Load Modeling and System Design Software Comparison

Load Modeling and System Design Software Comparison

rooftop HVAC unit

Introduction to loadmodeling.tool

In the last 10-20 years, not much has changed in the way engineering firms design and size mechanical systems. Although engineers have a large role in climate change, many are using outdated technology that was never designed to tackle the current problem of reducing emissions.

Modern problems require modern solutions – this is why cove.tool designed loadmodeling.tool. loadmodeling.tool is a state-of-the-art solution made by engineers for engineers. It is an automated, full-featured load modeling and system design tool made for consulting engineers, design/build contractors, HVAC contractors, facility engineers, and other professionals involved in the design and analysis of commercial building HVAC systems. The tool leverages the EnergyPlus engine for detailed room-by-room load calculations and HVAC system sizing. Models are accessible via a web interface for quick performance and ease of sharing results. The entire model is exportable to OpenStudio and EnergyPlus for offline use and record keeping.

Built on open geometry, loadmodeling.tool provides a much-needed advancement, solving one of the most significant issues faced by engineers: the vast amount of time lost on remodeling geometry before any design can take place. loadmodeling.tool allows engineers to validate design strategies early to avoid costly changes later. This reduces unnecessary time lost by 60-80%, freeing up resources for engineering firms to focus on their value-added work, take on more projects, and increase profit.

loadmodeling.tool also solves another problem most engineering firms face: centralizing information in one accessible location. Gone are the days of passing around outdated Excel files. With firm-wide and individual templates, engineers can easily start projects with up-to-date inputs based on years of project data and knowledge. Senior Engineers can more effectively share their wealth of experience with new staff, maintaining this resource within the firm.  

In the modern, work-from-home era, offline solutions no longer make the cut. Since loadmodeling.tool is entirely based in the cloud, whether in the office, at home, or in the field, load calculations and results can be accessed from anywhere. Now, engineers can easily collaborate with their teams while keeping their clients in the loop. For example, a senior engineer in a project charrette can receive complete load results performed by a member of their team working in the office and use that real-time resource to guide the design team to optimal solutions.

The cloud-based nature of loadmodeling.tool is just one of the ways that it enhances teams’ ability to collaborate. loadmodeling.tool integrates with the wider cove.tool platform to provide a seamless connection between early-stage energy analysis and detailed room-by-room load modeling and system design. When engineers make a change to their initial load model, the energy model calculations automatically update to match the new design. This provides engineers with a clear view of the project’s performance throughout each design phase, from early schematic design to the end of construction, reducing time-consuming rework.

Making the switch to an automated load modeling and system design tool may seem daunting. To assist with this switch, loadmodeling.tool is designed from the ground up with user experience in mind. This makes the platform easy to learn and use. In addition, subscriptions include access to world-class training, education, and support. Support is easily accessible via live chat. cove.tool building science and mechanical engineering experts are ready to help with any issue that may arise and will provide you with answers in minutes.

Click here for a complete list of loadmodeling.tool features.

loadmodeling.tool has undergone multiple updates, each adding significant functionality. View a list of newly available features:

loadmodeling.tool V2.5

loadmodeling.tool V3

The latest update, loadmodeling.tool V3.1, provides automated room-by-room reporting for every project and allows users to size all equipment types – down to a room’s diffuser and up to the central heating and cooling plants. It also includes automated sizing reports for each room to further speed up engineers’ load modeling workflows on every project. 

Available Options

Within the load modeling and system design software space, there are a few potential options you may consider before making your purchase decision. Below are short descriptions of each product with pertinent features:

Trane TRACE 3D Plus Load Design vs. loadmodeling.tool

Overview 

Trane TRACE 3D Plus Load Design is a building design and analysis software program that delivers load modelling results. HVAC systems and controls can be modeled precisely with many building applications. The software is built on the U.S. Department of Energy’s EnergyPlus engine and enhanced with Trane’s expertise to help designers validate and interpret projects with clarity.

Trane has indicated that the current version of TRACE 3D will no longer be available as of March, 2024, maintaining each version for only two years. Updates may be backward compatible, however long-term accessibility of stored model files is unclear. This should be considered when deciding on long term solutions for a firm’s load modeling process. For further information, refer to Trane’s Software Support Lifecycle Update.

