London South Bank University has been teaching the IES Virtual Environment (IESVE or VE) as part of its Built Environment and Architecture and Civil and Building Services Engineering courses for around 20 years. Its user-friendly visual and graphical interfaces and ability to handle complex designs are just a couple of the reasons why the VE is the Universities preferred building simulation teaching tool.
The University prides itself in teaching the VE as an Integrated Design tool and not just for compliance. Throughout the course levels the students are taught from the basics, such as simple geometry modelling, using SunCast, running ApacheSim and CIBSE Loads, to more advanced analysis using MacroFlo and MicroFlo for CFD analysis, and ApacheHVAC.
Teaching methods at LSBU are very practical, workshop-style seminars using computer labs, which helps the students to quickly and easily grasp how to use the software.
The students significantly use the IESVE for their major projects. In both undergrad and post grad programmes, 70-80% of final year projects usually involve VE modelling. Masters and PhD students use the software mostly for research and teaching.
With 95% of students on these courses already employed, some are already using the VE at work whilst others have been exposed to it via reports and meetings. Whilst IESVE is more complex than basic academic software, LSBU sees the value of it as it is widely used in industry. LSBU Built Environment students can combine learning and work, by putting their learning into practice in their workplaces which helps them to advance in their roles.
“The best thing about IESVE is the visual and graphical interfaces. It is very accurate compared to other energy modelling software and widely used in industry. Our courses are mostly part-time and very closely linked to industry. The main reason we chose IES over other software is that it helps us stay connected to industry.
For the students that are already working, using IESVE as part of our courses gives them a lot of experience in changing values in designs and challenging design assumptions and allowing them to see tangibly and quantitatively what impacts those design changes have on the overall energy performance.”
Dr Esmail Mahmoudi Saber, Senior Lecturer
Teaching modelling for design performance, not just compliance
The university teaches IESVE performance modelling as a key part of the design process. Traditionally in industry the VE has been used as a tag on at the end of a design for compliance purposes, but in teaching students to integrate it from the earliest stages of design, the university notes that they are much more comfortable with taking it on board as one of the key tools they use in the design process. Passive design is very much ingrained in the entire way that LSBU teaches the software. The idea is that you are using the VE to reduce the energy use as much as you can from the outset of the design process and it’s not just for compliance.
“As a long term IESVE user and having an industry background, one of the biggest changes I've seen is the move from the software being seen as just a compliance tool to more of a design tool. It's very user friendly and lets people see the impacts of their decisions in a very useful way for teaching.
Rather than just teaching students how to use the VE, we teach the building physics principles that underlie the software. And I think that makes them better users of the tool overall, at least that's the hope. The courses are grounded in the principles of engineering as opposed to just teaching a software.”
Dr Aaron Gillich, Associate Professor – Director of the BSRIA LSBU Net Zero Building Centre