly traded company from India.

Support. I asked Amir in the Q&A; session what type of support would be provided, and either my question was misunderstood or clearly they have no idea how they are going to support this software. Which leads me to believe that possibly only the “Pro” version will be supported, while the community will have to fend for themselves for years to come like they have been with Energyplus.

More importantly how is this type of project sustainable? How can a project from the DOE and LBNL continue to be developed without more public funding. And if in fact the future developments are funded from tax payer money where else can this money go except overseas to Infosys since they, as far as I know, hold the key to the source if not outright own the rights.

I will try not to be too editorial in the future and keep to my bread an butter tutorials and demonstrations, but some of this information need to be put out in the open. If not to educate and enlighten maybe to at least allow for it to be disproved, and retracted. With that being said I am going to be showing off Bentley’s AECOsim in some form of a demonstration and I am going to do a refresher on OpenStudio to showcase all the great work that has gone on with that project. Maybe I can even get a copy of EPGUI that may be floating around out there to test.

I am extremely interested to hear people’s comments. I get frequent emails form people and the site has been getting good traffic, but I really want to hear form you guys, good or bad let me know what you are thinking in the comments. Thanks!