Member Spotlight: Michael J. Witte
Now and then we highlight one of our members and ask them to share with our community insights about themselves, their careers and the present and future state of energy simulation as they see it.
This month's Member Spotlight is Michael J. Witte, Ph.D., BEMP, principal engineer at GARD Analytics, Inc. Dr. Witte has over 30 years of experience in building energy modeling, both as a user and developer, working primarily with BLAST, DOE-2.1, and now EnergyPlus. He is a voting member of ASHRAE SSPC 140, a corresponding member of ASHRAE TC 4.7, and a founding member of both IBPSA and the Chicago chapter of IBPSA-USA.
GARD Analytics, Inc. provides energy, environmental and economic R&D services for residential, commercial and industrial buildings to a mix of institutional, governmental, and corporate clients in the energy and environmental sectors. GARD and its principals have a long history of building energy modeling experience, including development of software tools and numerous analysis projects dating back to the Post Office Program in the 1970s.
* Trivia question: What do the letters in “BLAST” stand for? (Answer at the end.)
IBPSA-USA: What about BEM is exciting to you and matters?
When someone asks me what I do for a living, my usual answer is: “I help develop software that’s used by architects and engineers to design better buildings.” Even after so many years in this field, I still think it’s cool to be able to describe a building and everything that happens inside, run it through a year of weather data, and see how it performs. And then to be able to take that base model and experiment with it to see the impact of various changes and ultimately design a better building – that’s powerful.
IBPSA-USA: What do you think the biggest areas of growth of BEM will be in the near future and what are you doing about it?
Better automation and more powerful tools for better answers. As a core EnergyPlus developer, much of my work focuses on improving the simulation engine. Anything we can do to improve existing capabilities and add new ones helps expand the use and impact of modeling.
IBPSA-USA: What is your expertise? Give some examples of how you have helped your customers in the past.
I’ve worn many hats over the years, running large parametric simulation studies, answering user support questions, teaching training workshops, writing code, and testing software. Troubleshooting software problems and user input files is challenging, yet it’s rewarding when I’m able to find a solution to get someone’s project moving again.
IBPSA-USA: Tell us about how you came to work in BEM.
Back in the 1980’s as a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I took a class on System Simulation taught by Dr. Curt Pedersen. In that class, I was introduced to BLAST, running on a mainframe (the original cloud computing). The next year, Jeff Spitler and I were hired to run the BLAST Support Office to provide user support and software development services. Curt always made an effort to bring his graduate students to ASHRAE meetings. He introduced us to TC4.7 and got us involved in founding IBPSA. After I finished at UIUC, I spent a year at the University of Michigan, and then landed at GARD. And I’ve been using, developing, and supporting BEM tools ever since.
Trivia answer: “Building Loads Analysis and System Thermodynamics”, developed at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign, Illinois, first released in 1976. BLAST and DOE-2.1e formed the basis for EnergyPlus.