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The green building game is changing. A recent McGraw-Hill Construction SmartMarket Report characterized the green building movement as one that has shifted from ‘push’ to ‘pull,’ as companies around the world are recognizing both the environmental and the business value of sustainable, energy efficient buildings. Similar to fuel efficiency ratings for vehicles, rating and disclosing the energy performance of buildings is becoming increasingly common around the world. For that reason, predicting a future building’s energy consumption before breaking ground is important for optimizing building designs and developing these ratings. But predicting a building’s energy consumption requires energy-use simulation on a scale that most architecture firms can’t achieve without a research lab and enormous computing power. At Microsoft, we’re working to change that.
Microsoft Research Connections and the Royal Danish Academy are teaming up with Green Prefab, a startup in northern Italy, to develop a set of next-generation architectural design tools that will use cloud computing to simulate a future building’s energy consumption. Green Prefab’s library of preassembled green building components will be used by architects to access civil engineering services in the cloud, so they can produce energy efficiency reports, conduct in-depth structural analysis and produce photo-realistic images of the building. The startup is working with Microsoft Research Connections to develop some of its first tools in the Windows Azure cloud computing environment, and the Institute of Architectural Technology of the Royal Danish Academy has conducted an experiment with the prototypes that proves the potential of the cloud-based approach.
In the Academy’s experiment, the same architect used both cloud computing and a standard dual-core PC (the traditional approach) to execute energy consumption simulations for the same building. In the end, the cloud-based approached achieved about twice the potential energy savings (33 percent, compared to 17 percent for the traditional approach). Using the cloud also reduced the computing time to a manageable level: the architect was able to run 220,185 energy consumption simulations in the cloud in only three days. By comparison, running the same number using a standard dual-core PC would have taken 122 days.
Microsoft Research’s collaboration with Green Prefab will aid architects in designing buildings that consume substantially less energy than most buildings today, and is one more example of how cloud-based technology can be used to help solve global environmental challenges.
Read more about the ways cloud computing can enhance IT energy efficiency and provide new ways to address environmental challenges on our Microsoft Environment page. And follow us on Twitter (@Microsoft_Green) for more sustainability news.