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Spring 2020 Update

June 1, 2020

The CalBEM Working Groups have spent the first quarter of 2020 drafting new project proposals, deploying surveys, and finding and joining existing work towards common goals. These efforts spring from the plans and priorities conceived at CalBEM 2019 and finalized during the January 2020 webinars – Here’s a quick look at what’s been going on:

Group 1: Creating a Streamlined BEM Process

  • A special topics group is coming together to draft a prototype format for standardized software-readable rulesets. Neal Kruis, Michael Sawford, Scott Chriswell, and NREL are collaborating to develop this idea into a whitepaper.
  • Neal Kruis and Supriya Goel are working on the IBPSA-USA Building Data Exchange (BDE) Standard committee to establish a balanced stakeholder standard for BEM-to-BEM data exchange. The group hopes that improved BEM-to-BEM translation capability will improve consistency across public/private compliance tools, prototype development, and sensitivity analyses.
  • At CalBEM 2019 the group agreed that a new, high-level input/output schema to evaluate the implementation of software rules would help to simplify software testing and compliance analysis. To further this goal, Supriya Goel joined the ongoingte efforts of ASHRAE SPC 229P/BDE who are developing a national software testing framework.

Group 2: Developing BEM Education and Resources

Two projects scopes have been drafted and reviewed by this Working Group:

  • The first scope focuses on BEM education in California. Initially the group agreed that the benefits of improving the body of knowledge in both energy modelers and “consumers” of energy modeling merited a closer look. The project seeks to identify high priority gaps in educational resources needed to increase the effective use of building energy modeling in designing new buildings and in improving existing building performance.
  • The second project focuses on BEM outputs communicated via reports. It proposes to: 1) Identify high-priority energy modeling use cases where improved reporting may provide significant benefits; 2) Identify existing work on best practice reporting for the high priority use cases; and 3) Produce recommendations for a sustainable approach to development and ongoing support of standardized reporting for high-priority use cases. Developing and standardizing targeted reporting formats could increase the ease with which designers and other collaborators utilize BEM modeling results, and possibly reduce the cost of software development.

Both project scopes are undergoing a final revision before entering a funding solicitation period. Special thanks to Erik Kolderup, Brian Selby, Ruby Yepez, Heidi Werner, and Mike Wilson for their contributions to the development of these project scopes.

Group 3: Advancing BEM Capabilities and Metrics

Working Group 3 has started to answer key questions with a number of projects and proposals:

  • Have you ever wondered about the compliance pathways in Title 24 and some of the backstory of their intention? Neil Bulger and Larry Froess are exploring the standards and software sides of this issue.
  • How could a third-party review process improve the quality of BEM for exceptional compliance based on advanced systems or missing technologies in software? Greg Collins is exploring the value and potential of this topic.
  • Michael Adams is overseeing an ongoing survey of market actors and gathering a prioritized list of all-electric technology gaps in existing building energy modeling tools.
  • How can you model common low energy systems using available processes and compliance software today? Creating a simple how-to guide for modeling key system gaps has been an oft-debated solution to this issue. Greg Collins is drafting a proposal defining the boundaries of this issue and proposing how such a guide could be written.
  • How can we best keep track of the developing 2022 TDV and Source Metrics scheduled for 2045? The group plans to distribute a summary of the March 26th CEC workshop notes, followed by a simple diagram communicating 2022 Compliance Metrics to energy modelers and designers.

Thanks for keeping up with CalBEM this far into 2020! Look for another update here in August. In the meantime, you can RSVP for the November event or join a Working Group mailing list (see below) to get involved! Please send any other questions to

What are Working Groups?

A Working Group is a team of CalBEM participants dedicated to furthering one of CalBEM’s core goals. During CalBEM events they discuss potential solutions (imagined or inspired by solutions seen in other jurisdictions) to issues identified in the sub-topics explained below. In-between CalBEM events, they work to finalize and execute on projects inspired by these events.

Each Working Group has two designated co-chairs selected based on their experience and involvement related to the Working Group sub-topics. Prior to each event, these individuals work with the host (SCE) and facilitators (2050 Partners and Red Car Analytics) to structure the Working Group breakout sessions (e.g., sub-agenda, presentations, handouts, activities, etc.).

