Alameda Creek Watershed Center

Sunol, California

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Newcomb Anderson McCormick, Inc. used the IES Virtual Environment (IESVE) to perform a whole building energy simulation of the Alameda Creek Watershed Center Building for LEED Energy compliance, leading to a Zero Net Energy design.

Key Facts

  • Zero GBCI reviewer comments returned on model results submitted for LEED
  • Total floor area 9,685 square feet
  • Estimated Annual Energy Use 100,507 kWh/yr
  • Annual savings: 43.65% predicted Energy Usage Intensity (pEUI) and 43.16% costs
  • Net Positive - renewable generation exceeds Zero Net Energy (ZNE) building

The Alameda Creek Watershed Center is designed as an interpretive centre for the City and County of San Francisco in order to educate residents on where the area’s water comes from and the importance of preserving the environment. Newcomb Anderson McCormick were contracted as consultants for the City and County of San Francisco to promote energy efficient design and to optimize building performance in terms of sustainability, cost effectiveness, and occupant health and safety.

Using the IESVE for its first project in this contract, Newcomb Anderson McCormick set out to determine the energy and cost savings of the proposed design for this 9,685 ft2 building for LEED Energy compliance. To do this they used the design documents to develop a baseline model of the building in accordance to ASHRAE 90.1 – 2007 Appendix G.

The team was surprised to find that its LEED Energy submission came back fully approved with no iterations required whatsoever. Having used other software packages for previous LEED projects, Newcomb Anderson McCormick hadn’t experienced this before. This saved them a considerable amount of time as there were no amendments to be made and no re-submissions required.

This building had many advanced design elements, such as an interior cold water “living stream” aquarium space, exterior operable window walls, and mixed use exhibit spaces, that Newcomb Anderson McCormick found more intuitive and accurate to model using IESVE than previous experience with other simulation tools. For example, IESVE was used to model the specialized Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) HVAC system. They found that with help from IES Technical Support they could model this with accuracy to ensure efficient sizing and operation of the proposed system. This led to a large proportion of the energy and cost savings.  Annual simulations combining lighting, HVAC, aquarium loads, plug loads, and other miscellaneous equipment found a 43.65% energy savings and a 43.16% cost savings over the baseline design.

On top of this the team supported sizing and design of a 75-kW-DC photovoltaic (PV) power system to supply solar energy which would offset over 100% of the site’s annual electric energy use making it a Zero Net Energy (ZNE) building design.  

“From the start, we received excellent technical support from IES which we really appreciated. The building design is very complex, being part museum, part aquarium, and part classroom; it’s a very unique structure requiring a specialized VRF HVAC system and aquarium cooling and process equipment. We found that with technical support, IESVE was way easier to use and better to use for the VRF HVAC system type and unique building design than other software packages we’d used in the past.”

Jonathon Stage, Director, Newcomb Anderson McCormick

Newcomb Anderson McCormick described some benefits of using the VE in comparison to other traditional DOE- 2 software:


Other software

Good at generating the baseline model with relative ease, even with the complex HVAC, lighting, and internal loads like the aquarium.

Often run into issues where specialized systems, like VRF HVAC systems, are not directly supported.

Smooth while running the baseline building rotation models for LEED.

Often crashes during this process required for LEED credit submittal.

Assigning wall properties is quick and easy, especially when there are multiple wall types with varying properties, by being able to select the walls from the 3D building model.

Have to go into the properties of each wall one by one to change the wall properties.


Simple to go back to the MODELIT application and revise space shapes and sizes.

Changing a space size or shape later in the design process in other modeling software often meant hours of revisions in ‘detailed edit’ mode or even starting the model over again.

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