Remembering how we got here
Most simulation programs used in the US today can trace their history back through more than 40 years of publicly funded software R&D. Acronyms abound. The family tree includes names like the “post office program”, CAL-ERDA, DOE-2, BLAST, TRNSYS, and EnergyPlus. Funding came from USPS, ERDA, CEC, NBS, NIST, USDOE, and USDOD. Contributors worked at LBL, GARD, CCB, ANLL, CERL, UIUC, OSU, and FSEC. And I’m sure I’ve left many important acronyms off the list.
It’s clear to me that my work as a simulation practitioner today would not be possible without those contributions and that public investment.
Where do we go from here? I think we can all agree that we’re not finished advancing the methods of building performance simulation. I expect that each of us has a personal wish list of improvements (i.e. list of gripes) for the tools we use in our work.
To address those gripes, I believe that public investment and leadership will be necessary. While there are certainly vital private investments that are making great contributions, the diverse nature of the building industry means that none of them will be enough. Our industry has no General Motors, no Boeing, no Apple or Google. We are thousands of companies: designers, consultants, contractors, and developers. Everyone cares about building performance, but none of us has vast resources for R&D.
In many cases, the building performance simulation industry is addressing problems that the free market is struggling to deal with: energy efficiency and climate change, indoor air quality and public health, thermal comfort and productivity. There is significant public benefit to improving our ability to simulate building performance, but daily decision makers in the building industry don’t feel these impacts directly.
Leaders in the past recognized the potential public benefit and made investments in building our simulation capabilities. In the early 1970’s, energy security and supply was a motivation. Today we have added the added specter of climate change and the knowledge that our built environment affects our health and well-being. Collective, public investment is more important than ever.
I’d like to thank those who contributed to getting us where we are today. And on behalf of the practitioners of tomorrow, I urge us all continue the progress. If you’re wondering what you can do, perhaps share your gripe list with your congressional representative. Be sure to let them know we’ve come a long way, but there’s still lots of work to do!