FR5 Software

FirstRate5® house energy rating software

FirstRate5® is an easy-to-use interactive tool with a graphic user interface that enables designers and thermal performance assessors to generate energy ratings for a home by tracing over floor plans. The software integrates the AccuRate calculation engine to estimate the annual heating and cooling energy and can be used to rate an existing design or as an interactive tool to optimise the design beyond compliance.

Release of FR5 v5.3.0, Extension of FR5 v5.2.11 Accreditation, New Certificate and Changes to Software Licence and Website's Terms of Service

by FR5 | May 13, 2020

Sustainability Victoria is pleased to announce that FirstRate5 v5.3.0 (3.21) has successfully passed the NatHERS accreditation process and is now available as a free download from www.fr5.com.au.

This new version incorporates a range of new items, including the latest version of the NatHERS Chenath Engine 3.21, three new zone types, the ability to compress PDF backgrounds and a range of minor enhancements and bug fixes. In addition, a new certificate template will be used when FR5 v5.3.0 (3.21) projects files are uploaded to the FirstRate5 (FR5) website.

The FR5 user manual and has been updated and two videos have been prepared to explain the main features contained in FR5 v5.3.0 (3.21). The first video provides a general overview. The second video provides examples of how to use the new Double Height Void zone.

Software users can find the release notes by clicking ‘Release Notes’ under the Help menu.

Below is an outline of the main new features, enhancements and bug fixes included in FR5 v5.3.0 (3.21).

New zone types
The following three new zones have been introduced. 

  • Shared Basement/Car Park
  • Glazed Common Area
  •  Double Height Void

Information about the correct use of these zones can be found in the FR5 user manual, the videos, the latest NatHERS Technical Note and the NatHERS Assessors Handbook.

 
Slab edge insulation
A field has been introduced so users can now specify slab edge insulation for all floor types that are specified as ‘connect to ground’.

New material added and changes to waffle pod values
Limestone has been added to the construction materials library.

CSIRO has made changes to the effective thermal resistances of waffle pod modelling. The effective thermal resistances of waffle pod construction modelling used in FR5 has been changed to R0.57, R0.60, R0.63 and R0.65 for 175mm, 225mm, 300mm and 375mm pod heights respectively.

Background compression
Functionality as been introduced to allow users to compress the size of project backgrounds. This has been introduced to allow users to reduce the overall project file size.
 
Energy loads displayed on the Plan tab
The total, heating and cooling energy loads are now displayed on the Plan tab next to the Calculate button. This functionality is enabled by default and can be turned off by selecting Energy Loads under the View menu item. 
 
Ability to enter custom solar absorptance values
Functionality has been introduced to allow users to enter custom solar absorptance values for walls, floors, roofs and openings. A drop-down menu is displayed when the colour field is selected, and either a pre-populated value or a custom value can be entered.
 
Declaration of Interest field updated
At the direction of the NatHERS Administrator, the Declaration of Interest field has been updated so it now only contains three options. This field must be populated before a project file will calculate.

Main fixes 
Below is a list of the main fixes included in this release. Further details about all fixes included can be found in the release notes.

  • Updated the validation process to prevent openings being specified in neighbour walls. 
  • Updated FR5 to add 300mm of floor construction thickness to each level above the bottom level and the head height of openings. 
  • Updated the method used to calculate the wall perimeter of a zone.
  • Updated the longitude and latitude for postcode 2914 at the direction of the NatHERS Administrator.
  • Fixed the issue of retaining walls incorrectly auto-healing in certain scenarios.
  • Fixed the issue of the vertical offset for window eaves not correctly calculating in certain scenarios.
  • Fixed the issue of an empty level at the bottom of a project creating incorrect floor heights for levels positioned above it.
  • Fixed the issue of not being able to remove openings and windows in copied walls in certain scenarios.​

Transition Arrangements for FR5 v5.2.11 (3.1.3)

The NatHERS Administrator has advised Sustainability Victoria that the accreditation for FirstRate5 5.2.11 (3.13) has been extended to 1 August 2020. This extension will allow assessors to complete assessments already commenced using FR5 5.2.11 (3.13) and transition to FR5 v5.3.0 (3.21).