Calculation Methodology

TRACE 3D Plus calculations are based on the EnergyPlus engine. Trane has supplemented the engine with additional proprietary functions. Calculations can be run in the cloud, providing significantly faster simulation times than TRACE 700.

Trace 3D Plus is also useful for green building design. Simultaneous calculation and comparison of up to 20 alternatives allows users to review multiple options for carbon, renewable energy, and cost savings.

Useful Applications

TRACE 3D Plus’s functionality extends past most traditional load modeling software offerings. Some useful applications include the ability to:

  • Schematically configure systems and plants with built in systems validation to prevent potential modeling mistakes;

  • Accurately model real-world designs, including renewable energy, radiant heating and cooling, and complex chilled-and hot-water systems like those in mixed water heat-exchanger loops;

  • Model complex building systems, such as multi-story, multi-level floors and detailed roofing systems, as well as intricate system and central plant designs.

What Sets loadmodeling.tool Apart

Trane Trace 3D Plus compared to loadmodeling.tool from cove.tool

Interoperable – While TRACE 3D Plus accepts models from Autodesk Revit via gbXML, loadmodeling.tool accepts geometry from any architecture tool – Autodesk Revit, Rhinoceros, Sketchup, or ArchiCAD via streamlined plug-ins.

Unbiased – Most legacy competitors, including TRANE 3D Plus, are owned by mechanical system manufacturers. loadmodeling.tool is not, and therefore is inherently unbiased.

Continuous Updates – cove.tool is committed to supporting users through continuous maintenance and improvement of the loadmodeling.tool platform. Backed by over $30 million in funding, support and access to all projects will be maintained for the foreseeable future.

Unmatched Support – Live chat support is available from cove.tool building science and mechanical engineering experts. Engineers can expect a much higher level of service and support than they have ever previously received - getting answers in minutes as compared to weeks. There are also a variety of free help articles available covering frequently asked questions.

Workflow – loadmodeling.tool was designed with workflow improvements in mind. Users spend less time re-importing work, less time on cleanup, and less time manually re-inputting text into input fields.

Project Retention – loadmodeling.tool projects are retained indefinitely on cloud servers. Additionally, the cove.tool platform is designed to be continuously backwards compatible. As a result, there is no need to maintain legacy versions of a desktop application to access old models. loadmodeling.tool also offers a full model export to OpenStudio and EnergyPlus – both of which are backed by the US Department of Energy. This provides engineers with a secondary means of archiving 100% of their model data.

Results – Both loadmodeling.tool and TRACE 3D Plus have reporting capabilities and provide users with the ability to export to Excel and pdf. loadmodeling.tool provides users with the added functionality of web-based report generation. The loadmodeling.tool Excel export also enables a direct connection to engineering calculations.

Learning – Like cove.tool, Trane has numerous resources to assist engineers with learning about load modeling, environmental and economic analyses, and software use/functionality. Trane University provides HVAC learning and development solutions by delivering innovative, dynamic education opportunities. Unlike cove.tool, which provides free learning opportunities across the board, these courses cost $350 each for a 8-hour virtual course or day of live training.

Daylight Analysis – with the cove.tool product suite, users can easily use loadmodeling.tool models for comprehensive, automated daylight analysis.

Open Source – Both loadmodeling.tool and TRACE 3D Plus are based on the EnergyPlus engine. loadmodeling.tool leverages the EnergyPlus engine to ensure accuracy and offers a full model export to OpenStudio and EnergyPlus. The OpenStudio application suite is a cross-platform, open-source whole building energy modeling platform. OpenStudio is developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the US Department of Energy with the objective of helping the AEC industry design more energy-efficient buildings. OpenStudio uses EnergyPlus as the energy modeling engine and Radiance for daylight analysis. TRACE 3D Plus does not provide native OpenStudio exports or IDF files. Instead, all data is stored within the TRACE 3D application.

Building Codes – TRACE 3D Plus and loadmodeling.tool share a very similar, industry standard approach, essentially automating default values based on the assigned energy code. Because loadmodeling.tool is tied into the wider cove.tool platform, users can run an automated baseline energy model, including benchmarking – this is a function no other platform includes.

