VANCOUVER, Wash. — The New Buildings Institute recently announced the official release of its new LEED automation tool, called the COMNET Energy Modeling Portal.
The institute is a non-profit organization with the stated goal of making it easier for builders to create green structures, with the hope of eventually building net-zero energy structures — which would consist of a building receiving all of its energy needs from renewable sources.
The COMNET tool allows contractors or designers to collect energy modeling simulation results, perform quality assurance checks, and submit the results directly to LEED Online, the site builders use to submit their applications for LEED certification.
Essentially the purpose of COMNET is to cut down on the amount of time spent on keeping track of paperwork and entering data, as many contractors feel that this is the largest hardship caused by participating in the LEED process. The actual work on the ground often seems to pale in comparison from the perspective of your average builder.
“Users of the portal can save substantial time and reduce errors in LEED submittals,” said COMNET business manager Jared Silliker. “Until now, energy modelers have had to sift through pages of output reports, locate the appropriate data, convert units, and then manually type this information into the LEED Online Templates.”
The service will allow users to upload simulation results directly from their modeling software to the portal, streamlining the process, and eliminating a lot of tedious data entry. Users will also be able to see the official LEED Online template to make sure the program entered all information correctly. The portal will be usable for projects falling in the categories for new construction, schools, and core and shell.
The portal opened as a free-to-use website in early August, but the service will begin charging a fee between $500 and $1,000 depending on the project, beginning October 1.
The portal is currently compatible with several popular computer modeling programs, including eQUEST, Trane TRACE 700, and EnergyPro, as they already use the COMNET encoding format. Basically they already speak the same language as COMNET. Meanwhile, the New Building Institute is working with other software companies to spread compatibility to other services.
Silliker explained that the portal was the result of a non-profit initiative, but did have expenses to cover in order to keep it operating. “We want to keep the keep the fee low to maximize the use of the tool,” he explained, adding that he felt the time-saving efficiency gained by using the portal would “make the nominal fee well worth it.”
COMNET has been a major group effort with the New Buildings Institute leading a team including Architectural Energy Corporation, Institute for Market Transportation, and RESNET, with help from several government boards and commissions with jurisdiction over building, environmental regulations, and energy.