There are several of EnergyPlus authoring tools out there in the market, just name a few: OpenStudio, DesignBuilder, and Simergy, etc. Also, more and more software tools are supporting EnergyPlus export function, including Sefaira and Insight360 (Autodesk). Nevertheless, each tool has their strengths and weaknesses. Energy modelers select tools based on their different needs.
All these tools support full IDF export function. However, none of them can perfectly import an EnergyPlus model. So it's almost impossible to make them talk to each other.
One of our customers told us "Every time we have to hold a meeting to discuss whether we should move to IDF Editor for the next stage modeling work or not. Because once we export IDF file, we can never go back..."
But with BuildSimHub, this might be changed!. Here I want to show a real world case my friend and I encountered and how we use BuildSimHub to build a channel between OpenStudio and DesignBuilder to solve it within 1 day. Our workflow is depicted in the diagram below:
Here is the DesignBuilder model we built a year ago.
My DB license was expired a month ago. while I was waiting for my new license, I decided to give the new OpenStudio a try. So, I exported the .idf file and then imported it into OpenStudio.
I ignored all the warnings because I only needed to update the lighting system.
The import was intuitive, however, the data was not linked in OS format. I spent some time to reassign the schedules and loads. However, putting BuildSimHub and OpenStudio side-by-side made the reassigning process much faster.
After some internal load adjustment, I exported the IDF file again and uploaded to BuildSimHub.
I knew I updated some lighting definitions and added some daylight sensors in OpenStudio, so I selected these objects to merge back to DesignBuilder exported IDF.
Make sure everything was correct and then merge, one button click, and we are done!
Now lets run simulation and find out what have been changed from output.
At the same time, my friend actually found a machine that was running DesignBuilder with a perpetual license, so he did a VRF + DOAS system for the model using DesignBuilder HVAC module.
Again, I received his exported IDF file in BuildSimHub. and this time, we would merge HVAC systems!
Before merge, let's check out the system in the BuildSimHub to make sure there is no error in the system:
And then, let's merge, a button click, we got our HVAC system!
Once merged, we ran a simulation and checked the results side-by-side with the previous model. With DOAS + VRF, we were able to save almost 50% of energy consumption and meanwhile, reduced the time set-point not met to 300ish hours!
To recap, we retrieved a one year old model and update it using OpenStudio and DesignBuilder together within one day. Although this is a rare situation, we successfully exchange the data between OpenStudio and DesignBuilder, which enables both of us work simultaneously to complete a project in a short period.
More often, when modelers are facing a system that only a particular software, or IDFEditor can do, the modelers have to make a choice because there is no way back. Those choices are difficult and takes time. However, with this workflow, they will never worry about this issue anymore.
This is our approach to make EnergyPlus interoperable between OpenStudio and DesignBuilder (and IDFEditor as well!). You can also add more complex steps to the overall workflow such as...