Collaboration – With the cove.tool product suite, collaboration between architecture and engineering teams is effortless. loadmodeling.tool works in tandem with the cove.tool platform to provide a seamless link between early-stage energy analysis and detailed room-by-room load modeling and system design. Because models are stored on the cloud, any team member can access their most up-to-date model at the click of a button.

IESVE vs. loadmodeling.tool

Overview

IESVE (Integrated Environmental Solutions - Virtual Environment) is a suite of integrated analysis tools for the design and optimization of buildings. The IESVE platform leverages a simulation engine (ApacheSim) to allow cross-team collaboration between architects, engineers, and contractors, from Schematic Design to Post-Occupancy. Some of the tool's capabilities include HVAC loads and sizing, whole-building energy modeling, daylight & lighting design, energy compliance & building standards, and airflow for occupant health and comfort.

There are two distinct means of space conditioning and HVAC simulation within IESVE: Apache Systems and ApacheHVAC.

Apache Systems involves auto-sized and ideally controlled system modeling for schematic design and code compliance. While it may be useful in the early stages of design, the systems are approximated and are thus far less representative of actual system equipment, configurations, and controls. Thus, this type of modeling is not generally used in detailed design development, documentation of energy use for the ASHRAE 90.1 performance rating method, thermal comfort studies, or other detailed analyses. The UK market utilizes Apache Systems for code compliance, and it is a very common application of the tool in that region.

The more detailed application of the two, ApacheHVAC, supports the definition, configuration, control, and dynamic modeling of HVAC systems. Component-based system models can be built from scratch or by modifying auto-sizable prototype systems, which can otherwise be used in their pre-defined configuration. It interacts with ASHRAE Loads (also known as Apache Loads or ASHRAE Heat Balance Method) for system sizing and with other thermal applications, such as MacroFlo. ApacheHVAC is invoked as an adjunct to ApacheSim by linking to a particular HVAC system file when the building model simulation is run.

Calculation Methodology

IESVE uses the ASHRAE Heat Balance (HB) Method to calculate cooling and heating loads of rooms, zones & buildings, in order to comply with ANSI/ASHRAE/ACCA Standard 183. Thermal loads are calculated using the ASHRAE Transfer Function load method. System components are sized using the System-Based Design concept, which applies the ASHRAE Heat Extraction Methodology to link system performance to building thermal loads. Energy modeling uses full 8760 hours-per-year analysis to evaluate the operation of a wide variety of air handling and plant equipment. Energy costs are computed based on energy use, demand profiles, and utility rate structures. A wide range of tabular and graphical outputs is available.

Useful Applications

IESVE ApacheHVAC helps with designing systems and sizing system components, therefore it can handle projects involving:

  • New design, retrofit or energy conservation work for office buildings, retail stores, strip shopping centers, schools, churches, restaurants, large office buildings, hotels, malls, hospitals, labs, factories, and multi-use buildings; and

  • HVAC Systems including AHUs, VRF (water & air-source), VAV, ASHPs, fan coils, radiators, chilled ceilings, heat recovery, UFAD, chilled & hot water plants and more.

  • Currently the most flexible tool on the market allowing very complex HVAC systems to be modeled. 

What Sets loadmodeling.tool Apart

IESVE compared to loadmodeling.tool from cove.tool

Interoperable – although IESVE accepts geometry from Autodesk Revit and SketchUp, loadmodeling.tool accepts geometry from any architecture tool – Autodesk Revit, Rhinoceros, Sketchup, or ArchiCAD.

Continuous Updates – cove.tool is committed to supporting users through continuous maintenance and improvement of the loadmodeling.tool platform. While IES releases a new update every quarter, loadmodeling.tool updates every two weeks, and most of these updates add new features to improve the user experience.

Unmatched Support – Live chat support is available from cove.tool building science and mechanical engineering experts. Engineers can expect a much higher level of service and support than they have ever previously received - getting answers in minutes as compared to weeks. There are also a variety of free help articles available covering frequently asked questions.

Workflow – loadmodeling.tool was designed with workflow improvements in mind. Users spend less time re-importing work, less time on cleanup, and less time manually re-inputting text into input fields.

Results – Both loadmodeling.tool and IESVE have reporting capabilities and provide users with the ability to export to pdf and Excel. loadmodeling.tool provides users with the added functionality of web-based report generation.

