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Finding best available technologies for meeting energy needs today and tomorrow: energy efficiency, demand response,, solar, wind, electric vehicles, biofuels and smart grid. It’s all the innovations that make the energy we use more secure, clean, and affordable. The energy world's best hopes lie in what's happening in the digital realm, especially in data analytics.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

BIM allows for greater collaboration between disciplines and trades involved in the process in order to produce better buildings that are safer, healthier, environmentally more sustainable and economically more efficient with fewer errors, omissions and less waste.

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1. Background

2. Acronyms/Definitions
3. Business Case
4. Benefits
5. Risks/Issues
6. Success Criteria
7. Companies
8. Links

  • BIM is a business process for generating, leveraging and managing building data to design, construct and operate the building during its lifecycle. It covers geometry, spatial relationships, light analysis, geographic information, quantities and properties of building components, project management and post-construction facilities management.

  •  BIM uses 3D, real-time, dynamic building modeling software to increase productivity in building design and construction. The data can be used to illustrate the entire building lifecycle from cradle to cradle—from inception and design to demolition and materials reuse—including quantities and properties of materials (which can be easily extracted from the model) and the scope of works (including management of project targets and facilities management throughout the building’s life). Furthermore, systems, components, assemblies and sequences can be shown in relative scale to each other and, in turn, relative to the entire project.

  • BIM is able to achieve improvements by modeling representations of the actual parts and pieces being used to build a building. This is a substantial shift from the traditional computer aided drafting method of drawing with vector file based lines that combine to represent objects.

2. Acronyms/Definitions
  1. BIM - Building Information Modeling - The process of generating and managing building data during its life cycle. Typically it uses three-dimensional, real-time, dynamic building modeling software to increase productivity in building design and construction. The process produces the Building Information Model which encompasses building geometry, spatial relationships, geographic information, and quantities and properties of building components. 

    BIM models cover the following areas:
    • Architectural
    • Structural
    • Mechanical
    • Electrical
    • Plumbing

  2. BIM Dimensions
    • 3D BIM: This provides a visualization tool enabling designers and contractors to work together to identify and resolve problems with the help of the model.

    • 4D BIM: This is 3D BIM plus the construction workflow planning, scheduling and management. As the design is changed, advanced BIM models will be able to automatically identify those changes that will affect the critical path and indicate what the corresponding impact will be on the overall delivery of the project

    • 5D BIM: This is 4D BIM plus the project’s construction cost and requirements. With BIM, the model includes information that allows a contractor to accurately and rapidly generate an array of essential estimating information, such as materials quantities and costs, size and area estimates, and productivity projections. As changes are made, estimating information automatically adjusts, allowing greater contractor productivity.

    • The industry is already discussing 6D BIM, which is 5D BIM plus facility management.

  3. BuildingSmart – The National Building Information Model Standard (NBIMS) rebranded to be more user friendly and international in scope.

  4. Clash Detection - Clash detection Clash detection is the process of finding where the BIM models “clash.” Clash detection puts a value on the savings made from eliminating problems found during a review. Clash detection can be broken into three types:
    1. Hard clash - A hard clash is simply when two objects occupy the same space (e.g., a pipe going through a wall where thre is no opening)
    2. Soft clash/clearance clash - Refer to allowable tolerances or space; for example, buffer zones between components left to provide space for future maintenance. 
    3. 4D/workflow clash - Clashes in scheduling work crews, equipment/material fabrication delivery clashes, and other timeline issues.
  5. COBie - Construction Operations Building Information Exchange - Developed by the U.S. Army in 2007. It specifies how information may be captured during design and construction and provided to facility operators. It is a data schema for holding and transmitting information around handover to support the client’s ownership and operation of a facility (both new and existing). Thus, COBie has two main purposes: as a data exchange format and as a checking tool in the design process.

    Commissioning information. COBie is that portion of BuildingSmart that defines the handover at the end of construction of building information to operations. COBIE also includes a framework for tying commissioning reports to the underlying systems from the design.
    Today, most contracts require the handover of paper documents containing equipment lists, product data sheets, warranties, spare part lists, preventive maintenance schedules, and other information. This information is essential to support the operations, maintenance, and the management of the facilities assets by the owner and/or property manager.

