The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released OpenStudio, a free energy design plug-in that works seamlessly within the Google SketchUp 3D drawing environment. The plug-in simplifies use of DOE's EnergyPlus simulation software, which identifies potential energy savings by modeling lighting, heating, cooling, ventilating, water, and other building energy flows.

OpenStudio makes it easy to create and edit the building geometry in EnergyPlus input files using the Google SketchUp tools. With the native SketchUp 3D capabilities, users can view the geometry from any vantage point, apply different rendering styles and architectural finish details, and perform accurate shadowing studies. OpenStudio also allows users to launch EnergyPlus simulations and view the results without leaving SketchUp.

EnergyPlus Version 3.0 is available for Windows, Linux, and Macintosh operating systems, and includes several new features such as new datasets, input syntax changes, updated zone and ventilation controls and models, enhanced cost calculations and economic reporting, and extended documentation and guides.

OpenStudio was created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for the DOE and is compatible with both the free and the Pro versions of Google SketchUp 6 or Google SketchUp 7.

OpenStudio will integrate directly with the EnergyPlus Example File Generator to help generate a code-compliant building. The Example File Generator will accept the IDF file that is generated from OpenStudio and will apply constructions and HVAC systems along with other energy-efficient options such as overhangs, daylighting, and photovoltaics. The resultant building will be returned via email that can then be opened in OpenStudio.

OpenStudio is available as open source. More information, along with a form to register for a free download of the OpenStudio plug-in, is available on the EnergyPlus Web site.