ASHRAE has agreed to fund research that will help to ensure that a common language of “energy efficiency” is spoken by both building information modeling software, and energy analysis and simulation software.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers says that the project will develop open-source reference models by which developers may test their solutions to interoperability between BIM and energy-simulation software.

The project will focus on the most common thermal features in buildings assumed to have the greatest impact on energy use, and provide guidelines for describing thermal models extracted from BIM and the rules for extracting those models used in whole-building energy-analysis applications.

“This research will promote the inclusion of energy efficiency measures in the early design of building model development,” said Mark Clayton, Ph.D., principal investigator for the project. “It is expected to greatly increase the efficiency and accuracy of energy analysis and allow building designs to achieve higher levels of energy efficiency.”

The ASHRAE project, “Development of a Reference Building Information Model for Thermal Model Compliance Testing,” was awarded to Texas A&M University. The $175,311 project is expected to take 15 months to complete.

According to ASHRAE, studies have shown that problems related to exchanging information among various building design software systems causes more than $16 billion per year of unnecessary expenses.

It is imperative that standards for data exchange among disparate software systems be established, said Clayton, the associate director of the Center for Housing and Urban Development at Texas A&M.

“Consequently, the research will enable ASHRAE to foster a standard for interoperability between various BIM software systems and energy simulation systems and address some of the costs attributable to poor interoperability,” said Clayton. “More significantly, improved interoperability is expected to improve the quality of design and the energy efficiency of buildings.”

The project is one of 13 approved for funding by ASHRAE at its 2009 annual conference, totaling approximately $1.6 million.

Some of the other projects approved for funding will take a look at the development of design tools for surface water heat pump systems; ventilation requirements for refrigerating machinery rooms; and thermal comfort in commercial kitchens.