Learning – While IES offers some free courses, access to the majority of their on-demand learning courses requires payment. cove.tool includes free learning opportunities with your subscription.

Open Source - loadmodeling.tool leverages the EnergyPlus engine to ensure accuracy and offers a full model export to OpenStudio and EnergyPlus. The OpenStudio application suite is a cross-platform, open-source whole building energy modeling platform. OpenStudio is developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the US Department of Energy with the objective of helping the AEC industry design more energy-efficient buildings. OpenStudio uses EnergyPlus as the energy modeling engine and Radiance for daylight analysis.

Cloud Access – IESVE requires users to load their copy of the application to each of their own machines, but with cloud access, loadmodeling.tool users can access the application anywhere. Users simply need internet access to operate the cloud application.

Collaboration – With the cove.tool product suite, collaboration between architecture and engineering teams is effortless. loadmodeling.tool works in tandem with the cove.tool platform to provide a seamless link between early-stage energy analysis and detailed room-by-room load modeling and system design. Because models are stored on the cloud, any team member can access the most up-to-date model at the click of a button.

Ease of Use – While IESVE is a powerful tool, it is specialized and targeted towards advanced energy modelers and energy analysts. IESVE proves difficult for many less-specialized users, while loadmodeling.tool is designed with the user in mind. 

Disclaimer

Recent advancements in load modeling and system design software, specifically the addition of 3D geometry, have rendered solutions once considered “industry standard” obsolete. A large proportion of engineers are still using this software but should consider some of the more modern options to ensure accurate results and speed up workflows.

 Below is a comparison of 2D load modeling and system design software options:

Trane TRACE 700 vs. loadmodeling.tool 

Overview

TRACE 700 is Trane’s legacy platform to the current version of TRACE 3D Plus. It is a design and analysis tool that helps engineering professionals optimize their building design and operation through simulation. TRACE 700 is used for HVAC system design as well as energy and economic analysis. At the design development stage, it aids evaluation of energy-saving concepts, such as the effects of daylighting, HVAC optimization strategies, and high-performance glazing. Models can help document compliance with some versions of ASHRAE Standard 90.1 or validate the building’s eligibility for LEED certification.

According to Trane, “TRACE 700 customers should plan on transitioning to the TRACE 3D Plus platform as soon as possible.” Trane has indicated that service and support for TRACE 700 will end on January 1st, 2023, meaning that users will no longer receive technical support or maintenance updates. By 2028, users will no longer have access to TRACE 700 in any capacity. Projects modeled in the tool will not be accessible, as TRACE 700 is a proprietary system. This creates potential legal issues for design teams, due to common contract requirements around archival of all correspondences, design documentations, and calculations (load models) for long periods (10-15 years) after project completion. For further information, refer to Trane’s Software Support Lifecycle Update.

Calculation Methodology

“TRACE 700 calculations apply techniques recommended by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The program was tested in accordance with ASHRAE Standard 140-2004, "Standard Method of Test for the Evaluation of Building Energy Analysis Computer Programs," and it meets the requirements for simulation software set by ASHRAE Standard 90.1 and the LEED Green Building Rating System.

Useful Applications

TRACE 700 helps with designing systems and sizing system components, therefore it can handle projects involving:

  • Small to large office buildings, retail stores, strip shopping centers, schools, churches, restaurants, large office buildings, hotels, malls, hospitals, factories, and multi-use buildings;

  • 8760 hours-per-year analysis; calculation methodologies for building components being modeled; hourly variations in occupancy, lighting power, miscellaneous equipment power, thermostat setpoints, and HVAC system operation, defined separately for each day of the week and holidays; thermal mass effects; ten or more thermal zones; part-load performance curves for mechanical equipment; capacity and efficiency correction curves for mechanical heating and cooling equipment; and air-side and water-side economizers with integrated control;

  • HVAC Systems including PTACs, PTHPs, PSZ-AC, PSZ-HP, PVAV, PVAV with PFP boxes, VAV and VAV with PFP boxes.

What Sets loadmodeling.tool Apart

Interoperable – While TRACE 700 accepts models from Autodesk Revit via gbXML, loadmodeling.tool accepts geometry from any architecture tool – Autodesk Revit, Rhinoceros, Sketchup, or ArchiCAD.

