Honeybee: A versatile tool for environmental design

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As we progress into a world of advanced technologies, new forms of software are always being developed to make information accessible, make work easier, and perform many functions that humans would take ages to complete. At the same time, these would do it in seconds. In the field of architecture, up-and-coming software to cover different functions and fields are highly popular in education and practice. What started as 2D drafting has now reached unimaginable potential, with advanced 3D modeling, simulations, advanced rendering, etc. Rhinoceros 3D is one such software that designed use to create accurate and complex 3D models. Rhinoceros’ main plug-in is Grasshopper which allows workflow history to be recorded, which makes modeling easier. Along with Rhino’s basic functions as modeling software, it has many plug-ins that serve different functions and purposes. One such Software plug-in is “Honeybee”.

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Why Honeybee is Relevant?

The honeybee is considered one of the most thorough plug-ins available for environmental design. It connects Rhino and Grasshopper to various open-source platforms like Energy Plus/ Open Studios, Radiance, Dayism, gbXML, and more, for energy consumption, comfort, daylighting, and lighting simulation. Specifically, it creates, runs and visualizes the results presented by these validated simulation engines. It is also an Application Programming Interface for the engines.

Energy Plus: It is a building energy simulation program to model energy consumption and water use in buildings.

Radiance: It is a suite of programs for analyzing and visualizing lighting in design.

Dayism: It is a daylighting analysis software that calculates the annual daylight availability based on Radiance backward tracer.gbXML: The Green Building XML schema is an open schema developed to facilitate the transfer of building data stored in Building Information Models to engineering analysis tools.


History of Honeybee

Honeybee for Grasshopper was created by Mostapha Sadeghipour Roudsari, Chris Mackey, and Sarith Subramaniam in 2014. When Roudsari was developing the Ladybug plug-in, Mackey joined the team and used Ladybug and Honeybee in his thesis. He provided detailed comfort mapping tools, which he added to Honeybee. In 2017, Roudsari and Sarith released the initial version of Honeybee. Over time, Ladybug tools were linked with many simulations and analysis engines. Mainly, Sarith incorporated electric lighting functionality into Honeybee and co-wrote its foundational framework.



The Honeybee plugin is not easy software to pick up, and it was intentionally created that way.

© UO Blogs – University of Oregon

The founders Mackey and Roudsari wanted users to fully understand all the nuances behind it. If one does not understand all the nuances behind the software, its full potential cannot and will not be utilised. Additionally, inputting incorrect parameters could also lead to design, simulation, and analysis errors. By purposefully making software that requires full understanding, user can access individual components and receive meaningful results. It also allows users to customize their scripts.

While Honeybee does not actually run simulations, its interface is designed to instruct the linked software engines to run them. Since Ladybug is mostly used during the schematic designing stage, Honeybee is implemented when the usefulness of Ladybug is exhausted. In the design development stage, architects and designers use Honeybee at an advanced level to understand the energy model and perform several iterations of the design possibilities.

Features of Honeybee

Honeybee exclusively works in metres as this is the unit system that is used in its linked software EnergyPlus and Radiance. Honeybee has a large range of features in its toolset via the simulation engines it is linked to.

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The features and their details are as follows:

Illuminance Studies: Helps customize simulation studies for specific times.

Annual Daylight Studies: Calculates all annual daylight metrics like – Useful Daylight Illuminance, Annual Sun Exposure, and Continuous Daylight Autonomy and analyzes these factors by the hour.

Annual Sun Exposure: Calculates the potential for glare.

Glare Analysis: Provides image-based glare studies. 

Advanced Solar Radiation: Assesses light reflection through solar radiation studies and models the concentration of solar energy from parabolic mirror surfaces.

Electric Light Modeling/ Sizing: Run Illuminance Analysis to ensure the lights’ sizes are accurate. Also used for outdoor light pollution.

Heating Evergy Usage: Can calculate annual utility bills of heaters and radiation devices by performing annual energy consumption simulations or End-Use Intensity.

Cooling Energy Usage: Can calculate annual utility bills of air conditioners, fans, and coolers by performing annual energy consumption simulations or End-Use Intensity.

HVAC Sizing: Calculates peak loading and size of HVAC Devices. Qualifies the financial impact of HVAC systems.

Colour Zones with Energy Results: Enables color coding of different model parts concerning results for easier understanding and analysis.

Energy Balance Visualization: Understanding the reason behind the model’s energy usage with energy-balanced graphics. 

Indoor Thermal Comfort: Map out thermal comfort space-wise using an energy model, plot results on psychometric charts, and perform other thermal visualizations.

Microclimate Mapping: Spatially map indoor and outdoor microclimates.

