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Release News: FormIt 360 Pro – Conceptual Modeling with Integrated Energy and Solar Analysis

May 14, 2015

The Autodesk BPA Team is extremely pleased to announce the launch of FormIt 360 Pro at the annual AIA Convention in Atlanta this week!

FormIt 360 currently provides powerful conceptual modeling for free, and now FormIt 360 Pro subscription offers integrated whole building energy and solar analysis and live collaboration. For more information on FormIt 360 and FormIt 360 Pro read the FormIt blog. Read on for more information about the exciting new BPA related features in FormIt 360 Pro…




FormIt 360 Pro – Energy Analysis

FormIt 360 Pro Energy Analysis applies the Energy Cost Range to your FormIt conceptual mass form. Previously the Energy Cost Range was developed through Autodesk Labs and it is also currently available in Revit as a Beta. The main purpose and intent of FormIt 360 Pro Energy Analysis is to provide high level targeting and feasibility of energy performance from the earliest stages of the design process and help inform decisions about overall building mass form. The main elements of FormIt 360 Pro Energy Analysis are summarized below.

The Energy Cost Range – A Single Simple Indicator of Building Energy Performance

From the top menu in FormIt you will see an icon for the Energy Cost Range (ECR). This reflects the current state of the project for the most recently analyzed conceptual mass form.

ECR Logo

The Energy Cost Range Icon in FormIt 360 Pro


A single click of this icon will take you straight to the Energy Cost Range, from which you can submit your conceptual mass form for analysis. Before you submit your model for analysis, all that’s required is to set your location. Skip ahead to Automatic Energy Analytical Model Creation for information on how an Energy Analytical Model is created from your FormIt conceptual mass.

The main reason for focusing on energy cost at this stage is simply because it can be more easily appreciated by a larger number of people, and speaks more directly to owner value. The range itself is comprised of a mean, minimum, and maximum energy cost automatically computed from a few dozen DOE2.2 whole building energy simulations. These additional energy simulations are automatically run when you submit an analysis and can effectively represent millions of potential combinations, with just a small loss in accuracy but saving you millions of discrete simulations it would normally take–not to mention the cloud computing resources and energy it would consume!!!

An additional advantage of the Energy Cost Range is that a range better represents the reality of building energy simulation, especially at conceptual design and helps mitigate risk and manage client expectations relative to actual building energy use and savings.

The ECR also includes the Architecture 2030 benchmark for your project. This benchmark provides a way to understand the relative performance of your project by comparing it to this popular target. The Architecture 2030 benchmark is calculated as a percentage (currently 70%) of real historical building energy use for different locations gathered from extensive surveys, and is a target which is aggressive, but still achievable. The ECR automatically retrieves the Architecture 2030 Target using ENERGY STAR's EPA Target Finder calculator, then translates the energy targets to energy cost targets using the project energy cost and fuel type distribution. For more detailed results, you can refer to the ENERGY STAR results and the raw simulation energy results in Green Building Studio.

ECR 2030

The Energy Cost Range including Architecture 2030 and ASHRAE 90.1 benchmarks


Energy Range Factors – Outcome Driven Input with Real-time Feedback

Of course any information on building energy performance, even presented as a range, is only as useful as your knowledge of and confidence in the inputs and assumptions used. In this respect, the ECR contains, and is ultimately driven by individual “factors,” each of which relate to different aspects of building design and operation that influence overall building energy use. These factors currently include aspects such lighting efficiencies, roof and wall constructions, window glass, HVAC, operating schedules, and other factors that you might choose to specify for your building design. Critically, unlike other tools that require specific assumptions and single simulations, the range of factors and values simulated in addition to how they are combined and represented in the Energy Cost Range provides immediate cause and effect feedback so that you can quickly appreciate opportunities for higher performance.

You can navigate through the factor widgets by clicking on them and then moving the sliders to choose an option, or a range of options. The options for each of these factors represent a range poor inefficient choices to high efficiency choices. The Energy Cost Range will update based upon your selections, as an indicator of how sensitive the project is to each of these factors. A History widget also tracks how your Energy Cost Range is changing as you update your widgets. Hovering over the vertical bars provides more detail of the costs, the widget that was edited, and date of the change. You can also use the slider on the bottom to select a specific range to focus on, and zoom in and out of the chart.

