Why we have upgraded our Architecture web application

On March 7, 2017 we made available our new Architecture web-application to all Sefaira customers. 

This article provides a bit of history about the development of this product and why we have made such a substantial change.

A bit of history

Sefaira Architecture (both the web application and the original version of the plugin) were launched in 2012 using an engine developed by Sefaira called Fulcrum.

Fulcrum carried out building physics on your 3D model using hourly Radiant Time Series calculations, modified based on inputs added into both user interfaces.

When we launched Sefaira, we set out to solve two problems for our customers:

  • The industry needed software that could run realistic calculations very very quickly
  • The software needed to to support a lot of different 3D model types and ideally needed to be able to use 3D models that were also being developed for other purposes

These two key features supported our key goal of empowering architects and consultants to be able to quickly test building performance during the earliest stages of design when form and envelope were changing rapidly and where the goal is to identify and communicate the best envelope and form strategies to move forward with.

A change led by customers

Since 2012, we've had a lot of feedback from our customers about the Architecture product and the Fulcrum engine that powers it. Importantly the problem we were solving was a real one - we just needed to do more.

Some of the most common and recurring feedback was the following:

  • Users wanted a way to test performance at the room / space / zone level rather than just at the whole building level.
  • Users wanted to keep doing analysis later into the design process (into Schematic Design and Detailed Design) and needed more controls and features in Sefaira to be able to do that
  • Users wanted to be able to confidently pass the modelled results onto engineers and other consultants who needed more detail about how the results were calculated.

It became apparent to us that to grow as a business we needed a more mature engine for our energy and building physics calculations.

Over two years in the making

In January 2015, Sefaira launched our Sefaira Systems web application. This software used the open-source EnergyPlus engine, developed by the US Department of Energy.

Sefaira Systems became very popular with our more technical users because it began to address the issues described above with our original Fulcrum calculation engine. Specifically Systems:

  • Supported zone-level calculations and zoned models
  • Used EnergyPlus, an open-source platform and which enabled us to provide all assumptions and inputs to users who wanted to see them
  • Supported a much richer array of settings and controls including a wide range of HVAC systems.

We had always expected that Sefaira Systems would become a new platform for all Sefaira customers. As customers started to use it, we gathered more information about what would be needed for it to support our Architecture customers. Specifically we knew we needed to first develop:

  • A high quality geometry translation pipeline into EnergyPlus that was quick and that supported the most typical architectural form details.
  • A best-in-class passive design tool that would incorporate zone-level air-flow-network calculations to assess comfort and energy in naturally ventilated buildings
  • Workflows that reflected answered the most typical questions customers needed answered with good quality graphics 

We've been spending a considerable amount of our development efforts working on these aspects of the product to ready it for the transition to our Architecture customers.

Advantages of a common analysis platform

Moving forward, being on EnergyPlus for all calculations will make it much easier for us to continue to bring value to our customers and address the feature requests that users have in the future.

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