High Performance Design
David Palmer | The Evolution of FenestraPro
In 2002 I stepped away from the first AEC Technology Company I founded, BuildOnline. Over the following years, a number of people asked if it was true that the idea for BuildOnline came to me sitting on a beach in Australia. It turns out that there was a story doing the rounds that this was how I came up with the idea for BuildOnline, which of course wasn’t true.
People love to think that there is a lightbulb moment, a moment of innovation that changes everything. As one of the two founders, people often ask about the conception of FenestraPro and whether I experienced one of those elusive moments. Lightbulb moments rarely happen. Ideas and concepts evolve, and with FenestraPro it has been no different.
For us, the evolution of FenestraPro was logical. My co-founder Simon and I were directors in an architectural firm and experienced significant challenges when it came to understanding building performance. Through academic research, we identified a solution that over subsequent years of market engagement would evolve into FenestraPro.
The Evolution of FenestraPro
When we were in practice pre-2012, the types of building analysis software available were complicated and required inputs determined by engineers, making it challenging to run analysis seamlessly as part of a design project. Inputs such as boiler specifications, HVAC system details, and more were not included in the overall design proposition by engineers until much later in the process, effectively creating a barrier for architects.
Specialist engineers had to be engaged to analyze the buildings’ performance and convince clients that certain decisions may cost more in the short term but are more sustainable and cost effective in the long-term – on small to mid-sized projects this never happened. Furthermore, it was clear at the time that there was a gap in how architects understood the impact of using different materials and components.
As the requirement for more sustainable “passive” design grew it became evident that the AEC industry lacked software functionality that simplified analysis and provided visibility of crucial building performance data that supported the design of more energy efficient buildings.
As part of my research for my MSc in Façade Engineering, I explored the impact of the façade on energy performance and occupant comfort. In practice, the façade was always about the detail and knowing how sacrosanct the intended aesthetic was. However, my research helped me realize that the façade controls more than half of a building’s energy use. This may seem obvious, but the facade is often overlooked in how it can be optimized toward energy efficiency.
An output of my research was a tool that provided façade-related performance data to assist in early design and specification decisions. What began as a sophisticated spreadsheet that measured thermal performance, solar heat loads, and daylighting rapidly evolved into a standalone application that used simplified geometry for these metrics.
Following extensive market research and engagement from some of the world’s leading architectural firms, it was evident that FenestraPro needed to exist in existing workflows. The emergence of Building Information Modelling presented a huge opportunity to do just that.
Partnering with Autodesk® was a game-changer for our applications. We subsequently developed a Revit application that provided performance data for the facade in the conceptual design environment. As FenestraPro evolved based on market feedback, we extended our capabilities to add value at all stages of design within the BIM workflow.
Façade Design and Performance Optimization
In recent years, working with leading façade component manufacturers, we have developed more intuitive functionality around automatic glazing specification selection to meet ever-increasing performance standards. Using FenestraPro, architects and engineers can now compare a refined selection of glazing to meet the performance of a pre-configured fenestration arrangement or use regulatory performance requirements to drive the configuration of your façade to meet the original architectural intent.
10 years on and FenestraPro is now an intuitive BIM tool that is shaping sustainability and resilience within the AEC industry. By supporting architects and engineers to make better design and specification decisions that optimize the performance of the façade at any stage of the design process, we are contributing to the drive for net-zero energy buildings. We are looking forward to the next stage of our evolution and are excited to see what the next 10 years have in store for FenestraPro.