ECR Widgets

Example Energy Range Factors


Automatic Energy Analytical Model creation including Thermal Zoning

By utilizing the powerful new Automatic Energy Analytical Model creation capabilities of Revit 2016 in the cloud it’s possible to create an accurate, reliable Energy Analytical Model directly from your conceptual mass forms. A key part of this process and unique to FormIt 360 Pro at this time is the creation of Thermal Zones based on ASHRAE 90.1 Appendix G guidelines (previously as per Vasari). This essentially leaves you free to model mass forms as you wish and trust that the Energy Analytical Model created is providing an accurate representation of the physical form without any additional modeling effort.

With FormIt 360 being a powerful, flexible modeler there are of course some limitations in automatic Energy Analytical Model creation worth being aware of. For example, it’s entirely possible to create geometry that won’t be meaningful to the Energy Analytical Model creation in FormIt such a single chain of walls with no floors or roofs or a piece of furniture. In summary, the main intent of Energy Analysis in FormIt 360 Pro is to analyze mass forms and not models containing highly detailed geometry and materials (which have no meaning for the analysis).  The diagram below illustrates the nature of what’s generally supported and what’s not.

ECR Check

An illustration of FormIt conceptual mass models suited (and not) for Energy Analysis 


Other keys things to keep in mind:

  • FormIt geometry that does not create closed or “non-manifold” geometry will be ignored in the FormIt to EAM creation.
  • Mass forms with levels assigned are interpreted as Spaces and Surfaces which are included in heat transfer simulation whereas mass forms without levels assigned are translated as Shade Surfaces that do not take part in the heat transfer simulation but do cause shading on other Surfaces taking part in the heat transfer simulation. This is important to know when modeling surrounding buildings or context.
  • A default percentage glazing of 40% is applied to the conceptual mass form across all orientations. Note that there is currently no way to model windows or glazing in FormIt in a meaningful way for Energy Analysis. In order to do this, simply download the Revit file from A360, and add windows, curtain walls etc. in Revit.
  • Small gaps and “rough edges” in the Energy Analytical Model are to be expected especially in more complex mass forms. This is a current byproduct of translation process and while a little inefficient, sometimes ugly they generally have little to no impact on the directional accuracy of the energy analysis data. This is something we are continuing to work on for both aesthetic and computational efficiency.

Of course the key to understanding all of this is simply to submit an analysis and examine the Energy Analytical Model in the viewer.

ECR Zoning

FormIt conceptual mass forms to Thermally Zoned Energy Analytical Model 


FormIt 360 Pro – Solar Analysis

In addition to Energy Analysis, FormIt 360 Pro also includes Solar Analysis. The Sun icon in the top menu allows you to visualize shadows for different times of day and year. Additionally, this icon allows you to access the Solar Analysis capabilities. Simply select any surface you wish to visualize the solar radiation for and select analyze. Your results will appear directly on your FormIt model. You can iterate through different times of year in addition to understand how the monthly peak radiation varies in addition to comparing the annual cumulative radiation for different mass forms. Hover over the analysis results to get exact values that can help you understand the distribution and intensity of solar radiation on various areas of a mass, taking into account the shading effects from adjacent objects, such as vegetation and surrounding buildings that can be included in your FormIt model.


Solar Analysis for FormIt 360 Conceptual Mass


Try it today! Get a free 30 day trial

Conceptual modeling with FormIt 360 is free for all to try, and the Pro features detailed above plus live collaboration are available for a free 30 day trial. All you need is a browser and an Autodesk ID. Check it out now, let us know your thoughts and help us continue to shape the future of making higher performing, more sustainable buildings. 



Efrat Stark is a Product Manager at Autodesk who works on Autodesk's online properties. Her main products are Autodesk University Online and Community which includes blogs, social share, social sign in, comments, reviews, public profiles, and more.