May 28, 2022·edited May 28, 2022Liked by Brian Potter

It’s true that ResCheck covers an area of compliance that’s vastly simpler than the overall IBC and IRC. But I suspect that the main reason for its widespread use is that, unlike most code tools, it covers an area unrelated to life safety.

I’ve probably done a couple of dozen ResCheck reports, and I have yet to be questioned on a single item in any one of them, or hear of anyone else who’s been questioned. The reality is that ResCheck basically works on the honor system. You input square footage numbers for a long list of envelope surfaces, and you often find that skewing the numbers a little one way or the other could bump a certain design from being 1% worse than code to 1% better. (I’m not suggesting that people do this-just stating how it works.)

My observation has been that building inspectors are mostly concerned with critical life safety issues. To confirm that a ResCheck report is accurate, they would have to spend hours measuring all of the envelope surfaces themselves and calculating their areas-essentially, redoing the report themselves. In practice, none of them do this. They aren’t going to lose any sleep over a new house whose energy performance is 2% worse than the 2018 IECC minimum. And if someone tried to do something more extreme, like omit insulation altogether, the inspector would catch it in a site inspection.

I’m not familiar with SolarAPP, but I assume that the structural and electrical items it covers are simple enough that an inspector can confirm they’ve been done correctly in a quick site walkthrough. The challenge is dealing with things that affect life safety and that are too complicated to quickly confirm visually- i.e., much of the material in the IBC and IRC.

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This is an interesting point I hadn't considered, thanks.

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May 28, 2022Liked by Brian Potter

I concur completely with Jim's comment on ResCheck and Comcheck. Narrowly defined, 2-dimensional software programs that deal with one aspect of building performance are also open to "gaming the system" with bad inputs. The human element in the building inspection process for energy conservation requires inspectors who are trained and motivated to be picky about insulation installation, air-sealing, etc...

On a related note, the Architectural Registration Exam graphic software is fully automated with respect to evaluating a candidate's "design" for code compliant building elements like egress, stair proportions, furniture placement. I believe the code for this dates to the 1980's. It's crude, but I'd argue that it's sufficient for drilling my profession into thinking about objective results; i.e. making sure a building has minimum life-safety parameters.

Scaling up ARE-like software to a BIM model would require standardization of software inputs and outputs. I suppose machine learning could be applied to the evaluation of floor plans in .pdf format. Where's the incentive in that?

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Thanks Brian, wonderfully written. Keep posting great content. Best Wishes from Australia.

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Many thanks, very interesting reading. The challenges highlighted could be applied to many other areas where digitization is tried, but turns out to be harder than it seems.

There is some activity from Google on this. For their own internal use, they created a Digital Buildings model language. More importantly, an Alphabet spinoff, Flux, tried to solve these issues in 2017–2020, before throwing in the towel, as noted here: https://parametricmonkey.com/2020/06/03/rediscovering-flux/ . As a story, it confirms the points you make in your article.

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