COMFEN 3.0: Evolution of an Early Design Tool for Commercial Façades and Fenestration Systems
Achieving a net-zero energy building cannot be done solely by improving the efficiency of the engineering systems. It also requires consideration of the essential nature of the building including factors such as architectural form, massing, orientation and enclosure. Making informed decisions about the fundamental character of a building requires assessment of the effects of the complex interaction of these factors on the resulting performance of the building. The complexity of these interactions necessitates the use of modeling and simulation tools to dynamically analyze the effects of the relationships, yet decisions about the building fundamentals are often made in the earliest stages of design, before a 'building' exists to model.
To address these issues, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has developed an early-design energy modeling tool (COMFEN) specifically to help make informed decisions about building façade fundamentals by considering the design of the building envelope, orientation and massing on building performance. COMFEN focuses on the concept of a "space" or "room" and uses the EnergyPlus, and Radiance™ engines and a simple, graphic user interface to allow the user to explore the effects of changing key early-design input variables on energy consumption, peak energy demand, and thermal and visual comfort. Comparative results are rapidly presented in a variety of graphic and tabular formats to help users move toward optimal façade and fenestration design choices.
While COMFEN 1.0 utilized an Excel™–based user interface, COMFEN 3.0 has been reworked to include a simple, more intuitive, yet powerful Graphic User Interface (GUI), a broader range of libraries for associated system and component choices and deliver a wider range of graphic outputs and options.
This paper (and presentation) outlines the objectives in developing and further refining COMFEN, the mechanics of the program, and plans for future development.