The VI-Suite is an integrated set of building environmental analysis tools, presented to the user as a set of inter-connectible nodes within the Blender 3D content creation suite. These nodes are created with the Python scripting language and are fully dynamic and context sensitive. Nodes can also contain generated data, enabling a high level of flexibility and reuse of data during a simulation work-flow.
The VI-Suite, and all its components: Blender, Radiance, EnergyPlus, matplotlib and evalglare are free, multi-platform and open-source, minimising cost or hardware barriers to usage. Details of these components can be found at their respective websites:
- Blender - http://www.blender.org
- Radiance - http://www.radiance-online.org/
- EnergyPlus - http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/energyplus/
- Matplotlib - http://matplotlib.org/
Blender is a professional grade 3D content creation suite encompassing geometry modelling, advanced material creation, physically based rendering techniques, game creation and comprehensive animation and post-processing capabilities. Blender has a number of features that make it a suitable choice for hosting the VI-Suite:
- A comprehensive Python language API that allows access to, and control of, the contents of Blender's 3D scene and interface.
- Python scriptable nodes, traditionally used to apply a sequential set of filters to rendered images, but here used to provide a flexible and intuitive interface for the VI-Suite.
- The ability to store and represent VI-Suite simulation results via vertex colour layers, allowing novel data visualisation approaches.
- The ability to modify geometry via the Python API for Environmental Generative (EnvGen) design.
- A physically based rendering system that brings a professional level architectural visualisation work-flow together with advanced simulation capabilities.
The VI-Suite was born out of a desire to more closely integrate the visual and technical aspects of software workflows within the architectural field, and thereby bring together the artistic and scientific natures of the discipline itself.
In future, further expansion and refinement of the VI-Suite is planned. Features currently on the todo list are:
- Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) air flow analysis
- BSDF nodes for the integration of lighting scattering functions into Radiance and EnergyPlus analyses
- New lighting (Mitsuba) and thermal (ESP-r) simulation backends.
- Publication of results to webgl for browser interaction.
- Use of Blender's built-in game engine and augmented reality to explore interactive graphical and numerical results display.
The VI-Suite works on Windows, OS X and Linux platforms and can be downloaded from the 'Downloads' page. A work-in-progress user manual can be found on the 'Documentation' page.