    Gathering this information at the end of the job, today's standard practice, is expensive, since most of the information has to be recreated from information created earlier. COBie simplifies the work required to capture and record project handover data.

    The COBie approach is to enter the data as it is created during design, construction, and commissioning. Designers provide floor, space, and equipment layouts. Contractors provide make, model, and serial numbers of installed equipment. Much of the data provided by contractors comes directly from product manufacturers who can also participate in COBie.

     The original document was revised by the U.K. government in 2012 to include energy and CO2 impact on building constructions. The process for importing data from BIM models has been extended to four data drops during the delivery stage of the project to manage cost and carbon1:
    • Data drop 1: This deals with models that represent requirements and constraints
    • Data drop 2: This deals with models that represent outline solutions
    • Data drop 3: This deals with models that represent construction information
    • Data drop 4: This deals with models that represent operation and maintenance information

    The revised document is the COBie-UK-2012. The objective of this document is to explain the organization of the COBie worksheet and identify who provides what information within the requirement as the project proceeds from planning, to design, to commissioning, to occupancy, to handover. COBie is simply a subset of the integrated BIM focused on the owner. COBie can be exported to BIM and vice versa.

  6. CSI - Construction Specifications Institute- An organization that maintains and advances the standardization of construction language as pertains to building specifications. CSI provides structured guidelines for specification writing in their Project Resource Manual, CSI authored MasterFormat, is an indexing system for organizing construction data, particularly construction specifications.

  7. DOE-2 - A widely used and accepted freeware building energy analysis program that can predict the energy use and cost for all types of buildings. DOE-2 uses a description of the building layout, constructions, operating schedules, conditioning systems (lighting, HVAC, etc.) and utility rates provided by the user, along with weather data, to perform an hourly simulation of the building and to estimate utility bills.

  8. EnergyPro - Of all the software currently certified for use with the Title 24 Standards, EnergyPro is the only Windows based program certified for use with BOTH Residential and Nonresidential Buildings. Provides a next-generation interface which makes inputting and analyzing a building fast and easy. In addition to features common to Windows (drag and drop, cut/copy/paste), special EnergyPro Wizards are in place to make analyzing any building even easier.

  9. eQuest – The “plain” DOE-2 program is a “DOS box” or “batch” program which requires substantial experience to learn to use effectively while offering researchers and experts significant flexibility; eQUEST is a complete interactive Windows implementation of the DOE-2 program with added wizards and graphic displays to aid in the use of DOE-2.
  10. EUI - Energy Use Intensity - Calculating any building’s energy use intensity is a fairly simple task: Sum all energy use, and divide by the floor area to obtain the building’s energy use intensity (EUI, usually expressed in Btu/ft2/yr). This can be used to easily compare to what EUI was projected at the time of design.

  11. FCI - Facility Condition Index - Used in Facilities Management to provide a benchmark to compare the relative condition of a group of facilities. The FCI is primarily used to support asset management initiatives of federal, state, and local government facilities organizations. This would also include universities, housing and transportation authorities, and primary and secondary school systems.

  12. FIATECH - A consortium of industries and companies – owners from the industrial, power, and retail markets that build large assets such as refineries, power plants, large commercial buildings, or manufacturing facilities. In addition, it includes the leading providers of engineering, design, construction services and technology providers. It’s goal is to make a step change improvement in the design, engineering, construction, and maintenance of large capital assets.

  13. IDM - Information Delivery Manual - The IDM is a plain English description of the information exchanges needed between two adjacent systems. In BuildingSmart, there is an IDM for the exchange between design intents and massing studies, and between massing studies and structural design, and so on.

  14. IFC - Industry Foundation Classes data model - A neutral and open specification that is not controlled by a single vendor or group of vendors. It is an object oriented file format with a data model developed by the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI) to facilitate interoperability in the building industry, and is a commonly used format for Building Information Modeling (BIM). It appears as if BIM will use the IFC for exchanging information about a building project between different CAD packages.

