Michael Mescal is an architect and academic specialising in computational design. He teaches at the school of architecture at UCD, and just over four years ago turned his attention to addressing a gap in the market for user-friendly building energy analysis software. What has emerged is En-Perium, a system that Mescal says makes life a lot easier for building professionals while also saving them time and money.
En-Perium analyses digital building designs to make sure they meet energy targets and compliance codes. If they don’t it can help fix the problem.
"The software is designed from the perspective of the architect or engineer, so I began by building a prototype which I trialled with consulting engineers Arup Ireland and the architectural practice Henry J Lyons amongst others," Mescal says.
“I got a lot of positive feedback, and knew I was on the right track. Initially the idea came from my own frustration with simulation software systems that seemed to have been developed with no consideration for the people that actually use them as in why they use them, how they use software, and what kinds of information they need from them.”
Mescal says existing systems don’t hit the spot because in general they can only be used effectively at the end of the design process, not least because individual design changes all require separate simulation runs. In addition, the information provided to designers is in a scientific format that requires a consultant to interpret it.
“Our software brings everything together in one place and integrates the simulation process directly with the design modelling process. This creates a live simulation technology and means that any changes update simultaneously as the designer works. There is no need to run a separate simulation for each design change,” Mescal says.
“It also means we can configure the software to visualise (through a ‘traffic lights system’) what part of the building is causing an energy efficiency or energy compliance issue. For example, a window causing heat loss or a roof light that needs to be moved.”
Mescal says that because En-Perium is fully integrated it will save users time and money by cutting down on lengthy consultancy periods and downstream design changes.
“It also addresses the fact that energy efficiency is becoming a mainstream problem in architectural design, and therefore needs software that can be easily used and understood.
“The idea is to let the designer design, and for the system to give him or her the information they need to create energy-efficient buildings by letting them know the optimal way to configure something and how far off achieving that their current design is.
“Some 70 per cent of global construction is expected to be built to a green building or certification standard by 2020, and in 2020 the EU will introduce the net zero energy directive which requires all government-commissioned projects to be built to a net zero energy standard. En-Perium can help the industry to achieve this.”
En-Perium is aimed at the global market, and will be sold on an annual licence basis. To ensure it is fit for purpose for international markets, users will be able to download an app that will customise the software to take account of local regulations. It can be used with both new build and retro-fit projects.
The project has been backed by Enterprise Ireland with a commercialisation grant and it has cost roughly €200,000 to bring things this far. The product is in the process of being prepared for commercial release in about a year's time, and there are currently five people working on the project between full and part-time staff. This is set to rise to six shortly.
The project is currently based at the school of architecture, but the intention is to create a spinout company over the next 12 months.