EETD's Rapid Building Energy Modeler (RAPMOD) at the ARPA-E Technology Showcase

February 24, 2014

The ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit opens today in Washington D.C., bringing together researchers from academia, business, and government to advance energy technology innovation. The Technology Showcase at the Summit presents America's next generation of transformational energy technologies.

The Environmental Energy Technologies DIvision of Lawerence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and partners are developing a portable system of sensing and computer hardware to rapidly generate indoor thermal and physical building maps. Using cameras and laser scanners, the team will create a 3D visualization of walls, windows, floors, and other parts of buildings and use a computer model to predict how much energy the building should use. These cameras and scanners are mounted on a backpack, allowing a person to walk through and record the interior of an entire building. Berkeley Lab is collaborating with the University of California, Berkeley and Baumann Consulting on the project.

The portable Rapid Building Energy Modeler (RAPMOD) 3-D indoor mapping system transforms conventional approaches to energy analysis by automating the mapping of existing buildings and streamlining integration with energy simulation tools. This breakthrough approach uses backpack-mounted technology, including laser scanners and optical and infrared cameras, to provide a better, cheaper, faster way of generating computer models of buildings that can be used to enable more energy-efficient operation or to identify deeper retrofit opportunities.

Data needed for energy modeling and simulation can be captured in a single walk-through by a relatively unskilled operator. The resulting 3-D model and accompanying data are then imported into DOE’s EnergyPlus or another energy simulation tool. This enables ESCOs, architects, engineering firms, and utilities to rapidly assess problem areas, identify energy-efficiency opportunities and occupant comfort, and pursue a course of action. The new process is significantly quicker and costs less than current manual data-gathering methods.

RAPMOD’s ease of use and low cost will enable many more existing buildings to be analyzed for energy efficiency opportunities, creating new work for ESCOs, engineering firms, and contractors. The commercial version is expected to cut the time required to create building energy simulation models by at least 30 percent.

In field tests conducted at The Beverly Hills Hotel and Woodland Marriott Hotel, RAPMOD completed indoor mapping in two days, rather than the three months it had taken previously using manual scanning. Outside the energy sector, first responders and computer game developers also can benefit from RAPMOD’s ability to quickly create realistic 3-D building models.

About ARPA-E

The U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has hosted the Energy Innovation Summit for the past four years. ARPA-E funds transformational projects that create entirely new ways to source, distribute, and use energy. Its unique approach combines world-class Program Directors with multi-disciplinary teams to identify promising solutions to the nation’s most critical energy problems. By leveraging the best practices of academia, business, and government, ARPA-E can fast-track new innovative technologies into the marketplace. This push for innovative technologies is critical to securing the nation’s global technology leadership.