Principles of learning and simulation

The power and, at the same time, the weakness of ESP-r is its ability to offer users multiple ways to represent and analyse the built environment in an attempt to emphasize particular design aspects and deal with parameter uncertainty. Not only does the tool expect a model which is syntactically correct (of course many checks are applied to assist in this process) but it assumes that the problem has meaning in a thermophysical sense - that is the system has no internal capability to check semantics. While an expert will derive great power from this, a novice will typically feel unnerved.

It has been observed that the self-taught are content to be led by the tool itself rather than to develop a personal view on what is actually required and to then achieve this by creative use of the tool. Tool-led use is characterised by overly complex models, significant resource requirements and missed deadlines. Effective simulaton use is an acquired skill. These tutorials can contribute to the acquisition of skills. However, serious use of simulation is often best undertaken with the aid of a mentor and/or formal training.

Simulation task ordering

Rule one of simulation:
Delay approaching the keyboard. Time spent planning, considering the nature of the design, the facilities you may wish to use, and the criteria by which you will judge the simulation predictions will almost always result in a more efficient use of staff and computing resources. A pencil and some paper are some of the best tools for a simulationist!
Rule two of simulation:
Try ideas out on a small scale before attempting complex descriptive or analysis tasks.
Rule three of simulation:
Look first at the performance of typical portions of a large problem to gain an appreciation of how it works before launching into a full blown simulation based programme.

Abstracting reality

Abstraction, the description of the essence of the design into the syntax of the simulation tool, is difficult for both novices and experts. It is rare that there is either the resource or reason to support a one-to-one mapping of reality into a model. It may be useful to describe a workstation as a source of casual gains. However, no one would include a description of the book on the table next to the workstation.

A general rule for abstraction is to strive to maintain volume, surface area and mass within a thermal zone. This tutorial is too short to give a full exposition on this topic.

The various exemplars included with ESP-r provide many examples of how simulation problems are represented and from this it is possible to see some of the abstraction issues involved.