MIT Sustainable Design Lab
Simulation Game

Christoph Reinhart, Timur Dogan, Diego Ibarra and Holly Samuelson
Full Paper

Being able to read thermal simulation results and to adapt one’s design accordingly has become an essential skill for graduating and practicing architects. In this study we developed and evaluated an innovative way of how this skill can be taught via a 90-minutes in-class exercise or ‘game’ based on DesignBuilder/EnergyPlus. The game was tested in a class of 47 architecture students who competed to generate the lowest Energy Use Intensity (EUI) for an office building in Boston. Design upgrades were associated with a cost premium and the overall upgrade budget was capped. The EUIs of the ten final submissions were 22% to 31% below the base variant (see figure below). While student essays revealed a clear preference for game-based learning vis-a-vis conventional teaching methods, the authors further propose that the game nourishes the emergence of an energy modeling ‘culture’ within schools of architecture that may lead to enhanced communication between architects and energy modelers. You can download the DesignBuilder files that we used for the game below. Download old DesignBuilder game files and instructions here.

In 2015 we released a new, improved simulation game using the Grasshopper plug-in ArchSim.

Please note: If you decide to use the game for teaching, please use the following reference: C F Reinhart, T Dogan, D Ibarra and H W Samuelson, "Learning by doing - Teaching energy simulation as a game", Journal of Building Performance Simulation, 5[6], pp 359-368, 2012.You are very welcome to share your experience with us afterwards.