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Modeler in the Middle

Here’s a little story called, “Modeler in the Middle”. It's a story about a big opportunity and about some big challenges that stand in the way.

This story takes place at a very interesting time for modelers. It’s a time when it’s clear that dramatic reductions in carbon emissions due to buildings are needed. It’s a time when it’s clear that rules of thumb and cookie cutter solutions won't provide those reductions. It’s a time when all bright simulationists will be called to illuminate the path to the low-carbon future.

Maybe the big opportunity is clear. It's the opportunity to take a central role in building design, integrating contributions from team members and keeping projects on the path to performance goals. It’s the opportunity to grab a seat at the table.

That brings us to the hero of this story, the Modeler in the Middle. Our hero faces many challenges.

Modeler in the Middle

1. To win that seat at the table, she must explain herself

It’s already a crowded table, and the Modeler in the Middle needs to make a strong case. Fortunately, she’s not alone. A group of modelers assembled in 2011 to embark on a long journey, and in April 2018 they arrived with the new ASHRAE Standard 209 – Simulation Aided Design for New Buildings. With this new tool, the Modeler in the Middle has a map she can share with others at the table and explain her role.

There’s more help we can provide. We can make a stronger case for the value of simulation and reach out to our partners in the building industry. Together, perhaps through organizations like IBPSA-USA, we can work to reserve a seat at the table for the Modeler in the Middle.

2. She must keep up with the speed of design, once she has that seat

To achieve her mission of low-carbon design, the Modeler in the Middle must work at the speed of design. Most modelers have faced the conflict between the need for quick answers and the time needed for proper analysis. There are two ways we can help.

First, of course, we can continue to work together to speed up our methods with faster tools, more readily available performance information (e.g. ASHRAE Standard 205P), and training to improve our skills.

Second, we can slow the speed of design. Here’s where we can work together. If we reach an understanding with designers about how much time we need, then we can do the analysis needed to help achieve low-carbon design. Standard 209 provides a map for when analysis should happen. Now we can take the next step and let the industry know how much time we need for modeling at each stage of design. With that common understanding, everyone can plan accordingly, and the Modeler in the Middle will be able to keep up with the speed of design.

3. She must learn to speak in pictures

The final challenge is the challenge of learning a new language. The Modeler in the Middle faces the challenge of translating data into stories. Most modelers have suffered the frustration of messages not being understood. Many architects have faced the frustration of deciphering a modeler’s report. The Modeler in the Middle will be more successful if she communicates in a language understood by the rest of the team.

A group of IBPSA-USA members is working to help us help her to speak in pictures. Project StaSIO shares examples of successful presentations of simulation results. We can all help by contributing our images and case studies. With this new language, the Modeler in the Middle can tell her compelling stories. She can retain that seat at the table.

I hope it’s clear that we can give this story a happy ending. We can work together to overcome these challenges. We can pave a path for our aspiring modeler to take her seat at the table as that Modeler in the Middle the world so desperately needs.

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