February 27th 2024

SPHERA: Energy modelling for Sustainability Projects using IESVE

SPHERA: Energy modelling for Sustainability Projects using IESVE

SPHERA has been successfully using the IES Virtual Environment (IESVE) for their clients’ sustainability projects, primarily for bioclimatic simulations and energy modelling.

SPHERA, based in Costa Rica, provides consulting services for sustainable and regenerative practices during the pre-design, design, construction and operation of building projects. They have over 13 years’ experience in energy simulations and the majority of their projects are for large, new builds like manufacturing plants, hotels, office buildings and residential multi-storey complexes.

SPHERA’s role is to ensure that buildings are designed and constructed for optimal energy performance. The team collaborates with architects, HVAC designers and builders to implement strategies to optimise energy and water consumption, and to reduce the carbon footprint. They also help architects to implement strategies for optimal thermal comfort for occupants.

They use IESVE software for bioclimatic simulations, such as natural ventilation and natural sunlight, as well as energy modelling to gauge how much energy a building will consume. SPHERA made the transition to IES’s software three years ago, having conducted comprehensive market analysis. Natural ventilation capabilities are a key component of SPHERA’s projects, as an alternative to HVAC systems, and their legacy software was not meeting their needs. IES’ software was a clear winner after SPHERA trialled it for a month and found it to be very intuitive.

Plaza Telares Shopping Centre, Guatemala

SPHERA completed a project for Navitta, a commercial developer in Guatemala. Navitta have been adding sustainability strategies to their new and retrofit projects for the past five years, and this project’s objective was to achieve Energy Net Zero and be the first building to gain a sustainability certification.

The plan was to build a two storey, open-concept shopping mall and commercial centre within an UNESCO Heritage site. Spanish colonial architecture is found all over the small, colourful town of Antigua, which was founded in the 16th century. The shopping mall’s architecture resembles a Spanish hacienda and its concept is a tribute to the ancestral art of Guatemalan weaving.

The user experience is critical when it comes to retail spaces, and thermal comfort is non-negotiable. The status quo in Guatemala is controlling the environment with artificial lighting and cooling equipment, but this project needed to push the boundaries in terms of natural ventilation and lighting. The year-round weather and geolocation provided perfect conditions to use natural lighting and natural ventilation, with temperatures staying at around 20-29 degrees Celsius.

IES’ software was used to help design and analyse the cooling strategies for the shopping mall, such as how big the openings should be and where they should be located. IESVE provided SPHERA with the tools to ensure that the natural ventilation strategies were compliant with thermal comfort and Indoor Air Quality established by CIBSE AM10 and ASHRAE 62.1.

VistaPro also helped them understand the conditions in the space on an hourly basis, for a deeper engineering analysis. The energy simulation involved numerous calculations and nearly 8,760 hourly data entries were analysed to make sure the thermal comfort of the spaces met the client’s requirements. SPHERA continued to check the natural ventilation and lighting design during the construction phase.

The client and tenant requirements were met and surpassed:

·     86.2% reduction in the cooling system operating costs against a traditional cooling system

·     Overall operating costs lowered and Net Zero verification achieved (the PV system covers the remaining energy consumption thanks to flexible, local regulations regarding solar energy)

·     Thermal comfort was achieved with all stores using natural ventilation (apart from the manager’s office which has AC as it couldn’t be naturally ventilated)

·     LEED documentation was easy and effective with the use of IESVE

·     Plaza Telares can communicate positive sustainability strategies and reduced carbon emissions, therefore attracting more customers

·     Better indoor environment quality and natural ventilation can be showcased as a viable solution to thermal comfort and natural lighting in the region

·     The project owner can sell energy to tenants (from the PV produced), creating energy as well as saving it.

Jose Vargas, Sustainability & Energy Consultant for SPHERA:

“IESVE provided us with the tools and solutions to extract detailed data to compare different scenarios, allowing us to analyse how they performed in relation to the thermal comfort of naturally ventilated spaces.”

A19, Residential tower, Panama City

This beautiful, residential building project for Desarrolladora Aurea is currently in the construction phase. There are six apartments on each floor, each with large balconies in a unique, curved design, built to reduce thermal gains.

The challenge, due to legal requirements, involved choosing the best of just six designs that would give maximum protection from the sun, enable lots of natural ventilation, whilst also keeping on budget.

SPHERA worked closely with the architect to design the facades of the building and used IESVE for solar radiance analysis. They needed to have a really good understanding of the solar radiance of the facades to protect the living spaces from thermal radiance. They also carried out daylight analysis with IESVE to ensure all the apartments have a good amount of natural light.

Pablo Rojas, SPHERA’s Deputy Director:

“Natural ventilation and natural lighting, when available, must return as the status quo in the design process of environments, making it the standard. IES has created a powerful yet user-friendly tool to help push design boundaries and we must take advantage of it. IES are really great to work with, and they provide our team with all the support we need.”