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VDC and the Future of Building Performance

Posted by Dan Dolinar on Thu, Nov 05, 2015 @ 15:11 PM
Dan Dolinar
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It seems like every month there is a new state regulation or internal business decision that requires a higher level of performance for buildings and their related infrastructure. From Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA), to beating the CA Energy Code we are all faced with the reality that faster, better, cheaper, and more efficient is becoming an extremely difficult equation. Most medium to large organizations are also plagued with differed maintenance protocols, legacy software, and a dwindling or rigid workforce environment. The industry will need to adapt, reinvent, and do more with less to survive this new regulatory environment. The solution to this need is widely accepted as a software solution, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Organizations will not only need to change their informational workflows, they will also need intuitive software solutions that bridge the gaps between capital planning, construction/record drawings, facilities work order management, and asset management systems. The question is no longer “Why BIM?”, but what Level of Development (LOD), layers, and informational resources are we looking for from the design team and contractors. Even for folks not actively using these added features today, dollars to dimes they are using a system that will accept some form of layered export from BIM.

The Role of BIM

BIM technologies are already proven and effective for conceptual planning, designing, and coordinating all types of building and infrastructure projects. Many advanced features in BIM are currently available and/or are already being used by savvy owners and industry partners today, but their availability is often unknown to newcomers. Whether you are a contractor or an owner, imagine that the BIM deliverable might be one of the most important preplanning/preconstruction discussions you have. These models no longer need to be shelved in cyberspace at the end of the project or sadly flattened into mylars, but instead can be housed in complete form and layered to be compatible with other software systems. Each layer in the model should be specified in advance to integrate with asset management, work order management, and financial systems. It would be folly to assume that your building technicians, planners, or financial employees are going to update a BIM model every time they perform filter maintenance, change a room number, or update the debt model linked to a building or system, but there is no reason that today’s software cannot do it for them. In fact, it is fair to assume that soon we will be embedding training manuals, warranty info, and part catalog access right into the models as an expected industry standard of care.

Visualizing building performance during the design and construction phases.

First and foremost, for anything discussed previously in this article to hold any water at all, project stakeholders and owners alike need to commit to the long-term value associated with BIM. It is much easier to get BIM buy-in when the stakeholders understand that it can improve a building’s operations and maintenance over its lifetime, i.e. accessing critical systems information and assessing building performance. Early on teams need to have a collective understanding of building performance requirements. Once 3D models are created, the team has a great starting point for evaluating and enhancing a building’s economical and environmental performance in a virtual environment and starting the discussions about 4D and 5D desirability. Building operational performance factors include equipment operational cost, environmental record cost, and safety record cost. Building maintenance performance factors include preventative maintenance, work orders or service calls, diagnostic maintenance costs (HVAC, envelope diagnostic, lighting control system), and emergency maintenance costs.

Visualizing sustainable design alternatives and green building.

Sustainable design and green building is advanced with building information modeling BIM. When teams collaboratively seek sustainable design alternatives, BIM can help to capture the features and performance benefits of each component. Stakeholders can compare and contrast design alternatives balancing resource efficiency with project cost. In real time, owners are able to see the affects of sustainable design alternatives via virtual walkthrough.

When building materials become a BIM factor, project stakeholders can create plans that significantly reduce construction waste and streamline materials procurement. Stakeholders are able to compare materials aimed to reduce a building’s environmental impact throughout its lifetime. While BIM helps to reduce waste on all projects, it is particularly helpful for large campus projects that produce significant levels of waste if not well managed.

Visualizing a building’s energy performance, indoor environmental quality, and water usage.

Building information project models allow stakeholders to visualize the characteristics and functionality in environments that can be manipulated. Performance metrics for energy load, indoor environmental quality, and water usage can be accessed with any combination of design elements and building materials. As models evolve with new design alternatives, a real time performance can be easily provided.

Energy: The complexity of energy analysis has relegated the process to an infrequent exercise used primarily for load sizing. Without this crucial information, sustainable design efforts and decisions clearly suffer. However, BIM can integrate building models with energy analysis tools for accurate, routine evaluation based on geometrically correct thermal models, local building code requirements, and DoE models. Energy usage performance factors include Lighting, HVAC, People Movers Energy [Elevators, Escalators], Cooking, Dishwasher, Plug Load, Data Center, Outdoor, Landscape, Emergency, Other Energy, and the Building Load Factor. Energy production factors may include Thermal Energy, Solar PV Energy, and Wind Energy.

VDC, Building PerformanceHIGH WIND VELOCITY toward the South of building.        REDUCTION OF WIND VELOCITY using walls, trees, etc.

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ): Typically, their top concern is managing thermal comfort. Managers also must manage the quality of the indoor environment — humidity, lighting, sound, etc. — as well as the quality of services provided, building operating costs, energy use, water use, recycling, and waste reduction. Factors that impact indoor environmental quality include Thermal Comfort, Lighting, Air Quality, Acoustics, Maintenance, Functionality, Safety and Security, and Privacy.

VDC, Building Performance

Above is a shading proposal that combines basic solar control (shade and daylight) with a view.

Water Usage: BIM helps to quantify the amount of water used in a building by calculating the number of fixtures (sinks, toilets, etc.) and their related water usage. This also helps us measure the potential for greywater reuse, which is highly beneficial for reducing demand on local water supplies. The amount of water available for harvesting can be calculated using BIM, based on the site, harvesting system, and the size of building. Factors that impact water usage performance include Indoor Potable Water Use, Indoor Potable Water Cost, Indoor Non-potable Water Use, Indoor Non-potable Water Cost, Outdoor Potable Water Use, Outdoor Non-potable Water Use, Process Water Use, Process Water Cost, Non-potable Water Collection, On-site Collected Non-potable Water Treatment Cost, Indoor Wastewater Production, Indoor Wastewater Cost, Outdoor Wastewater Production, and Outdoor Wastewater Cost.

For example: Sustainable sites pre-requisite may ask for a storm water prevention plan on the project. The plan may require to drastically reduce storm water. This can be achieve in many different ways such as using large detention areas or underground percolated tanks that will collect runoff from hardscape and building roofing systems.

BIM will help to choose their best location on site.

As collaborative software and cloud computing continues to be the norm, communication between building systems is becoming much easier. Managers using BIM to integrate operations are ahead of the game. Those who are not should keep an eye on the developments in BIM and related technologies. It is worth the time and effort.


Topics: Virtual Design and Construction (VDC)