Unbiased – most legacy competitors, including TRACE 700, are owned by mechanical system manufacturers. loadmodeling.tool is not, and therefore is inherently unbiased.

Continuous Updates – cove.tool is committed to supporting users through continuous maintenance and improvement of the loadmodeling.tool platform. Backed by over $30 million in funding, support and access to all projects will be maintained for the foreseeable future.

Unmatched Support – Live chat support is available from cove.tool building science and mechanical engineering experts. Engineers can expect a much higher level of service and support than they have ever previously received - getting answers in minutes as compared to weeks. There are also a variety of free help articles available covering frequently asked questions.

Workflow – loadmodeling.tool was designed with workflow improvements in mind. Users spend less time re-importing work, less time on cleanup, and less time manually re-inputting text into input fields.

Project Retention – loadmodeling.tool projects are retained indefinitely on cloud servers. Additionally, the cove.tool platform is designed to be continuously backwards compatible. As a result, there is no need to maintain legacy versions of a desktop application to access old models. loadmodeling.tool also offers a full model export to OpenStudio and EnergyPlus – both of which are backed by the US Department of Energy. This provides engineers with a secondary means of archiving 100% of their model data.

Results – Both loadmodeling.tool and TRACE 700 have reporting capabilities and provide users with the ability to export to pdf. loadmodeling.tool provides users with the added functionality of web-based reporting and easy to use Excel exports.

Daylight Analysis – with the cove.tool’s analysis.tool, users can easily use loadmodeling.tool models for comprehensive, automated daylight analysis.

Open Source - loadmodeling.tool leverages the EnergyPlus engine to ensure accuracy and offers a full model export to OpenStudio and EnergyPlus. The OpenStudio application suite is a cross-platform, open-source whole building energy modeling platform. OpenStudio is developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the US Department of Energy with the objective of helping the AEC industry design more energy-efficient buildings. OpenStudio uses EnergyPlus as the energy modeling engine and Radiance for daylight analysis.

Building Codes – TRACE 700 and loadmodeling.tool share a very similar, industry standard approach, essentially automating default values based on the assigned energy code. However, only loadmodeling.tool receives continuous updates that will keep to pace with all future code adoptions.  Because loadmodeling.tool is tied into the wider cove.tool platform, users can run an automated baseline energy model including benchmarking – this is a function no other platform includes.

Cloud Access – TRACE 700 requires users to load their copy of the application to each of their own machines, but with cloud access, loadmodeling.tool users can access the application anywhere. Users simply need internet access to operate the cloud application.

Collaboration – With the cove.tool product suite, collaboration between architecture and engineering teams is effortless. loadmodeling.tool works in tandem with the cove.tool platform to provide a seamless link between early-stage energy analysis and detailed room-by-room load modeling and system design. Because models are stored on the cloud, any team member can access the most up-to-date model at the click of a button.

Native 3D Geometry – With cove.tool’s free drawing.tool, users can effortlessly design buildings of any size with intuitive tools and easily define occupied/unoccupied areas and thermal zones for load modeling. TRACE 700 does not have geometry, 2D or 3D, as part of the application. 

Carrier HAP vs. loadmodeling.tool 

Overview

Carrier HAP (Carrier's Hourly Analysis Program) is a computer tool which assists engineers in designing HVAC systems for commercial buildings. HAP is two tools in one package - 1) a platform for designing HVAC systems for commercial buildings, and 2) an energy simulation for comparing energy consumption and energy costs of alternative options.

By combining both tools in one package, input data and results from system design calculations can be used in energy modeling studies to check efficiency and costs.

Calculation Methodology

HAP features load calculation and system sizing for commercial buildings plus hourly energy modeling. Thermal loads are calculated using the ASHRAE® Transfer Function load method. System components are sized using the System-Based Design concept, which applies the ASHRAE Heat Extraction Methodology to link system performance to building thermal loads. Energy modeling uses full 8760 hours-per-year analysis to evaluate the operation of a wide variety of air handling and plant equipment. Energy costs are computed based on energy use, demand profiles, and utility rate structures. A wide range of tabular and graphical outputs is available.

