The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) provides public access to long-term climate data for over 2,100 locations throughout the world in formats suitable for the publicly-funded EnergyPlus whole-building energy modeling software. These files are chock-full of hourly weather data of 30-year averages for temperature, humidity, wind speeds, and much more. For residential projects and other skin-load dominated (SLD) structures, these weather files hold the clues to better adapt our design responses to the environmental conditions they will encounter.
However, it is not clear to most designers how this information can be accessed and utilized in the design process. To state that the information contained in these weather files is dense and overwhelming would be an understatement.
For several years, I’ve taught environmental systems and building science courses for the Boston Architectural College’s online sustainable design certificate program and Master of Design Studies in Sustainable Design (MDS-SD) degree program. In those courses, I teach that a foundation of climate data analysis is critical to understanding what types of environmental control systems can make the biggest impact on reducing a building’s heating and cooling needs. Yet, stringing together disparate web-based and printed resources for different types of climate information in various locations becomes confusing and problematic. We collect climate data in a systematic network of weather stations. There has to be a better way for students and designers to access this information.
Enter Climate Consultant
For years, Professor Murray Milne at the UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design (AUD) has provided several powerful, free software resources on his Energy Design Tools web page. One of the most popular programs is Climate Consultant, a free Java-based platform that takes all of that USDOE weather data and presents it in 17 different charts and/or tabulations – all of which are clear and intuitive visual expressions.