Cove.tool’s holistic cost vs energy optimization feature is one of the software's most valuable and intelligent features. The optimization tool is designed to help users parametrically explore product alternatives to find the most beneficial multi-objective solution(s).
Many times, design teams are exploring the impact of improving wall insulation, followed by the impact of improving roof insulation, followed by HVAC, and so on. cove.tool 's optimized approach has all these elements and is more interwoven into a holistic machine-learning engine. cove.tool can ensure every alternative product and design strategy is explored and that the lowest cost & energy combination(s) (aka bundle) can be figured out. With this strategy, a user can find, that perhaps from an overall cost vs energy standpoint, it is better to use better wall insulation and glass product, while still choosing a slightly lower performance HVAC as an example. This process to uncover wholistic optimal bundles is one of the most widely leveraged studies in the platform. In the next section, we will explain how it works.
(Below) Diagram of Optimization tool interface: Bundle's Tab.
How Does it work?
The end goal of the optimization tool is to find a combination of options that will outperform the baseline model. Thus, before reaching the optimization tool, users must first establish their baseline model on the Baseline Energy page. The inputs and outputs of the baseline energy model will be carried forward to the optimization page to establish the reference point, from which every bundle will try to beat. These baseline options will also be the greyed-out options you see at the top of each product category tab and will be used to calculate the baseline "bare materials" cost, embodied carbon, and LEED points. (Side note: materials cost is calculated by multiplying geometry data, like surface area, by material cost $/sqft. Ex. 10k sqft of Exterior wall at $2/sqft has a material cost of $20,000).
Users can then add every alternative option they would like to explore, whether it be 5 glazing options, 4 wall products, 3 HVAC alternatives, and more. By default, some options may already be made available based on location and building type. This is also why the bundle's list may already be available when first reaching the tool. Each alternative must be provided a description/name, performance value, cost $/sqft, and embodied carbon kgCO2e (the last field is optional). Once completed, hit Recalculate.
The tool will then run hundreds of whole building simulations instantaneously and find top-bundles that outperform the baseline model in terms of energy performance and cost, while also calculating payback period, embodied carbon, LEED points earned, and energy savings for each bundle. Typically it takes 60 seconds to run before displaying your results again, however, it may take longer depending on the number of high-performing options you listed in the options list.
(Below) Diagram of Optimization's Parallel Coordinate Graph and Bundle Summary
Once complete, a list of bundles will appear rank from best (at the top, aka the Cost vs Energy Optimized bundle) to Least Improved. Note that although the tool ran every combination, only bundles that improved energy efficiency, or saved cost without impact energy will be displayed. If you received the message, "There weren’t enough options for us to optimize. Please provide some more." Try improving the list of product alternatives by including more options with lower costs and/or are more efficient.
Back to the Cost Vs Energy Optimized bundle, this is the top identified strategy to improved your building. Check out which options were used to generate this bundle (right side), and what the improvement was from baseline (blue, left side). The bundles which follow are ranked 2nd, 3rd, and so on, to demonstrate their quality in energy performance and low-cost premiums. If users want to add parameters to the bundles being evaluated, then they could do so by using their mouse to highlight a portion of the vertical axis that depicts the range of options they would like to analyze on the top Parallel Coordinates graph. The web-like graph is a visualization of the analysis, displaying the bundles as blue lines atop the category columns.
Applying filters helps shortlist bundles to meet the team's targets. For example, you may begin with a list of 150+ bundles, but if you only want to explore options that have less than a 5 year payback period, you may wanna add the parameter and cut out any other bundle, not within this range. This filtering will automatically trim the list and rerank the bundles. Filters options include designing for LEED Points, Energy Savings, Payback Years, Embodied Carbon, and even focusing on the selection of specific products. With the new more refined bundle list, you can find the most beneficial combination of strategies.
How to Leverage Optimization?
The Optimization feature in cove.tool is about switching out thousands of alternatives to find combinations (i.e. bundles) that can best improve the baseline building generated in the Baseline Energy page. By using cost as a decision-making factor, users can then identify a more cost-effective way to reach a lower energy use design and/or find the optimal bundles which meet code. By optimizing, users are able to find how low they can go, in terms of energy, LEED points, Payback years, and cost. The more options you give the more likely the optimization engine will be able to find an even lower EUI and project price tag.
What are your options after optimization?
1. Try to Generation new bundles by Changing Options
Want to continue exploring this project with the optimization feature? Use the change options tabs to add more variation in your current explored options. The Change Options Tabs allow users to add new alternatives, remove any products proving to be non-advantageous, and customize properties to be explored by the optimization tool.
2. Lock the Project and Make a Copy
Want to keep the project (inputs/ geometry/ optimization bundles list) as is, but also want to try a couple of other ideas and strategies? Then the Lock and Copy feature are what you need. First lock your completed project, with the steps listed here, then create a copy of your project by returning to your Home Page - project list. In the project's summary box, select the "create copy" icon (see image below). This will create an exact duplicate, so you can get going without having to retread any of the ground you have already covered.
3. Create a report and work on a new project
Satisfied with the project? Create, download, and share one of cove.tool's automated reports. Once new information is available on the project, return to the platform to start exploring your project once again.
Why is the tool not picking my more efficient product option vs the baseline option?
Check the cost, if it's zero, change it to anything greater than zero and recalculate the results. The product should show up in the results if it is yielding better results than the baseline.
2022 Q4 Updates
With the release of the New Product Database and Assembly Builder, the Optimization page will have many new updates. These updates will be specific to exterior walls, roofs, windows, and skylights in this version and will be applied to others as well in the near future.
1. New Assemblies - Previous products will be replaced with new, detailed, and improved assemblies that you can create and customize within the Assembly Builder. The ability to add assemblies directly on Optimization will not change in any way.
2. Updated Costs - Cost will now have material, labor as well as equipment costs included. An annual market survey conducted by the team has brought in not only complete assembly costs but also includes overhead adjusted costs that you can easily rely on. The graphic below shows our updated cost methodology.
3. Area-weighted averages - If you choose to bring your geometry through drawing.tool, area-weighted averages for performance, cost and embodied carbon will automatically be brought in to Optimization.
The update to new assemblies can be triggered by the dialog which will appear when you first log into the Dashboard. Running the update will reload the Baseline Model inputs based on the Energy Code, Location, and Building Type. This will overwrite custom inputs into the existing projects and cannot be undone.
Note: If you have used optimization in the past and entered some custom values that you need to preserve, you can choose to lock your project. However, additional functionality like a toggle is provided to retain the older values for the transitioning period. So do keep a lookout for a pop-up on the Project Dashboard first time you enter after the release date.
Image 1: Pop-up on the Project Dashboard
Once you press 'Yes' on this pop-up, it will take from a few minutes to hours depending on the number of projects you have.
If you press 'Cancel' once you have started the update, it will close the pop-up but the update will continue in the background if you keep the Project Dashboard page open.
Image 2: Toggle on the right menu when you click on a project
The functionality will remain active until January 31st, 2023. You can also download your old bundles in an excel format from the Optimization page and transition easily to the new assemblies in Optimization.
Feel free to reach out to us via livechat if you have any further questions and we can help you with those.