Useful Applications

HAP helps with designing systems and sizing system components. Therefore, it can handle projects involving:

  • Systems including rooftops, variable refrigerant flow (VRF) central air handlers, WSHPs, GSHPs, fan coils, chilled water, and hot water plants and more;

  • Many types of constant volume and VAV system controls;

  • Small to large office buildings, retail stores, strip shopping centers, schools, churches, restaurants, large office buildings, hotels, malls, hospitals, factories, and multi-use buildings; and

  • New design, retrofit or energy conservation work.

In addition, HAP’s 8760-hour energy modeling capabilities are useful for green building design. For instance, HAP energy analysis results are accepted by the USGBC LEED Rating System.

What Sets loadmodeling.tool Apart

Carrier HAP compared to loadmodeling.tool from cove.tool

Interoperable – Unlike HAP, loadmodeling.tool accepts geometry from any architecture tool – Revit, Rhinoceros, Sketchup, or ArchiCAD.

Unbiased  Most legacy competitors, including HAP, are owned by mechanical system manufacturers. loadmodeling.tool is not, and therefore is inherently unbiased.

Continuous Updates – cove.tool is committed to supporting users through continuous maintenance and improvement of the loadmodeling.tool platform. While HAP updates bi-annually, loadmodeling.tool updates every two weeks, and the majority of these updates add new features to improve the user experience.

Unmatched Support – Live chat support is available from cove.tool building science and mechanical engineering experts. Although HAP provides support through the phone and through email, support for loadmodeling.tool takes only minutes to receive a response, rather than days or weeks. There are also a variety of free help articles available covering frequently asked questions.

Workflow – loadmodeling.tool was designed with workflow improvements in mind users to spend less time re-importing work, less time on cleanup, and less time manually re-inputting text into input fields.

Results – Both loadmodeling.tool and HAP have reporting capabilities and provide users with the ability to export to pdf. loadmodeling.tool provides users with the added functionality of web-based report generation and a user-friendly Excel export.

Learning – Like loadmodeling.tool, Carrier provides free training videos for HAP. While HAP offers 10 comprehensive videos to assist users with their transition, new loadmodeling.tool training videos are in constant production and outline workflows and proper procedures at a much more granular level.

Daylight Analysis – with the cove.tool’s analysis.tool, users can easily import loadmodeling.tool results and models for comprehensive, automated daylight analysis.

Open Source - loadmodeling.tool leverages the EnergyPlus engine to ensure accuracy and offers a full model export to OpenStudio and EnergyPlus. The OpenStudio application suite is a cross-platform, open-source whole building energy modeling platform. OpenStudio is developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the US Department of Energy with the objective of helping the AEC industry design more energy-efficient buildings. OpenStudio uses EnergyPlus as the energy modeling engine and Radiance for daylight analysis.

Cloud Access – HAP requires users to load their copy of the application to each of their own machines, but with cloud access, loadmodeling.tool users can access the application anywhere. Users simply need internet access to operate the cloud application.

Collaboration – With the cove.tool product suite, collaboration between architecture and engineering teams is effortless. loadmodeling.tool works in tandem with the cove.tool platform to provide a seamless link between early-stage energy analysis and detailed room-by-room load modeling and system design. Because models are stored on the cloud, any team member can access the most up-to-date model at the click of a button.

Native 3D Geometry Creation – with cove.tool’s free drawing.tool, users can effortlessly design buildings of any size with intuitive tools and easily define occupied/unoccupied areas and thermal zones for load modeling. HAP doesn’t have any comparable features, and instead relies on tables where users input all required values.

Conclusion

Evidently, there are numerous load modeling software solutions available. Before making your purchase decision, it is important to carefully weigh the functionalities of each option against one another. TRACE 700 and Carrier HAP will get the job done, but they are limited, either due to their age or usability. Newer options, such as loadmodeling.tool, IESVE and TRACE 3D Plus, provide additional 3D design functionality, more import and export options, and more accurate results built on advanced simulation engines. loadmodeling.tool’s interoperability in terms of architecture tools, lack of manufacturer bias, cross-team collaboration, unparalleled user support, and learning resources set it apart from comparable offerings.

Check out our introductory video to learn more about loadmodeling.tool, or visit our product page to set up a free trial. 

Resources

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