I highly recommend reading the article “Don’t Be a Tool – Use Yours Properly” by Jason F. McLennan, in current issue of Trim Tab.

Many designers seem to think acquiring the right tool is the ultimate answer. I used to think this as well, until digging deeper into learning to use Ecotect a little over three years ago. Thoughtful arguments presented in the article challenge that assumption. The tool is not the answer, the right mindset is. Understanding and interpreting data for what it is is not the role of technology, it is only experience and deep understanding of how predictive information can inform decisions without directly driving them. Conceptual energy analysis, the focus of the article, commonly falls victim to style over substance. Data without interpretive and thoughtful analysis (the human variety) is data without true meaning.

Beware of tools that show you seemingly final or complete results. Predictive analysis is best used in comparative studies of design alternatives. Garbage in, garbage out. No client will, let’s hope, write the utility companies a check from the graph you so cleverly and colorfully display in your presentation for a building yet to exist. They must live in and operate their buildings in ways you could never predict. Humans always surprise. Buildings are not always executed as they are represented in your original, incomplete, design intent. An EUI of the building cannot be accurately predicted in the early stages of design, regardless of the tool you have.

As a technologist and designer, this concept, while seemingly fundamental, is the most challenging message to get listeners to actually hear. We all should always try to create the right balance of tool, gut and science in the conversation. This is most important when training and mentoring someone to use a new tool.

Trim Tab is a publication of Cascadia Green Building Council.
Click to read the Winter 2012 Issue.


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