While many people are familiar with UCLA as a university, because it is so large, it’s difficult to track all the different important studies conducted there. Yet many of these can directly improve the lives of people right now. Take for example the HEED, or Home Energy Efficient Design program, developed at UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design. Begun back in 2002, it was created to help literally everyone improve the energy efficiency of their homes. For free. What is it? Basically, HEED provides a set of tools that help anyone and everyone re-design housing to be more energy efficient. Even better, it can be applied to both new and existing structures. And while it was initially developed for California homeowners—they were identified by their utility providers—the software has since been reconfigured so that professionals in the building industry can also use them. The software now can be used by architects, contractors, engineers, and of course, individual homeowners. This free, downloadable software incorporates several advanced features that allow both individual DIY-ers and professionals to restructure and redesign the efficiency of new and existing structures.
So what does this suite include? Well, there are tools to design a floorplan, standardized roof construction, walls, windows, window shading and even thermal mass based on one’s design. Even better, the software calculates the changes in utility rates as well as the carbon footprint of the design. Finally, all this individual information can be contextualized within global climate data. The additional Climate Consultant 5 provides further graphic data on temperature, humidity, and the impact of near and distant objects down to the day. Even more exciting is that because the software is free, information can be shared without worrying about the prohibitive cost or licensing of expensive, specialty programs, and we all know which programs I’m talking about. The entire program has been designed for easy access and use. How does this facilitate design? By allowing, for example, a client and the people he hires to share ideas easily. For example, clients can explore different energy-efficient schemes on their own first. I can hear the protestations: “But clients don’t know what they’re doing!” While that is debatable, another way to look at this is that having both the client and professional sharing the same software will facilitate effective communication. And if anyone is near California, free workshops are offered on the software.
This array of free tools does seem impressive, doesn’t it? After all, if it doesn’t turn out to be useful, it didn’t cost you anything except perhaps a little time, did it?