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Shoebox model

What is a shoebox model? How do I do a shoebox model?

Patrick Chopson avatar
Written by Patrick Chopson
Updated over a week ago

Compliance-level energy simulations require a lot of time and details to set up. By the time such details are included in the building design, a number of major energy and cost-saving opportunities are lost. Thus, architects, engineers, consultants turn to the shoebox model to conduct an early-stage analysis and later scale it to a detailed developed model.


What is a shoebox model? shoebox modeling?

A "Shoebox" model is an initial, oversimplified model of a building in which the actual building (or part of the building) is represented as a rectangular box.

"Simple box modeling" is a whole building energy simulation used to evaluate energy end uses and demand before building geometry and site orientation have been set in the design process. It is a great way to quantify performance early to inform design.

Most whole building energy simulations require a mechanical system design, making them unsuitable for early-design modeling. In response, architects and energy modelers are turning to shoebox models, which typically have one or just a few zones and a less time-consuming to setup. The shoebox energy model is especially valuable during the pre-design and schematic design phase before the building form has been determined. It can be build very quickly and can therefore be used to inform early design decisions to optimize building energy performance.

Why should one do a shoebox modeling?

Often the initial design decisions are based on a designer's intuition and experience. Such decisions can include the orientation of a building, massing design, placement and size of windows, choice of shading devices, assemblies and much more. The intuition might a lot of times lead the designer to overspend on unnecessary shading devices while shade is being provided by the context or miss out on more optimized assembly options for a project. Thus, investigating in the early stages of design using a shoebox model can save an architect from making very big mistakes and help capture big energy, design, and construction savings.

It also gives designers an opportunity to test and evaluate ideas by playing and quickly developing multiple simulations.

Pro tip: Shoebox modeling is so easy and filled with rich information, that it can be performed even before the project has been awarded to the firm. Showing such analysis in the project interview can give your firm a leverage in winning the project.

How to conduct a shoebox modeling in cove.tool?

There are a number of ways to carry out a shoebox model analysis in cove.tool:

  1. Rapid-prototyping Facade tool
    This feature allows users to rapidly prototype shading configurations for each orientation on a shoebox model without requiring it to be modeled in a 3rd party platform, first.

  2. This feature allows you to quickly input the areas for walls, floors. roof, glazing from a napkin sketch and run an energy analysis based on a backend shoebox model created from those dimensions, compare it to benchmarks, get the climate report etc.

  3. Drawing.tool/3D import
    You can use simple elements like walls, windows, doors in the drawing.tool to create a shoe box model (or import one using plugins for 3D modeling softwares liek Revit etc.) and run daylight and energy analysis on it. As you move forward with the design stages, you can keep adding more details to your shoebox model.

    Pro tip: Don't forget to use the Compare feature to decide on the best massing, shading device, system type for your design.

Happy Modeling!

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