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Comparisons Ecotect vs. HEED vs. IES

Ecotect vs. HEED vs. IES Hot

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Ecotect vs. HEED vs. IES 2012-01-15 23:32:11 brro
brro Reviewed by brro    January 15, 2012
Last updated: January 15, 2012
Top 50 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews

Thermal Analysis Software Comparison

Originally published on Monday, 21 December 2009

Ecotect vs HEED vs IES

Thermal analysis is a shaky [at best] subject in the world of architectural technology. The promises each program makes are great while the results are often below par. Communications between programs are often the main issue. While Revit may produce a beautiful 3-d model, once translated to Ecotect language that model is in a questionable state. Nonetheless these programs offer powerful tools which have not ever been seen. The ability to determine a buildings energy use, sustainability potential, first and future costs, and thermal performance are just the beginning to many of these programs. Many have a complex integrated model system which often works better than transferring a BIM model. The lighting, thermal, and economic analysis each program offers are, although spotty at times, a priceless tool and one that is sure to entice clients. This review examines HEED, Ecotect, and IES, three softwares that do similar but drastically different operations. Ecotect, the main event in the emerging sustainability analysis software is the mainstream option [supposedly] integrated in to the Revit family of modelers. HEED, a free software developed at UCLA, provides a powerful package in a fast running, tiny package. IES, the most integrated Sketchup program, allows for usage analysis from water and power to potential for green technologies.
www.energy-design-tools.aud.ucla.edu graphisoft.com

Acquired not too long ago but software giant Autodesk, Ecotect was the first choice among BIM users for an integrated environmental analysis software from the beginning. Autodesk has mingled with the user interface to create a more "Autocaddy" appearance which may be slightly more inviting for initial users [although the difficulty of the program is still moderate]. The on-board modeler is incredibly powerful for a non-BIM or 3D modeling program and is a much better way to produce reliable results than important from another BIM program [including Revit]. Ecotect can perform basically all types of environmental analysis for any building successfully imported or built in the program. This includes an incredibly reliable psychometric chart, in-depth thermal analysis, lighting and shading studies, and wind analysis.
The results are very reliable although, as mentioned before, glitches do exist in the translation of models from other programs. The user can export images or video with ease and the images are professional presentation grade. Ecotect's primary focus is on your specific building, not generic materials or geometry analysis [like you will see later]. For the intermediate computer user Ecotect should not be a problem but the intuitive help menu and the plentiful tutorials online will get you up and running in no time with the most powerful environmental analysis tool available today.

RATINGS [1-10 highest]
Ease of use: 6... but approachable
Advanced Features: 9
Reliability: 7
Communication: 7
Complexity of Results: 9
Clarity of Results: 9
Usefulness of Results: 8
Graphics: 8
Speed: 8
Price: ~$2000 depending on location
Free for Students?: YES
Pros: complex, powerful, built-in modeling, good importing capabilities, clear results, videos, mainstream, free for students
Cons: expensive for professionals, inconsistencies when importing/exporting, questionable data sometimes, difficult for the first time user

Developed at UCLA, HEED provides a detailed set of analysis from a very simple digital model. The digital modeling system in HEED is not even comparable to Ecotect with construction only allowed as 4'x4'x4' cubes. Organic shapes and crazy designs need not apply. But if your design can be whittled into a package simple enough, HEED provides in-depth analysis about energy use and other types of consumption. Results are also available for cost, and a plus in HEED, is the clarity of the results and the ability to compare several schemes at once.
But the obvious drawback is the complete lack of any viable modeling system. This leads to questions about how reliable HEED actually is. Can you really determine the consumption of an entire building if you can only represent it in blocks and questionable windows? For those with a simple project HEED can be reliable, but for more complicated applications it is recommended to move on to another, more complex program. For economic purposes, regardless of shape of building, HEED can determine a fairly good estimate of cost of a building based on square footage and materials. HEED works by taking materials, square footages, location, and specific geometrical measurements and calculates them into a cost and consumption result [see below]. This may not be the most thorough method of calculating these results but that being said, for quick, thorough and comparable results HEED is a program that allows all 3 in a quick, stressless, easy-to-use package. And the price isn't too bad either.

