30
May
08

The Role of Building Information Modeling in Cleantech

The Majestic Fool

While public awareness of ecological problems focuses on the transportation industry, many people are not quite accustomed to regarding construction as an area where green technology can make a huge difference. But new methods are changing the design, construction and operation of buildings and facilities more every day. This is emphasized by Scott Boutwell in a TriplePundit.com piece, where he says,

The building & facility industry is undergoing radical change today, as owners are demanding more project visibility, improved risk management (scheduling & costs); and increased use of technologies that will allow for less waste, more efficient energy consumption, and ultimately lower costs over the lifecycle of the facility (from design and construction to operations).

This change is due to Building Information Modeling (BIM), which is exponentially different from 2-dimensional computer-assisted design. Boutwell tells why:

This knowledge or database contains the ‘intelligent objects” of a structure; not just lines and arcs typically associated with traditional CAD or drawing tools. As such, BIM can represent multiple, dynamic, and collaborative views of information such as spatial data (3D), un-structured data (text), and structured data (databases, spreadsheets), as well as new views including scheduling and cost information (termed ‘4D’ and ‘5D’, respectively).

The visualization capabilities of BIM are of a different order of magnitude, allowing for much more in the way of collaboration in the early stages and throughout the gestation and birth of a structure, but that’s only the beginning. The technology’s innate intelligence and especially its ability to simulate events and processes are what really make a difference. In the area of energy and resources, like water management and re-use, it has never been so easy to design with conservation in mind. All the various elements that make up the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system can be tested and improved before one pipe is laid. The impact of alternative energy sources such as wind can be factored in. Energy analysis predicts how all the parts will work together and how their synergy can be enhanced, advancing also the health and comfort of the building’s eventual inhabitants.

The results of using various kinds of insulation, windows, and structural components can be played with, trying out different combinations until the optimal energy-efficient result is reached. The virtual management of materials allows for a formerly undreamed-of degree of efficiency and a significant reduction in waste. Along with being earth-friendly, this kind of analysis is also budget-friendly. The impact of a building upon the world around it, in terms of carbon, water, and other elemental substances, can be predicted and adjusted before mistakes are made on a large, expensive scale.

The management of risk is a subject dear to the heart of every architect, builder, developer, attorney, accountant, and insurance underwriter – aside from the purely altruistic safety considerations put in place for the public good. When the goal is to meet the U.S. Green Buildings Council standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, building information modeling keeps the project on track every step of the way.

Boutwell calls the adoption of BIM technology as a green tool “rapid but uneven” across the industry. He cites the Green Index Study, conducted in 2007 by the American Institute of Architects and Autodesk. The findings are that 44% of the responding architects are currently using some form of BIM. But, at this point, the definition is not quite pinned down. He quotes Buddy Cleveland, an Applied Research expert at Bentley Systems, who says, “People are defining BIM as whatever they want it to be.” What does it mean for a firm to say it utilizes BIM technology? Does it have a full team headed by a BIM manager? Has it bought the software but not quite gotten it installed yet? Does the firm make full use of BIM technology in the back office, while not yet incorporating this green-friendly approach into its marketing strategy?

In architecture, engineering, and construction, there are cultural factors to overcome before the concept of BIM as the royal road to greenness is fully accepted. There are training issues, and adjustments that must be made in traditional business processes. For owners, operators, contractors, engineers, and architects, ultimately the widespread adoption of BIM spells win-win-win-win-win.

SOURCE: ” Building Information Modeling and the Adoption of Green Technologies ” 05/22/08
photo courtesy of The Majestic Fool , used under this Creative Commons license

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2 Responses to “The Role of Building Information Modeling in Cleantech”


  1. May 30, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    From a Facility Management perspective, this is a rather nice summary. We’ve always tried to manage our systems as efficiently as possible, and we’re thrilled at new tools (BIM) and new public awareness (LEED) that give us greater leverage to accomplish that.
    It will be a long road as all of our contractors catch up in educating their employees to get the most of out them, but, it’s coming along nicely so far.
    Cheers!

  2. 2 nancy york
    June 9, 2008 at 3:27 am

    Great info. It would be socially advantageous if this perspective were shared with local city council.
    Thanks.


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