Benish Design

Digital Strategy, User Experience & Interactive Design

Tools for designing energy efficient buildings

Water heating is the #1 way to gain efficiency in multifamily buildings. Heat pump water heaters are dramatically more efficient but each system needs to be designed for its specific environment. These systems are especially challenging because they are very different than traditional systemseven the equipment manufacturers don’t fully understand the best approaches, because they don’t have all the necessary data about the built environment.

That’s where Ecotope comes in: they have been providing building design consulting and engineering services for over 40 years and are experts on all aspects of sustainability in buildings.

Helping engineers design more efficient buildings

The first project in our partnership with Ecotope was the Ecosizer: a tool to help building designers create heat pump water heating systems for multifamily buildings. This app appears somewhat simple on the surface, but required robust logic and error checking to ensure that we get valid and logical values for all the inputs.

An extensive data dictionary was created to determine things such as: minimum and maximum values, warnings for unusual (but valid) values, when to enable or disable fields based on others, and conditional checks to ensure some fields are larger or smaller than others as required by the laws of physics.

We integrated the user interface that we designed and built with Ecotope’s backend application to craft a tool that helps engineers create more energy efficient buildings.

Simulating and exploring energy usage & efficiency

The next evolution of this application is a more complex tool that will empower utilities, manufacturers, engineers, and regulators to compare different design approaches and technologiesand explore the impact on energy usage and efficiency.

In addition to the building, occupancy, system, and usage characteristics from the Ecosizer, the Ecosim will allow users to set a building location (to pull in weather data) and choose specific heat pump equipment. A mathematical model is created for the building to evaluate water and energy usage, and determine if the appropriate equipment was chosen.

Phase 1 of this project included strategy and user experience design (another robust data dictionary and extensive wireframes)design and development has not yet started.

Saving money, and the planet

Commercial Heat Pump Water Heater systems are 2–3 times more efficient than other methods, and we are in the midst of a national transformation: 90% of multifamily construction will use this technology by 2026. The tools we created with Ecotope are empowering people to build more efficient environments, which saves money and helps to mitigate the climate crisis.

“We heard many compliments on the layout and ease of use from leading-edge engineers. Great work!”
Paul Kintner, Ecotope

We excel at thoroughly and efficiently solving substantial design and communication challenges