Assessors should use this transition period to finalise assessments already underway, rather than commence new assessments using FR5 v5.2.11 (3.13).
 
Until 1 August 2020 (5pm), a transition period will be in place. During this period both v5.2.11 (3.13) files and v5.3.0 (3.21) files will automatically calculate on the FirstRate5 website.

After 1 August 2020 5pm, v5.3.0 (3.21) files will continue to automatically calculate on the FirstRate5 website, however v5.2.11 (3.13) files will calculate by special request only.

Potential for Changes to the Star Ratings of Upgraded Project Files

Users should note that when pre-existing project files are upgraded to FR5 v5.3.0 (3.21), the star rating results may change. These changes are a result of the updated Chenath Engine and the bug fixes included in this new version of FR5. 

Sustainability Victoria has run internal tests and has found that the majority of project files upgraded from FR5 v5.2.11 (3.13) to FR5 v5.3.0 (3.21) will experience either no change or a change of ≤ ±0.1 stars.

The main exception is for project files located in warm or temperate climate zones that contain a door in a neighbour wall. These files, which are most commonly multi-residential apartments, may experience a more significant reduction in star rating results after they are upgraded to FR5 v5.3.0 (3.21).
 
This reduction is partly being driven by a software change implemented in FR5 v5.3.0 (3.21). In this latest version, in order to align with the latest NatHERS Technical Note and to fix an existing software bug, an opening can no longer be specified in a neighbour wall; this change in modelling practice can reduce the star rating results for some project files.

Release of the new NatHERS Certificate

FR5 v5.3.0 (3.21) project files uploaded to the FR5 website will produce the new NatHERS Certificate. The new certificate has a new layout, enhanced security features and information about NCC 2019 requirements.

More information about the new NatHERS Certificate can be found on the NatHERS website.

Assessors should note that projects files created using earlier versions of FirstRate5 will continue to produce the previous version of the certificate.

NCC 2019 - Heating and Cooling Load Limits

The National Construction Code 2019 comes into effect on 1 May 2020. The 12 month transition that applied to the energy efficiency provisions in Section J of Volume One and Parts 2.6 and 3.12 of Volume Two has come to an end. It should be noted that some state and territory variations may apply to this change.

Regardless of which version of FirstRate5 is used (i.e. v5.2.11 or v5.3.0), assessors will need to determine if heating and cooling load limits apply to assessments they undertake. 

Further information about the NatHERS heating and cooling load limits can be found on the ABCB website

Changes to Software Licence and Terms of Service

Along with the release of FR5 v5.3.0 (3.21), Sustainability Victoria has updated the terms and conditions of use under the Licence Agreement for the software and the Terms of Service for use of the FirstRate5 website. A summary of the changes can be found on the FirstRate5 website

Users will be asked to agree to the new Licence Agreement when they install FR5 v5.3.0 (3.21).  The updated Terms of Service can be viewed by clicking 'Terms of Use' located at the bottom of FirstRate5 website or by clicking here.

The continued use of the website will mean that a user agrees to the updated Terms of Service. If you do not agree to the updated Terms of Service, please cease using the website and disable your account.

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Note: It is the user’s responsibility to ensure certificates are produced with the appropriate version. If a user chooses to inappropriately use an earlier version of FR5 to produce a certificate, they run the risk that a Building Surveyor will reject the certificate leading to further certificate costs.

Note: Installation of minor releases involving a letter change, eg,  v5.2.10a to v5.2.10b, will by default overwrite the previous version, while major releases involving a number change, eg, v5.2.11 (3.13) to v5.3.0 (3.21), will by default install beside older versions.