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Ultimate iPad Guide: Sustainable Design Apps for Architects

Our listing guide continues with Sustainable Design Apps for Architects on iPap. This is a tough category with a mix of so-so apps and a few really good ones. Yet, it is ripe for better tools.

Sustainable Design Apps for Architects

This is a really interesting category because we believe there can be quite a lot of apps doing various things for architects related to sustainable design. Some apps could focus on energy analysis, financials and planning. While other apps could focus on building envelope design related to energy analysis. Others still could focus on things like materials, global resources, shipping data, carbon impacts and many other aspects of green design and sustainable goals. Others still could help architects with the specifics of rating systems like LEED.

However, despite the fact that all this is possible, it turns out that there clearly isn’t enough folks convinced out there that a market full of apps like this would be a worthwhile endeavor. Much like the CAD industry in general, the market leaders in desktop software tools for energy analysis and sustainable design are not present in the “apps” economy for mobile devices.

Even folks with interesting tools and processes and available through the Web are missing in the iOS market. The folks at Sustainable Minds for instance don’t have an iOS app. But they should. Ecodesign and LCA (life-cycle assessment) tools are available through the web and surely you can get at them from the iPad using Safari, but that is not the same as a native iOS app experience.

Another interesting web-based set of tools for sustainable design is by a company called Sustainable By Design, of Seattle, which Architosh has written about before. These Java-based tools could easily be imagined on iOS.

What Did We Find

Without desktop market leaders–like IES (Integrated Environmental Solutions), Autodesk ( Green Building Studio) and Bentley (Hevacomp Simulator v8i) for instance–in the iOS apps market with energy analysis tools we are left with an array of somewhat interesting, somewhat useful energy analysis-related utility apps for your iPhone or iPad. In fact, many are iPhone apps.

Not to be fully discouraged, we did find in our research some interesting items. One discovery was the NASA Ames based Cell Phone Chemical Sensor and app for iPhone. Very cool! Very very cool indeed. It sniffs out chemicals like methane, ammonia, chlorine gas and more. Such an app could be quite useful for architects and engineers walking reclaimed urban and semi-urban sites. Bear in mind that such activities fall outside the expertise of architects and their training but such a capability, attached to your phone for instance, is nonetheless compelling. Also bear in mind that this app is not available commercially.

So what did we find that is useful and interesting? Well, perhaps less on the side of useful but more on the side of interesting is Azimuth Sunrise Sunset. This app is a real earth simulator feeding NASA satallite imagery onto your iPad’s screen. (see image 01).

01 - Azimuth Sunrise Sunset is fed live satellite imagery with calculated sun light on the earth. Works with GPS data also.

02 - Sun Money is a little cool app for calculating paybacks or ROIs for various alternative energy source options like solar PV panels.

03 - Schneider Electric's app shows you cost savings for using "variable speed motors" in lieu of traditional fans with dampers and controllers for HVAC equipment.

Sun Money is a nifty little app that helps you assess payback periods for implementing various energy alternatives for home heating and hot water. (see image 02). We liked Schneider Electric’s Variable Speed Drive Energy Savings Calculator. This app calculates savings for variable speed fans in commercial air-handlers versus the use of traditional mechanical systems with damper controls. (see image 3).

The List (13 Apps)

Here is a listing of some of the more interesting and cool apps useful for energy analysis or design work that an architect may make good use of. In this category in particular we are well aware that we may be missing something. We would appreciate an email if that is the case. Without further ado:

  • Azimuth Sunrise Sunset — this app is really cool for its visuals. Azimuth is a real-time simulator that looks gorgeous on your iPad’s big screen. You can interactively explore sunrise and sunset visually for the entire globe, pinpoint your location with GPS and more. Awesome visualizations with daily cloud feeds (zoom level 5) and the highest quality available imagery from NASA’s Blue & Black Marble satellite. (59 reviews, not rated) 1.99.USD
  • CodeGreen Energy App — this app gives building owners and professionals a way to view Energy STAR scores for thousands of buildings right from their iPad. (3 reviews, not rated) Free
  • Energy Intelligence — this app is a reader publication from a noted resource for monitoring the energy intelligence scene globally. While not an app in the sense that it does something for you based on input, this app-pub provides valuable info. (5 reviews, not rated) Free
  • Evergreen Energy Calculator for iPad — a simple tool for comparing annual energy costs based on use of various heating and cooling systems. (1 review, not rated) Free
  • GreenWave Reality — this app helps you monitor and control your energy use at home from anywhere, using GreenWave’s innovative management solution for iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. (2 reviews, not rated) Free
  • iViro — this app by Envirolytics this app is a home energy analysis tool. iViro sends your custom inputs to their thermal and electrical modeling software in the cloud, taking into account information about your structure, HVAC systems, local weather, windows, doors, home appliances and energy prices. (5 reviews, 1 1/2 stars) Free
  • Lutron Home Control+ — this app requires a Lutron total home control system such as HomeWorks QS or HomeWorks Illumination. With it you can control your Lutron system remotely, including editing clock events and more. (49 reviews, 3 stars) 19.99.USD
  • Nest Mobile — this app works in conjunction with your innovative Nest learning thermostat. Use this app to change the Nest’s temperature, view and edit the schedule remotely, find out if you are saving energy and more. (498 reviews, 4 stars) Free
  • PVme – My Solar Energy Calculator — this app helps you calculate the size of your solar PV system needed to zero out your electricity bill. Considered a great tool for solar power beginners. (5 reviews, 2 stars) Free
  • Sun Angles — this app does what you think it does: gives you basic sun data like altitude, azimuth, sun peak, sunset, sunrise, etc. Provides professional-grade accuracy for professionals who use the sun in their designs, and what architect doesn’t? (5 reviews, not rated) 0.99.USD
  • Sun Money — this app is part of the Sun Energy Apps suite. Sun Money will calculate savings, payback periods, cash flows, and net present value (NPV) for your specific system, in your specific conditions, with your particular electricity rates. This app is for the iPhone but will run on your iPad just fine. (zero reviews, not rated) 0.99.USD
  • SuperGreenSolution Energy Savings Calculator — this app allows people to roughly calculate their payback, dollar savings and carbon emission (CO2) savings they install solar, wind power and solar hot water. (6 reviews, not rated) Free
  • Variable Speed Drive Energy Savings Calculator — this app gives you savings data associated with using variable speed drives for commercial and industrial fans for HVAC equipment compared to traditional systems using damper controls.

The Gem in this Group

We consider the gem in this group the innovative Nest self-learning home thermostat. Actually, one doesn’t just have to use it at a home but that is the primary market. In truth the software and the hardware and their integration are the gem. Does that sound familiar? It should. Innovative software and hardware engineering together is what makes Apple stand out.

04 - The Nest's user interface is clean and attractive--much like something Apple may have done if they attacked this market.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Nest’s creator (Tony Fadell, creator of the first iPod at Apple) was an important Apple alum. Architosh wrote about Apple doing such products (devices) in January of 2008.  We wrote:

“This fifth new product category will no doubt have something to do with the home, a fertile territory pregnant with possibilities on how we manage our lives and the array of electronics that draw energy within our homes. Energy — or how we use it in particular — can become the fifth new hot product category for Apple, something I am sure Al Gore personally would love to see happen.”

In November of 2008 Apple announced that Tony Fadell was leaving the company. It certainly made us go “hmmm?” in more ways than one.

next page: Utility and Tools Apps for Architects (31 Mar 2013 published)

series index page: Ultimate iPad Guide: Apps for Architects

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