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Software for study and simulation – and often free (Workshop 4)

Dana Buntrock, chair, Center for Japanese Studies | July 5, 2011

This is one of a series of posts on an energy conservation workshop a group of us from Berkeley offered in Tokyo June 23-26.

In my last post, I noted that we brought a number of tools to measure light levels, heat, and air movement. Many of these are in fact made in Japan, but differences in the educational system for architects meant our workshop participants were unfamiliar with the tools–and excited to use them to understand the energies in the environment around us.

In addition to these hand-held tools, the Berkeley team loaded laptop computers with a number of softwares, and these, by contrast, were pretty much made-in-America. That should come as no surprise; there has been greater support for the development of such softwares in the States than elsewhere–and, of course, being U.S.-based and developing this workshop very quickly, we were also biased to what we knew.

We used Apple laptops, because we could partition the computers and run both Windows-based and Mac-based software; with all the apps on our iPhones, and the ubiquity of the laptops–one computer modeler glued to each–we certainly reflected the West Coast bias to Steve Jobs’ machines.

Modeling team

Left to right: Brendon (M.Arch '04), Ibone (M.Arch '09), David (M.S. '11), and Jeremy(M.S. '11).

Some of these softwares are known by academics in Japan; there was a conversation one day between Dr. Masayuki Mae of the University of Tokyo and Brendon Levitt (M. Arch ’04) about the inherent problems of a software called THERM, developed by the Lawrence Berkeley Labs and available for download free.  But many were not known to the architects we work with; while non-specialists can get themselves in trouble with complex softwares, these tools can also help the architects we met keep honing their knowledge after we leave, and those we demonstrated have good information on-line about how to use them. We used Berkeley’s project-support system, bSpace, to establish links to many of these softwares so that the workshop participants can review them later.

I am out of my league here–my specialty is simply the study of the profession of architecture in Japan–but I was told that the folks from Loisos + Ubbelohde, assisted by our graduate students, performed miracles, offering rough, but nearly simultaneous, simulation feedback to the teams who participated in redesigning exercises in the afternoon. Here’s an image of Kyle Konis, one of the grad students, going over some of the data with a team of Tokyo-based architects:

And here is another group, at the end of the workshop, presenting the results of four intensive days of redesign, a moment that will look familiar in some ways to any architect from anywhere in the world–but note the amount of data presented as part of the project:

Final presentation

Final afternoon.

By the way, do these folks look young to you?  The guy in the white shirt, Mr. Norihisa Kawashima, is an architect in a large firm called Nikken Sekkei and on the Monday after the workshop, he brought the team on a tour of a building he recently completed, the new Sony Building in the Osaki area, shown below.

Sony Building, Osaki area, Toky




Next time, and my final follow-up post: what did our Japanese colleagues think of all this?


See all the entries on this workshop:

#1: Architects talking energy–in Tokyo
#2: California Collaboration: Activate a Cloud
#3: Technology & Toys
#4: Software for study and simulation
# 5: Where do we go from here?

Or see photos:

Everyday Wurster’s site on Flickr