  15. NBIMS-US -  U.S., national BIM standard.  Published by the buildingSMART alliance® (a council of the U.S. National Institute of Building Sciences) at the end of 2007. Since then, it has undergone several revisions. The finalized NBIMS-US™ V3 was released in July 2015. NBIMS-US™ is supported by many software vendors and several big design firms and construction companies. This standard is based on Industry Foundation Class (IFC or ifcXML), which is an ISO standard (IS 16739) for sharing data information, and PDF/E (IS 24517) for geometry (including 3D). It also includes embedding IFCs in the PDF. The IFC openBIM format was originally developed by the buildingSMART alliance to facilitate interoperability in the architecture, engineering and construction industries and is an objectbased file format tied to a specific data model.

  16. OGC - Open Geospatial Consortium - A non-profit, international, voluntary consensus standards organization that is leading the development of standards for geospatial and location based services. 
  17. OmniClass™ or OCCS - The OmniClass Construction Classification System (known as ) is a classification system for the construction industry. OmniClass is useful for many applications, from organizing library materials, product literature, and project information, to providing a classification structure for electronic databases. It incorporates other extant systems currently in use as the basis of many of its Tables – MasterFormat™ for work results, UniFormat for elements, and EPIC (Electronic Product Information Cooperation) for structuring products.

  18. PowerDOE -A complete DOE-2.2-based simulation environment. It is very graphical in its presentation of both the building description and the display of results. It is very flexible and is a super-set of DOE-2 capabilities, NOT a subset like most other DOE-2 products. It has input, output, weather processing, building component libraries, and other functions integrated into a single windows users interface. It includes 2-D and 3-D display of your building geometry, graphical display of HVAC equipment layout, and access to all DOE-2.2 input parameters and summary/hourly report data.

  19. SOB - the Service Oriented Building as a full participant in the SOA of the Service Oriented Architecture of the Enterprise.
BIM Lifecycle

3. Business Case
  • BIM technology can be a major tool in achieving Integrated Building Design which is critical for success implementation of Net Zero Energy Buildings.

  • As a facility manager imagine having a complete virtual model of your building with every important detail included for all the facilities in your portfolio. Imagine a model that you can walk through and simulate operations as well as having valuable information about the equipment installed in the facility. Imagine knowing who manufactured the piece of equipment, who installed it, when its warranty period ends, what preventive maintenance has been performed, and when the next maintenance is required. It is all possible today, with preparation and planning and less effort than you are now expending.

  • Information technology, whether illustrated by BIM, smart meters, smart grids or intelligent control systems, can help us monitor and control energy use and ultimately save both energy and cost. Energy simulation and modeling includes:
    1. Energy usage and cost
    2. Temperature and Thermal loads
    3. Air flow for heating and cooling
  • The lack of useable data from the design and construction process impacts several “upstream” management systems.
    • For facility management it involves systems for work orders, predictive maintenance, fleet management, inventory of materials and equipment, and energy management.
    • For business systems it includes asset management, purchasing, human resources, and other aspects of an Enterprise Resource Planning system.

  • None of that integration can occur without interoperable data, and little data will be available if the owner has to manually enter data into the system after occupancy. Obviously, if we had the information in electronic format when the asset was delivered, installed or commissioned, the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the database would be much improved. Such a database foundation would ease system integration, resulting in the functionality, efficiencies and cost advantages that integration can deliver.

BIM facilitates communication between architects, engineers, contractors, suppliers and building owners.

4. Benefits
  • Reduced Building Operating Costs - Lack of data and information severely hampers the operation and management of a building, diminishing operational effectiveness, efficiencies and productivity. How bad are the inefficiencies and lack of interoperable data? Three years ago, the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology issued a report and “estimated $15.8 billion as the annual cost burden due to inadequate interoperability in the capital facilities segment of the U.S. construction industry. $6.7 billion of the total was due to inefficiencies in the design and construction phases of the project delivery process.” That was a conservative estimate.

  • Reduced Remodeling Costs - Imagine when preparing to remodel knowing what and where things such as conduits, water piping, and communications cables are in the walls and the floor.