Passive Strategies: Create and analyze various passive strategies like natural ventilation, evaporative cooling towers, ventilation chimneys, high thermal mass spaces, shading devices.

Active Strategies: Create and analyze a myriad of HVAC strategies like radiant slab, heat recovery, VRFs, Chilled beams, heat recovery, custom ventilation schedules and ground source systems. Can optimise supply temperatures with parametric studies. 

Energy Shade Benefit: Compute shade regions at exteriors to analyze where shade is most desirable to decrease cooling energy use while not affecting heating energy use. 

Envelope Heat Flow Modeling: Can recognize heat flow through structural elements and calculate U-Values of windows with different frames. 

Condensation Risk Studies: Assesses condensation risks based on surface temperatures and surrounding temperature data. Can visualize line of dewpoint in construction details. 


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The process starts by first creating zone geometry in Rhinoceros, where the overall designs are implemented into the model, zones being the different rooms within the project. Using Honeybee the different zoning properties like constructions, schedules, the quantity of lighting, and users that will occupy the space.

Since Honeybee will indicate workable and non-workable aspects, the designer can change properties to reflect what they will build. Finally, they will run the model and get a complete and accurate visualization of the results.


To use Honeybee to its full extent, the important aspect of it is to understand the result that it generates. More often than not, the energy model is not usable in a practical aspect, but the results it provides are. After understanding these results, one can go back to changing its properties of it to make sense. After repeating this process multiple times, the software actually provides a useful energy model with accurate results. Understanding the results also helps the designer make strategy changes while simultaneously designing the model.


To understand this dynamic tool better, here is a comparative analysis of some of its merits and demerits.

Merits of Honeybee

  • It produces accurate energy models.
  • It deals with a multitude of solar-related factors.
  • It deals with numerous climate design strategies
  • Provides artificial light modeling
  • Computes energy usage for the designer
  • Provides costs for energy usage
  • Free of cost

One of the demerits of Honeybee is its difficult learning curve. It does not provide an accurate energy model in the beginning and requires a number of trials and errors to achieve its full potential.


Importance of Honeybee

Over the years, Honeybee has proven to be one of the most relevant software tools in the current times. It has a few sets of important points that add merits to this dynamic tool.


Informing design: Creates a design that is fully engrained with accurate information, creating a precise output.

Forecasting energy use: Predicts the amount of energy used by the building and also calculating costs and provides solutions for its reduction.

Creating convincing arguments for design ideas: Designers can present their analysis to clients and justify some design decisions made to the clients.

Building design intuition: Using the software frequently can result in architects having an ingrained sense of what works and what doesn’t with respect to the software.

Sensitivity analysis: Provides detailed analysis of different surfaces and factors which is affected by different climatic factors.

Calculating payback periods for energy conservation measures (ECMs)

Code compliance: Ensures that the energy model is on par with the building code the project is in.

LEED BREAM or DGNB compliance.

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Why Choose Honeybee?

Honeybee can be used in projects of all scales. While using it for small scales buildings like residences etc. is useful, large-scale projects are where its full potential can be seen. Using it on skyscrapers, stadium designs and more can give the designer various inputs and factors in which they can improve upon the design. Providing solar studies, solar analysis’, energy studies, and artificial energy consumption values for large projects can show any major flaws or kinks in the energy models.


Since it is customizable, appropriate models can be created for respective climates and geographical locations. This gives a designer accurate and useful information that can be practically implemented when it comes to the actual construction. Continuous usage of the software also trains the designer is having an intuition about the software and having a basic understanding of how the results are going to be. Over time, using the software for each project will increase the energy consumption efficiency design of their work.


Honeybee software is an extremely important development in the field of architecture due to its workability and versatility. The models’ results and level of understanding show us how architecture can become more efficient and how some design strategies work, and some don’t. This software will not only give results and deep examinations into energy values. Still, it will also guide you on the right track to work out solutions to ensure your work is practicable and impeccable!


About the Series

The series explores various software used globally in the 21st century, and this modeling software has proven to revolutionize architecture by exploring the unexplored. They are easing the process by finding new ways of construction through a blend of computational methods to support futurist designs. The series highlights software and tools like Rhino 3D, Grasshopper 3D, Ladybug, Honeybee, Pufferfish, Kangaroo, and more.

Read more about 10 Grasshopper plugins trending in the AEC industry.

Parenthetically, If you are curious to dive deeper into learning the parametric design and computational tools, you can check the workshops by PAACADEMY. These workshops are 7-session-long studio workshops devoted to exploring the computational design capabilities applied to architecture and design.

Studio Workshops:
Learn more about parametric and computational design from the variety of the studio workshops at the PAACADEMY

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