How BIM Can Improve Building Efficiency

By Terence Alcorn  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: This PagePt. 2: BIM Contract Requirements Help Standardize ResultsPt. 3: Survey: How BIM Is Being Used And Where It Will Go In The FuturePt. 4: USGBC Offers Resources To Ease LEED v4 Transition

For hundreds of years, designers, contractors, and owners have used two-dimensional drawings to facilitate the construction of buildings. Today we not only have the ability to design and visualize a building in three dimensions, but we can also add time and experience to the building model in the fourth dimension as we observe daylighting studies or the sequencing of construction. Early adopters of building information modeling, or BIM, have been those involved with high-technology buildings. For facility managers, it's critically important to understand the ways that BIM can help improve building efficiency.

Because of the complexities and associated risks of high-tech buildings, this building type has the highest perceived benefit and return on investment for using BIM. These early adopters will not only encourage the industry's use of and value for BIM in design and construction, but also help guide its future application.

Information and Building Efficiency

How well are buildings designed to optimize building efficiency? How well are they performing after they are commissioned? And how well are they operating over time for the owner? Today's high-tech building is a very complicated assembly with thousands of objects and processes that influence the building's performance. Furthermore, by their very mission, the users of high-tech buildings greatly affect the performance of the building.

Performance aspects of a high-tech building can include energy and water consumption, worker health and safety, security, contamination, hazardous materials storage and management, hazardous releases and more.

BIM is a platform that can provide a comprehensive and interactive assembly of the components in a building to create a new type of energy model. As more information is added to BIM for each individual part of the building, BIM becomes increasingly closer to matching the real world building itself.

One example is a BIM that understands how the occupants may filter in and out of a building through out the day, and can therefore calculate the most efficient array of pump sizes, water heater sizes, etc., that will maximize energy efficiency to meet the required need. Better data will translate to better designs and allow for more efficient buildings. Currently both IBM and GE have ad campaigns touting how they are creating smart machines. Cars are smart, even refrigerators now can be "smart refrigerators," and we will increasingly be seeing smart products in our buildings. BIM is the ideal platform to visualize and use the information that is and will be available.

Some high-tech building owners currently require that the building energy model be maintained and updated throughout construction and building commissioning. When construction is complete and operations and use begin, it is important that buildings have the ability to measure and monitor their energy use. It has been documented that providing building users with the measuring and monitoring of their impact on building energy has resulted in changed behaviors and reduced energy consumption. The adage is, "If you don't have the right information, then you can't make the right decision." Measuring and monitoring of energy use provides the information for operators and users to make the proper decisions to reduce a building's energy use.

Designers and the construction managers who may be responsible for buildings for one to two years do not have the responsibilities for the next 50 to 100 years of the building's operation, maintenance, and renovations. What is desperately needed is for buildings to be able to provide the owner with information on how it is performing. Dashboards can provide users with information on their energy use on a real-time basis, improved safety and health of workers, environmental benefits to the site and community, and much more. Finally, this expanding application of BIM, which could provide more information on how buildings are used and perform over their life cycle, will be invaluable in the design and construction of new buildings for the future.

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  posted on 9/9/2013   Article Use Policy

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