Smart Modeling for Building PerformanceRecent changes to how Sefaira analyzes SketchUp models enable architects to practice Performance-Based Design more powerfully than ever before.

Performance Analysis Throughout Design

The fundamental idea behind Performance-Based Design is using analysis to inform decisions that improve building performance. The more often you can do that throughout your design process, the better control you can have over your design’s performance. Recent developments to Sefaira for SketchUp support modeling workflows that make this easier than ever before.

Model Interpretation in Sefaira for SketchUp

Performance analysis in Sefaira for SketchUp relies on a handful of inputs and the geometry defined by your SketchUp model. Until recently, Sefaira could only understand single geometric planes, and would send any geometric plane within the model into the analysis engine.

All that has changed.

Now, Sefaira for SketchUp analyzes Groups and the full range of Components (basic, nested, and dynamic); Sefaira understands Internal Walls and Internal Glazing (important, as these impact daylighting); and Sefaira considers the SketchUp visibility settings–whatever you see in SketchUp is what Sefaira will analyze. If you have a model filled with entourage elements, like cars, people, and pets, simply hiding those will ensure Sefaira understands they are not to be analyzed for performance.

This is kind of a big deal.

At first blush, it may sound like a simple technical improvement. But think about it for a moment: if what you see is what you get, and you can use all the familiar and strategic SketchUp workflows, you can very quickly and very easily empower performance analysis throughout your design process. The next two examples show this in more detail.

Example 1: Shell Model – Administration Building Retrofit

Designers recognize that the level of detail shown in the SD-level model below is appropriate and necessary to inform design progress and support presentation outputs like renderings.

SD-level design and presentation model

SD-level model of a school campus administration building, used for design and presentation.

Experienced Sefaira users recognize that the plane count and complexity of SD and DD-level models (e.g. detailed cornice, articulated window and door frames, roof terrace railings, etc.) may strain Sefaira’s analysis.

So what is a performance-conscious designer to do?

One approach is to create a Shell Model. Very simply put, this is a SketchUp Group, built on a dedicated SketchUp layer, representing the orientation, massing, window locations, and shading elements of the more complex design model. A Shell Model built with SketchUp components makes it very easy to update as the design progresses (e.g. if all of your windows & railings are dynamic components, you can change this model incredibly quickly to keep it up-to-date).

Such a model can be created once the design is at this SD stage, or could just as easily be built and maintained from the start of the project:

SD-level model for performance analysis

Shell Model built for analysis with proper element tags. The profile of the cornice, the articulation of the windows, and other detail (necessary for design and presentation) is removed.

By using Groups, Layers, and Scenes to manage what you see in SketchUp–and thus, what Sefaira analyzes–you can maintain performance analysis and experimentation as you continue to develop and refine your architectural model.

Example 2: Smart Model – Net-Zero Energy Home, Sterner Design

The previous approach is very helpful, especially if analysis is required late in the process, or if performance analysis was not a focused part of the approach from the beginning of design.

If your team is focused on performance from day one, you can take an even more refined approach to carrying a single design, presentation, and analysis model throughout your design process. We call this Smart Modeling, and it can readily be seen in the following residential project:

Exploded axon of grouped SketchUp model

Exploded axonometric of the building, illustrating strategic SketchUp grouping

As illustrated above, the designer strategically grouped elements of the building–like the roof, the first and ground floors, the window mullions, etc.–to facilitate performance analysis with Sefaira. With the model geometry managed through groups, the designer was easily able to deftly apply Sefaira entity tags:

Exploded axon showing Sefaira entity tags

Architectural model with Sefaira entity tags applied

These entity tags are important, as they tell Sefaira how to analyze the building geometry. (Note that the roof group, contains both a “roof” and “shading” tag. The decision on what to tag is informed by an understanding of Sefaira analysis. For a technical refresher, click here.)

The designer’s final step, after managing and tagging the geometry, was to set up a specific “Sefaira” scene, which hid geometry not needed for analysis. This way, at any moment, he could switch to an analysis-ready view and understand how his latest design change might affect energy or daylighting performance. Smart Modeling has helped this project keep on track toward a Net Zero Energy performance goal from day one of the design.

Performance-Based Design, Either Way You Model

Performance-Based Design is optimized with early and frequent analysis and iteration. Both the Shell Model and Smart Model approaches strategically support Performance-Based Design throughout the design process, thus setting your project on course to achieving, and possibly exceeding, targeted levels of performance.

You can learn more about both of these modeling techniques by watching our webinar on the topic.