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Interoperate Between BIM and Energy Modeling

Posted: January 15, 2016 by , Category:BIM, events

BIM Energy Modeling DiagramOn the lead up to our free BIM4Analysis webinar taking place on Thursday 28th January, we’ll be publishing a series of blogs to preview some of the topics that will be covered during the session. First up is a post from our guest speaker Jean Carriere of Trailloop, who will be presenting the most recent thinking on his approach to producing building loads for systems sizing and energy modelling from an integrated modelling process.

Build clean models before exporting the gbXML file and avoid integration errors before they happen, yielding predictably good results across many applications.

The AEC industry is familiar with creating building loads for systems sizing and then producing energy models with the Performance Rating Method (ASHRAE 90.1 or NECB). Although these project deliverables are typically done independently from each other without any integration to the project’s architectural and MEP systems design.

The building loads are produced from an early snapshot of the building’s form and features, then the compliance energy model acts as an auditing tool when the design is complete. A framework that incorporates these familiar industry deliverables would improve the energy performance of any building, by integrating and using information effectively during the design process.

The objective is to create the building loads from the architectural design model and then use this information to design and right-size the HVAC systems. With a clear and robust framework for measuring and verifying energy performance indicators, the design team can make informed decision based on actionable metrics. This process is designed to promote iterative energy simulations in order to achieve certain energy performance targets, such as net zero and beyond.

In order to make this process work, it first starts with the integration of BIM for energy modeling applications. This is accomplished by exporting a good quality gbXML or IFC export file from a BIM project. These files can be imported into most energy modeling applications, which then creates a digital link between BIM and energy modeling. As the federated BIM project evolves in complexity and level of detail throughout the design process, the energy modeling integration link is lost, but the information parameters remain. If the geometry or spaces change after the integration, the modifications can be copied back using the 5 fundamental modeling techniques into the integration model and then re-integrated in order to maintain the BIM link between applications.

We can use these information parameters to exchange data between the two applications. That could be a third party defining space and component properties in Revit and sending that information down to the energy modeler. Or it could be the energy modeler producing building loads or systems data to be inserted within the relevant space and component parameters. This way the building’s information resides inside the BIM and the simulated data is accurately representing the architectural and mechanical/electrical design.

The process of exchanging information bi-directionally between BIM and third party application is where the UK is heading with their BIM mandate for 2016. They define level 2 BIM as “a single environment to store shared asset data and information; accessible to all individuals who are required to produce, use and maintain it.” In essence, we’re opening up a portal to move information between energy modeling and BIM applications. If you’ve maintained the integration model throughout the process, then exchanging information after an energy simulation is as simple as copy/pasting data in Excel, and in a few minutes your BIM project is filled with important and relevant data.

Want to find out more about Jean’s approach? Sign up now for our free IES Faculty BIM webinar.

Got a question you’d like to put to Jean or one of our IES BIM experts ahead of the webinar? There are a number of ways you can do this – submit your question here, tweet us using the #BIMfaculty hashtag or post on the IES Facebook page, and we’ll do our best to report back during the seminar. Questions and answers will be collated into an FAQ document which we’ll circulate after the event.

This month we welcome guest blogger Janet Beckett to the IES blog to reveal 5 things she’s learned from a “BIM on a BUDGET” project. Janet is a Low Carbon Consultant and Director at Carbon Saver UK.

Our BIM on Budget story began a year ago when a local chap phoned us to ask about refurbishment of their existing offices. Apparently they had googled “HVAC Engineer in Leeds” and up we popped, Carbon Saver UK. Thank you then to twitter and LinkedIn, not “time wasting” after all.

We won the project by offering to “BIM” it at no additional cost to the client. To clarify BIM, Building Information Modelling (or Management?) is NOT 3D drawings, in just the same way that M&E design is NOT drawing 2D, 3D or otherwise. BIM is about managing and sharing information digitally and following the design process, nothing new perhaps but with new technology and more structured data.

Our suggestions to the client that they appoint an Architect and a Quantity surveyor were firmly rebuffed on the basis that they could not afford it and so we were left with little choice but to step out on a lonely BIM path.

Our first BIM or 3D building model was constructed using IES VE Pro dynamic thermal simulation to model the existing “real” building and apply fabric improvements to determine the best cost vs benefit analysis for the client. We used the IES model also for our loads calculations and solar gain assessments.
We then proceeded to build the project model using AutoCAD and Fabrication CADmep, the preferred 3D CAD software for M&E CAD draughting.

The client did ask us at one point whether we would be delivering Level 2 BIM? My honest answer was that really this would be more like Level 1 and a bit BIM and that we were still learning along with many others in the industry.
My answer to the question however “Did we BIM it?” has to be an emphatic YES. We certainly (BI)Managed it. I never thought I would miss having an Architect on a project soooo much. We definitely (BI)Modelled it, in fact more than once…

Of course our lonely BIM route meant that we circumvented a lot of tricky BIM hurdles. However everyone has to start somewhere, we all learnt a lot and the client is really pleased with the end result and is asking for more elements to be added to the model.