RATINGS [1-10 highest]
Ease of use: 8... but is this good?
Advanced Features: 6
Reliability: 6
Communication: NA
Complexity of Results: 6
Clarity of Results: 9
Usefulness of Results: 7
Graphics: 8
Speed: 10
Price: FREE
Free for Students?: FREE
Pros: free, fast, clear, somewhat accurate, good material choices, compare side-by side,
Cons: too simple, buggy interface, strange installation directory, questionable results, modeler is useless, geometrical options not up to par

IES/VE Toolkit:
For the Sketchup user, the IES toolkit is a very powerful tool. Tested here as the plugin for Sketchup the translational qualities from program to program are way better than anything tested so far. Some minor glitches, but by now that is expected. Once the model is in to IES [which also has a fairly powerful on-board modeler] analysis is simple and easy. However, most people I discussed this with had some sort of informational glitch. Energy uses that were way too high, no analysis at all in some cases, and faulty numbers when it came to graphs and representation. But glitches aside, IES provides a very powerful toolkit, absolutely compatible with Sketchup, which is a major plus. Another major selling point is the integration of the "2030 Initiative" into IES's analysis. All analysis is compared, among other factors, to whether or not it meets the 2030 Initiative. I think it's great for a program to include benchmarks like 2030 instead of just providing a "base case" to compare to.
IES does import from Revit as well creating another parallel with Ecotect that is much to IES's advantage. IES also provides similar analysis to HEED and additional info as well including water usage, solar potential, and even evacuation planning software. Although IES is not as mainstream as Ecotect, it definitely carries it's weight among the competition. The graphs and results are incredibly clear and precise and the depth of the program is substantial. The interface is a little difficult to get used to because of the complexity. Arguably however, the wide range of "toolkits" puts it above Ecotect in many categories and the translation of models from BIM or Sketchup to IES is basically flawless.
Overall, IES provides the user with a set of tools [too many in some cases] which, when used correctly, may be the most powerful set of tools available. From energy costs to energy potential, IES/VE Toolkit seamlessly integrates the emerging world of 3d architectural software with the real-world problems that face designers today.

RATINGS [1-10 highest]
Ease of use: 6
Advanced Features: 10
Reliability: 7
Communication: 9
Complexity of Results: 8
Clarity of Results: 9
Usefulness of Results: 8
Graphics: 9
Speed: 8
Price: $1000 - $3750
Free for Students?: no
Pros: powerful, vast results/possibilities, clear, excellent import/export, accurate
Cons: large install file, some glitches in data, very confusing to beginners, expensive

Comparison + Conclusion
To begin, the user must realize each of these programs have been designed separately, mostly for separate purposes which are described in their respective reviews. However, each program does do some sort of thermal analysis and each differs greatly on these results. Ecotect has incredibly thorough thermal analysis results in the forms of graphs and visualizations. HEED also constructs graphs but from very simple, almost questionable data. IES performs similar, but more understandable tests with more comprehendible results. For advanced operations I must recommend Ecotect or IES. For smaller projects or simple projects, HEED will suffice. IES' cost analysis tools are a bit easier than Ecotect but for a simple building HEED is by far the simplest, quickest, and easiest program to use.
However, in most cases HEED will not suffice. The indepth modelling tools that Ecotect and IES offer are incredibly useful for complex buildings and BIM users [which is basically everyone nowadays]. It's as simple as clicking one button to transport a full Revit model to IES or Ecotect. But not HEED.
For our purposes, let's consider that all three programs have 100% accurate data on a certain building. In this case, much material and energy cost analysis can be done right in HEED in a matter of seconds. Further calculations will probably be done in Ecotect because of the ease of exporting the results. Ecotect is able to provide advanced wind, lighting, and solar gain analysis. Even more in-depth studies can be done in IES concerning cost and futures in a very user friendly manner. Each tool has it's purpose and each performs those purposes very well. In the end, the results are determined by the user and his/her design. Never will all 3 programs be in agreement, but if the user takes the time to translate the models appropriately, the results will be astoundingly useful in a presentation or during the design process.

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