  • Reduced Project Cost - Time and cost savings overall on the project that have typically equaled 10 to 15% of overall project cost. The model saves time and waste on site, and renders extra coordination checks largely unnecessary; the information generated from the model leads to fewer errors on site caused by inaccurate and uncoordinated information. When all members of the construction team work on the same model—from early design through to completion—introduced changes are automatically coordinated through BIM, across the whole project, and information generated is therefore of high quality
    • Increased speed of delivery
    • Improved visualization
    • Improved productivity due to easy retrieval of information
    • Increased coordination of construction documents
    • Embedding and linking of vital information such as vendors for specific materials, location of details and quantities required for estimation and tendering
    • Easier coordination of different software and project personnel
    • Improved productivity
    • Improved communication
    • Improved quality control

  • Reduced Errors and Omissions

  • Reduced Risk - Increased understanding and predictability—offering greater certainty and reduced risk

  • Reduced Waste - Potential for significant reduction in on-site waste

  • Automated Compliance Testing - International Code Council is developing “SMART Codes” that can read the BIM and analyze whether the project is in compliance with code requirements. So it is important that ASHRAE’s technical documents such as Handbooks and Standards be similarly developed so that they can be “read” by BIM models. That means developing the documents in smart XML format and writing Standards as “rule sets” that can readily be implemented.

5. Risks/Issues
  • Feedback on Actual Building Performance – Know so little how buildings actually perform. Designers need more feedback from operators to move toward more true low energy buildings. Bridging the gap from design to operations is critical. It doesn’t matter how elegant or sophisticated the design might be. When the building has been occupied, the operator will always win in the end! This is not to place all responsibility on designers. There is a great need for more (and ongoing) training of building operational consider how the building will (or even can) be run.

  • Inaccurate Energy Models - Too often energy models developed during design doesn’t necessarily simulate how the building actually will be operated or account for all of the equipment loads within the building. Modeling seems to be improving, but at present, there is no real incentive to accurately model the building as it will actually operate. Perhaps there’s a penalty for energy model accuracy if one is trying to stretch to get that next LEED® energy performance credit.

  • Modeling Smaller Buildings - At the moment, companies that develop, build and fund energy efficiency projects won't even consider working on building smaller than 10,000 square feet. If it only takes a few days to build models and get recommendations on cost and performance statistics, these companies might be much more willing to take on smaller buildings.

  • Software Interoperability - One of the issues has been interoperability between the many different BIM software programs - that is slowly being resolved. Also the industry has developed open protocol management viewing software that allows exchange of information between disparate software systems. McGraw Hill, in their recent “Construction 2007 Interoperability Smart Market Report” of the building industry indicates that BIM is currently being used by approximately 20% of designers. However the responses also indicate a projected usage level of 80% within 5 years and 100% within 10 years.

  • Project Cost - For the architect or engineer there may be a small premium equal to around 5 to 10% of their fee (0.25 to 0.5 % of overall project cost).

  • Data Input for Existing Buildings - One of the biggest impediments to developing BIM for existing buildings is the time and expense required to collect the base data for basic BIM development. Automating the data collection process with spatial robotics drives a significant amount of time and cost out of the data collection process and delivers a spatially integrated set of data into the BIM. This information can also be integrated with GIS to give local to global information on the performance of facility assets inside and out.

  • Inadequate Training - Receiving adequate training is the greatest challenge to adopting BIM. This could be particularly difficult because only a limited number of users have an expert background that could be used as a training resource. Keeping People Motivated with Software Limitations Reverse Mentoring.

  • Using BIM in Operations - For all of the data and information created and developed during the design and construction of a building, very little of it is used in the operation and management of the building. It’s not that the information and data would not be useful, but rather that much of the data is created in a static, legacy paper format. That makes it difficult if not impossible to use the data in facility operations, property management or business systems, unless one decides to undertake the laborious task of manually entering data.

  • Lack of Senior Management Buy-in

  • Cost of software and required hardware upgrades
    • Software Limitations
    • Network Speed
    • Computer Requirements
  • The Change in the Design Process
  • Large Projects
  • Over Modeling
  • Need to create objects to insert into models

6. Success Criteria
  • Process Changes - BIM requires changes to the definition of traditional architectural phases and more data sharing than most architects and engineers are used to.
  • Data Management - Ensure that you collect and store data once when it is generated and then re-use it throughout the lifecycle of the facility.
  • Integrate BIM into Business Processes - Use the model as the single base from which to do all work. In other words go to the model as the authoritative source for the facility information, pull out the part you are working on, make the changes and put it back in the model before you close the work order. In this way the model is accurately maintained without additional effort being expended because both data collection and data maintenance are simply part of the process.