To summarise, here are the 5 BIM things we learned that worked or we would do a bit differently next time:
1.    Use your 3D model images as a selling tool, clients like them.
2.    You’re appointed. Get an Architect on board, it’s lonely without one.
3.    Do your first very simple building model and M&E volume allocations in Google sketch up (it’s FREE yay), this can then be exported into IES (they assure me) and also into the Architects model.
4.    Use same IES model for early, mid and later detailed design calculations and value added energy and carbon reduction decisions and for Part L compliance as well (which we did).
5.    Make use of existing in house skills. This was our driver for using Fabrication CADmep in our Consultants drawings. OK it’s a bit unusual but there’s no law against it and it worked well.

So here’s to our next “BIM” project and it looks as though we may already have one…

Got something interesting to share on the IES blog? Email john.goucher@iesve.com to find out about becoming a guest blogger.

This month we welcome guest blogger Noelle Hirsch to the IES blog to explore a hot topic in the green building industry. Noelle writes regularly for Construction Management resource, which you can find out more about here.

There are many different ways to “go green,” but construction offers one of the highest possibilities for widespread change. Offices, homes, and industrial buildings tend to consume enormous amounts of energy, often unnecessarily. Inefficient appliances and construction techniques implemented in a world where energy was inexpensive and “eco-consciousness” was an unknown concept are causing a lot of pain today, both in terms of out-of-pocket expenses and environmental harm. Retrofitting buildings with energy-saving tools is often very expensive, however. In this sense, communities that have suffered natural disasters or large-scale destruction may actually be at an advantage: starting from scratch is often the perfect excuse to build green from the ground up, making ravaged cities better than ever once completed.

Inefficient construction is often difficult to spot without looking at energy meters or accrued bills. In many communities, the goal of construction is aesthetics and production speed more than thoughtful efficiencies. The faster a house can be built, the sooner it will sell, or so the theory goes. This sort of philosophy may be short-lived, however, particularly with today’s emphasis on environmentalism and global protection.

“Buildings consume nearly 40% of the nation’s total energy in heating, cooling and electricity use. But it doesn’t need to be that high–we lose a ton of energy through old inefficient buildings and appliances,” the Energy Service Corps says on its website. According to a recent article in Forbes, energy-efficient upgrades could cut the amount Americans spend on electricity and natural gas by almost $3.4 billion. Getting there can be a real challenge, however. Actually convincing home- and business owners to replace their appliances and invest in building upgrades is rarely easy.

After a community has been damaged by a natural disaster like a flood or tornado, however, the calculus seems to change. When building occurs from the ground-up, there is a golden opportunity to make good of a devastating situation by committing to rebuild with green principles in mind.

“The large-scale rebuilding effort following a disaster is an ideal time to require or encourage high energy efficiency standards for all new and remodeled buildings,” the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Commission says in a pamphlet for city and state officials. “Constructing energy-efficient buildings from the ground up is much cheaper than retrofitting or upgrading down the road.” The Energy Department’s guide seeks to provide a template and resource that leaders can use should they be faced with massive destruction.

Several cities have already taken the plunge. The first was New Orleans, Louisiana, which suffered extensive flooding during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. “Before Katrina, government officials rarely talked about renewable energy or ‘green building,'” the Huffington Post reported. “Now, they see a watershed era taking shape.” Many of the rebuilt homes and offices make use of solar panels, which conserve electricity. Oil giants and timber manufacturers, two industry leaders in the area, are also spearheading efforts to introduce pollution-reducing technologies and more efficient wastewater systems into rebuilt plants.

Even more extensive greening efforts took place in Greensburg, Kansas, which was all but levelled by a tornado in 2007. During the rebuild, city officials pledged that all official buildings would strive for the coveted “platinum” ranking from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Platinum is the highest LEED certification awarded, which indicates extensive efficiency and conservation, in everything from construction design to appliances installed.

A number of private businesses and homeowners have followed suit, turning Greensburg into a “living lab” of sustainability. Making green changes upfront has been costly, but has also done a lot to revitalize what was once a struggling and economically depressed region.

“The tornado was one of the biggest blessings to hit our town,” Mayor John Janssen told USA Today. “We were like every other town in the Rust Belt and the Midwest. We were dying a slow, agonizing death. Suddenly, we don’t have a town. So we’re rebuilding a new green town.” Morale, as well as population and business, have gone up substantially since the changes were implemented, Janssen said.

Energy-efficient, low-carbon construction is touted by many as one of the easiest ways to reduce global warming and prolong the health of the planet. Using less both costs less and harms less. Cities and towns suffering from devastation are often in a unique position of getting to rebuild from scratch. Though green construction is costly at the outset, many have found the latent efficiencies and cost savings over time to be something of a silver lining to their loss.

Noelle Hirsch


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