SUS 7900A: Building Modeling and Simulation

Spring 2018. Subject to refinement/updating.

Instructor: Robert Bryce, RA, Adjunct Professor
Schedule: Thursdays, 6:30 pm to 9:10 pm
Location: Spitzer Computer Lab
3 credits 3 hrs/week


Robert Bryce, RA
Availability:  in class and by appointment

Michael Bobker, M.Sc., CEM  Director, CUNY Building Performance Lab
Availability:  by appointment at Building Performance Lab, Marshak 118

Teaching Assistants: Alvis Yuen and Edward Leykam


This course provides a critical understanding of, and applied practice in, building performance simulation through energy modeling.  This emerging field utilizes quantitative data to evaluate sustainability/energy design goals and energy code compliance in buildings, as implemented jointly by architects and engineers. Course topics cover basic building systems, how their use of energy is calculated, and how their performance can be measured, characterized, and optimized.  Students will develop working competence in one of the main energy modeling platforms, EnergyPlus (E+) through its OpenStudio front end, familiarity with other programs and tools, and should leave the course with a set of skills that will be applicable regardless of the specific simulation tool being used.


  1. Overview knowledge of building energy modeling and simulation approaches, tools, reference standards and resources
  2. Ability to construct simple energy models with calculations and tools conforming to good practice in the building professions
  3. Ability to apply models to common building industry functions such as comparison of design alternatives, selection of equipment, energy audits and retrofits, code compliance

Course Requirements

Attendance:  As a lab course in which a great deal of the learning is by work in the class, attendance is important and will be recorded.  More than two absences may compromise the student’s grade. 

Lab Work:  Each student will submit lab reports (5 + final presentation) produced on spreadsheets and OpenStudio/EnergyPlus, following lab exercise directions.  Students will work in class in pairs or small teams on the assignments but will be expected to submit their own individual lab reports (1-5).  Students are expected to need additional time outside of in-class lab sessions to complete these assignments.

Mid-term Exam:  A take-home exam will require short essay treatments of topics covered in class lecture/discussion and readings.  

Group Final Project:  Students will perform a team-based energy modeling project.  Each student will present a part of the project.  Project topics and structure will be more fully addressed in a separate hand-out to be reviewed in class. Project work will be presented and submitted in the final week of the course.

Individual Paper:   Each student will demonstrate familiarity with the energy modeling field through a short (6 – 8 page) paper on (a) a specialized topic in energy modeling and/or (b) a software package other than OpenStudio.   Possible paper topics will be more fully addressed in a separate hand-out to be reviewed in class.

Required Reading

Readings are assigned weekly referring to the Bibliography at end of this syllabus. Most assigned readings available as web downloads, on Reserve or in Reference section in the Architecture (Spitzer) library, or in the Building Performance Lab (Marshak room 118).  Especially important will be tutorials and reference material for Open Studio and EnergyPlus.


Student performance will be evaluated based on the following course requirements: 

Individual lab work as observed in class and by required lab submissions30%
One exam (mid-term, short essays, take-home)20%
Team participation and presentation of group final project20%
One individual paper on an energy modeling topic and/or a software package20%

Course Outline


Class Topic-


Class Topic –





Course overview.  Models.  Building Energy Models.

Human comfort and indoor conditions. Climate, weather data, design conditions.

Lab 1 – Sketch-up + Open Studio tutorial and practice. Drawing, navigating, measuring, dimensioning in Sketch-Up.




Building thermal loads – heat transfer: envelope conduction, ventilation + latent heat loads. 

Review Lab 1


Energy calculations using a spreadsheet.


Lab 2 – OpenStudio tutorial



Complete Lab 1.


Lechner ch 15, 4, 5


OpenStudio on-line tutorials (webpage)



Building thermal load - Radiant and thermal mass effects. Internal Loads. Zoning. 


Building energy model data inputs. 

Lab 2 – OpenStudio tutorial


Complete Lab 2.  Calculations due.


Lechner ch 4+5


OpenStudio on-line tutorials (videos)


Energy Modeling in design & construction: Work flow.  Standards & Codes.  Base-case buildings. 

Lab 2 team presentations


Lab 3 - Modify a structure in Sketch-Up/OpenStudio

Lab 2 team calculations due.

Scan/browse the following on-line:

  • AIA Architects’ Guide to…
  • Sallan ch 2  (codes)
  • COMNET 90.1-2016 BM



Presentation to characterize building energy use.   

HVAC systems – 1: overview of components and control

Review Lab 3


Complete Lab 3


Tao&Janis ch 2 +/or Lechner ch 15


COMNET 90.1-2016 BM section 2



HVAC systems – 2 - air and water flow calculations, thermal blocks and zoning.

Lab 4 – Spitzer in Sketch-up/OpenStudio – baseline model and specialization teams


Lab 3 team calculations due.


Tao&Janis ch 2 +/or Lechner ch 15

(Tao&Janis ch 3-4-5-6 – scan)


COMNET 90.1-2016 BM section 2



Lighting technology, calculations, controls and daylighting. 

Take-home Mid-term distributed.

Lab 4 – Spitzer in Sketch-up/OpenStudio – baseline model and specialization teams


Lechner ch 12-13-14


Work on Lab 4. Progress check.


Quality assurance: reviewing inputs and field investigation. 

Lab 4 – Spitzer in Sketch-up/OpenStudio – baseline model

Take-home mid-term due


Quality assurance: field investigation.  Energy auditing & energy measures.

Lab 4 - review & finalize

Lab 5 – Field verifications -

distribution of instruments

Lab 4 complete

Waltz ch 3 + 4 (hand-out)



Energy measures & parametric analysis.  Start of team project.


Lab 6 – energy measures and OpenStudi

Team and sub-team formation


Lab 5 fieldwork




Mid-April – Spring Recess, No Class

April holidays -  Classes follow Monday Schedule, No Class



Energy measures & parametric analysis.  Discussion of team progress over break. 

Lab 5 presentation of field findings and baseline model adjustments

Lab 6 – team meetings

Complete Lab 5 fieldwork


Project work & independent paper research


Measure integration and interactions

Lab 6 – energy measure analysis in OpenStudio/E+ – changes to baseline model


Project work & independent paper research


Communicating Results -Reporting & Presentation


Lab 6 – model integration & reporting in OpenStudio/E+

Project work & independent paper research


Communicating Results-2.  Presentation skills.

Lab 6 – model integration & reporting in OpenStudio/E+

Project work - preparation of presentations


Energy modeling and careers.

Student Presentations

Final Essay due by 5pm 5/25 to Professors Bryce/Bobker