Using Optimization for Renovation Projects

Step by Step Workflow for Optimizing Renovation Projects

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

There are 6 steps in the process of optimizing renovation projects using cove.tool.

  1. Identifying the scope of the project

  2. Setting up a 3D model

  3. Matching it to the existing geometry

  4. Calibrating the baseline energy model to match scope

  5. Modeling the Energy Conservation Measures

  6. Selecting the best bundle in Optimization to make design decisions


1. Identifying the scope of the project

Alterations can be made to the existing building in various ways (refer to the image below). Depending on the approach and what components of a building will be impacted, this will inform the extent of analysis inside cove.tool. Once you match the scope of your project, go ahead and create a project in cove.tool.

2. Setting up a project and 3D model

Start a new project in cove.tool. If your project type is Renovation or Tenant Improvement, begin with a single-use building template. If you are doing an addition to an existing building or any such combination where you want to change one part of a building but want to know the energy impact on the whole structure, you can choose to go with multiple use types – like putting the existing structure in one use type and then the addition part in another use-type. Read more about mixed-use here.

3. Model the Existing Geometry

  • Have a model which matches the existing conditions of the building
    If you have a model from the previous architect in Revit, Sketchup, Rhino, etc., you can export it directly to cove.tool using the plugins. If you only have access to the drawing set, you can import image files and trace the plans within the drawing.tool to model your building for analysis.

  • Identify the scope of analysis relative to the geometry
    Determine what part of the geometry you want to run the analysis on. Are you retrofitting for the entire building, a single level, or just some selected areas of the building? If it’s the latter, you do not need to create the whole building, you can trace only those areas in detail and the rest can be modeled as a box model just for shading benefit purposes.

  • Set up the cove.tool views in your BIM model to export the geometry.

    i) Mixed Use Analysis - If you are going with mixed-use export, make sure no elements are duplicated. Bring the common walls in just one of the use-type, the software will automatically bring everything together.

    ii) Single Levels Analysis - If you are going with a single level export, bring only the target floors, to place your level on the actual height with reference to your building, place a reference floor element of 1sqft on the ground level and the web app will automatically place your level according to that. Other parts of the building can be brought in as massing objects in shading device view to only contribute to the shade it will provide/obstruct light to the target floor. If the target floor is not the top-most floor, then there should be no roof (create a 1 sqft element to suffice the requirement of a roof). The massing above in the shading device view should act as a ceiling to the target area and create accurate conditions.

    iii) Select Area Analysis - If you are going with select areas export, the walls which are common with the other parts and won’t have any heat transfer, place them in the cove.tool interior walls view. That will automatically make them adiabatic.

    iv) Taking in necessary elements - And finally, make sure the elements you bring in are necessary for your analysis. No structural elements, rendering objects, or unnecessary furniture will be required for energy modeling.

4. Calibrate the Model Inputs

After you bring in the geometry, you must map the parameters of the building accurately to reflect the existing conditions of the building. Some key inputs on the baseline energy page to reflect the current condition of a building are:

You can gather all this information in the following ways:

  • Previous drawings and plans

  • Talking to the previous architect, engineers and current habitants

  • Surveys

  • Utility Bills

Utility Bills

If you get the latest bill, you can set up different combination of parameters in cove.tool starting with the code minimum and match the utility cost. There might be a bunch of combinations to reach a particular cost, however you will be close enough for a building which has no starting basis.
For historical buildings, refer here.

5. Identify the Energy Conservation Measures

Once the model is set up and matched, start deciding on what all changes can and are allowed to be made as a part of the renovation.
Is there any scope for façade upgrades that could increase the ventilation or increase air tightness? Can the system type or appliances be improved? Are LEDs something that the space lacks because they were not introduced when the building was built?

Then you can start changing and manipulating these parameters one by one in the different tabs on the baseline energy page.

You can also copy the project and create iterations of your project and use the compare projects feature to compare up to 4 cove.tool projects side by side in a stripped-down results format.

6. Setup Optimization

Once you have understood the energy condition of the project and what kind of upgrades might be useful for the renovation, you can move on to Optimization which will help you parametrically explore building component combinations to make cost-conscious and performance-driven decisions.

Based on your ECMs, you can start setting up the Optimization Page by:

  • Setting all baseline costs to $0.00

  • Delete any non-ECM categories

  • Adding realistic alternatives with Cost Estimator and Project Team

Identify the Best ECM Bundles:

  • Use the sliders to parse through the data. Set targets for cost premiums, pay back, and more to generate the best upgrade recommendations

  • Export Report

Happy Modeling!!

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