The Working Group sub-topics were chosen with the following criteria in mind:

  • Responsive to feedback from BEM stakeholders,
  • Addresses issues that are not being addressed in another forum, or adds value to an existing process but is not duplicative, and
  • Focuses on issues for which the Working Groups can reasonably develop useful draft Action Plans within a two-day event.

The Working Groups are organized around three core CalBEM goals:

Creating a Streamlined Process for Building Simulation

This group focuses on opportunities to streamline compliance processes through software enhancements, new innovative methods in validation or types of performance compliance, and software application interoperability.

Co-Chairs: Supriya Goel (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) and Neal Kruis (Big Ladder Software)

Key Sub-topics:

    1. Future of Public and Private Code Compliance Software – What strategies could CA explore to expand compliance software to be more accessible, easier to use, and easier to develop by the market? Shaping a Ruleset Validation Standard is one example related to the idea of moving regulatory bodies out of the role of creating software and yet maintaining a level of control and calculation quality.
    2. National Alignment – What efforts are being undertaken by national code agencies or green building rating groups to streamline energy modeling compliance and new performance pathways for users? What alternate strategies should CA agencies for codes, programs, or local incentives consider which may be currently implemented or being piloted elsewhere?
    3. Software Interoperability and New Developments – With energy modeling tools improving and expanding to now include whole eco-systems of software, what needs exist for interoperability? Where the need exists today for multiple models, how could interoperability be enhanced to streamline or change the current dilemma of non-interoperability?

Educating BEM Users and Developing Resources

Group 2 focuses on enhancing resources for the energy modeling community of technical users and agencies, including enhancing shared resources, developing robust methods and documentation for compliance with codes, incentives, and state programs, and prioritizing the most educational items.

Co-chairs: Erik Kolderup (Kolderup Consulting) and Dimitri Contoyannis (Model Efficiency)

Key Sub-topics:

    1. Creating a Robust Reporting Process – In both code compliance and in green building standards, review of results and documentation of calculations is necessary. What best practices exist for enhancing compliance of models that are created, such as peer review and automated checks of modeling files? For documentation itself, where could enhancements or simplifications be made in state documents for codes and program administrators’ documents for incentives and where are examples for such available in the industry, be it states or through private rating systems such as LEED?
    2. Educating a Larger Workforce & Advancing Skills – As energy modeling and software inform more elements of the built environment, what ways can the BEM community further attract talent and teach the necessary skills to support this expanding scope? What gaps exist today? What are the priorities for enhancing workforce education? What educational resources could be developed to enhance the general knowledge for properly modeling in specific software or in general?

Advancing BEM Simulation Capabilities, Accuracy, & Metrics

Group 3 focuses on increasing the accuracy of software and advancing capabilities to address evolving policy objectives in the short-term and long-term. Sub-topics reflect immediate technical challenges for software and the need to identify short and long term solutions to address them.

Co-chairs: Larry Froess (California Energy Commission) and Neil Bulger (Red Car Analytics)

Key Sub-topics:

    1. Advancing Metrics – Status on the future of carbon metrics and other metrics being developed, including T24-TDV and other carbon accounting.
    2. All-Electric Buildings and Technology Gaps – With more projects aiming to reduce carbon emissions and state long term goals energy modeling simulation tools must be able to represent the technologies being used in all electric buildings today. What technologies and capabilities are most important to this effort
    3. Developing Interim Calculation Methods for Key Technologies – Alternative calculations and methods for code compliance in CA require a technical submission and public engagement process. As a process is determined for ways to engage with the CEC, what information can be gathered for key technology gaps today to provide specifications, supporting documentation such as new physics-based models, laboratory testing, and field installation verifications.

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What are Draft Action Plans?

During CalBEM events, the Working Groups prioritize sub-topics and then refine and develop problem statements, goals, and actions for the prioritized sub-topics. These materials form the backbone of robust draft Action Plans.

The Action Plan structure is organized around these problem statements. Each problem statement will have one or more actions to be taken that create movement towards resolution of the stated problem. Each action includes priority, status, lead stakeholders, other stakeholders, key barriers, schedules and notes.

Meetings and Webinars

After the completion of the annual CalBEM event, the Working Groups develop projects based on the issues identified in the Action Plans and continue to support a developed and functional building energy modeling ecosystem in California.