Green BIM at Ecobuild

Ideal Standard bottle-thinker.

Guest blogger Margaret Reynolds reports

Ideal Standard’s bottle thinker was one of the more eye-catching installations at Ecobuild, but on a more serious note there was quite a lot on BIM (Building Information Modelling) at the show this year. BIM demands the fusing of fragments we already know and love into a whole new way of working. Its 3-D modelling system involves data-sharing between all consultants and contractors to create a digital model.  It can be developed from the earliest client discussion right through design, specification, construction, completion and performance monitoring. The traditional 2D, paper-document process simply cannot continue. The same 3D model can be used for facilities management (instead of shelves of ponderous OM manuals), refurbishment and eventual demolition.

Prof Andrew Thomas ran an excellent session on Tuesday morning on BIM’s potential for sustainability and avoidance of waste. I am teaching students about this in  a RIBA Office-Based Exam course. The 3-D central model embeds specification information in the graphics and joins up all disciplines at all work stages. This avoids duplication of human effort and moves the standard medium of communication away from paper, some of the reasons for the gross inefficiences of the construction industry.

In terms of implementation, Level 0 is CAD drawings - only the starting block. Level 1, file-based collaboration, links 2D adn 3D information to British Standards, Construction Project INformation Committee (CPIC) User guides.  Level 2 expands to an interactive 3D model, mapping standards and accrediations; Level 3 is integrated, inter-opeable data embedded into 3D graphics, extending to lifecyle management. The key is to define the ‘LoD’, level of detail required at each stage to keep the model thin.

The immense benefits of BIM were corraborated by Simon Rawlinson of EC Harris Asset Management. Their project programmes have been reduced by 10% and costs by 20%. Despite a number of hitches to implementation, EC Harris reckon a ‘40,000% increase in Return on Investment’ using BIM.

Finally, architect Ron Annable described the potential of BIM as ‘poetry in kWh.’ Architects mus upskill in 3D and in building physics to produce ‘whole-building energy models that can visualise design quality - for example sunlight patterns - as well as being handed to the client as-built for future reference.

The Government will require ‘fully collaborative’ BIM for procurement and management of all public projects from 2015, so that will start to push it through industry. A BIM-anchored model is being tracked in parallell with a non-BIM traditional project by Manchester City Council. Cynical or prophetic, BIM is a way forward.

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