7. Companies
BIM Vendors

  1. Autodesk, San Rafael, CA- Autodesk building information modeling (BIM) software facilitates a new way of working collaboratively using a model created from consistent, reliable design information – enabling faster decision-making, better documentation, and the ability to evaluate sustainable building and infrastructure design alternatives using analysis to predict performance before breaking ground.

    Autodesk is betting that upgraded versions of its building performance modeling software--Ecotect Analysis and Green Building Studio--could make detailed evaluations of energy emissions and water use accessible to most companies. That's because Autodesk claims that its new software will cut down the time necessary for analysis from weeks to days.

    New versions of Autodesk Revit Architecture software will use cloud computing to speed up analysis, produce accurate models of water use and natural ventilation, and use comprehensive data about weather conditions and sustainable building products to speed up the evaluation time.

  2. Bentley Systems, Exton, PA - Leading company dedicated to providing comprehensive software solutions for the infrastructure lifecycle. Over 2,800 colleagues in over 50 offices worldwide and annual revenues surpassing $450 million.

  3. BuildingSmart Alliance - Part of National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS)
    Washington, DC – helping to make the North American real property industry more efficient by leading the creation of tools and standards that allow projects to be built electronically before they are built physically using Building Information Modeling.The National Building Information Model Standard (NBIMS) rebranded to be more user friendly and international in scope.

  4. Graphisoft, Budapest, Hungary -
    ARCHICAD is the leading Building Information Modeling (BIM) software application used by architects, designers, engineers and builders to professionally design, document and collaborate on building projects. Since its release over 30 years ago, ARCHICAD has been all about BIM.

  5. Sefaira - London/ New York -  Cloud-based technology, built upon building physics expertise, offers an integrated approach to sustainable design analysis, knowledge management, and decision support. Sefaira helps building designers analyze and compare sustainable building strategies for new build or retrofit projects in a fraction of the time and cost previously required. By providing sophisticated analysis via a web interface, Sefaira helps users define, quantify and optimize the energy, water, carbon and financial benefits of relevant design strategies. This helps users effectively balance the investment between various building strategies, to maximize capital efficiency, minimize energy and water use and create high performing sustainable building designs at low cost.

    Traditional building design software can take hours to process the changes in complex sustainability variables like lighting, HVAC, weather, sunlight, windows, occupancy, and rooftop solar panels that make up a truly “green” building. Sefaira says it can do it in 10 seconds or less from the cloud, and on April 10, 2012, it landed $10.8 million in venture capital investment to bring its technology to a global scale. 
8. Links
  1. ASHRAE - An Introduction to Building Information Modeling - A guide from ASHRAE on building information models and building information modeling (BIM) serves as a resource for professionals considering BIM tools and applications for their businesses.
  2. California Building Energy Reference Tool – CAL-ARCH – The California benchmarking project developed the CalArch 2.1 building energy benchmarking tool. This online tool benchmarks whole building energy use in commercial buildings.
  3. Energy Design Resources – Offers decision-making tools and resources that help make it easier to design, build and operate more energy-efficient buildings in California. The research and development of Energy Design Resources is funded by California utility customers and administered by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and Southern California Gas under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission.


  1. This is very intriguing. By chance do you have definitions for the different levels of the BIM Lifecycle? This is something I am thinking of using with my current business development model.

  2. I read your blogs regularly. Your humoristic way is amusing, continue the good work!

  3. Thanks for providing the beautiful blog site. BIM Modeling is really an industrial art applicable in many fields. Those people, who are in the field, it is useful and important for them.

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  4. Technology has gone too far, even in the construction industry also. If we'll compare the traditional construction process and the process that is taking place these days then the difference is like hell and heaven. IT has became a vital portion in the construction industry also. I don't have much idea about the building industry but it was interesting to read this post. Building information modeling is really an interesting part to read. Thanks a lot for sharing. Home foundation inspection Los Angeles, CA.

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