The typical building lifecycle is long, with most modern buildings being constructed to last at least 100 years. That’s a long time for building designers, engineers, owners or operators to continually assess building performance.
With today’s technology, AEC professionals can make these assessments long before a shovel hits the ground. Using Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, architects and engineers can simulate how variations in room volume, window size, number of occupants and more will influence outcomes like embodied carbon, operational costs and thermal comfort.
How do we see the impact of data reflected across a building’s lifecycle? It starts with design.
The design stage often begins with a feasibility study, with owners and investors setting project targets for important considerations such as programmatic needs of future occupants, community enrichment and ROI. Stakeholders may also consider performance targets, such as carbon impact and energy efficiency. Here, architects and engineers can utilize BIM to run simulations to determine which design solution may be the best fit to meet these goals.
As architects design the building, they continue to use data to inform decision-making. To a lay person, whether a room should have one large window, or two smaller ones may seem like an innocuous decision. AEC professionals know even these small distinctions—multiplied across hundreds of rooms in a building—could have a real impact on factors like sunlight, electricity use, thermal comfort, and so on.
Utilizing data-driven simulations helps designers address all variables to determine the best way to meet performance targets and produce a healthy building.
MAINTAINING WITH DATA
As a project enters the occupancy and maintenance stages, factors like energy efficiency and operational costs come to the forefront.
Ideally, project designers will have preemptively run energy modeling and other virtual simulations to determine the best course of action. Still, it’s virtually impossible to account for everything that might happen as the structure is actually built. But with a data-driven BIM practice, your team can simply update simulations with what you’ve learned on-site and adjust from there.
Once the building is erected, it will, hopefully, last for a while. But, across its lifecycle, better appliances and technology will inevitably be invented, forcing you to ask if the building should be updated.
Again, the way to find out is through data. Operators can revisit simulations to assess whether new technology would improve the building and reduce costs over time.
THE POWER OF DATA
I saw the value of data in understanding a building’s potential performance firsthand when I worked on Georgia Tech’s Kendeda Building. It would become Georgia’s first building to be Living Building Challenge certified, the built environment’s most rigorous and ambitious performance standard.
Publicity was buzzing around the project—there was little room for error, and every decision we made would be scrutinized.
So, we turned to data. We gathered all the information we could and ran simulation after simulation. We tested different facades, wood planks for flooring, solar panels and so on to determine which materials would hold up the longest, minimize carbon emissions, and maximize value.
The result? The Kendeda Building earned its Living Building Challenge certification and stands today on Georgia Tech’s campus as a testament to the power of sustainable architecture, BIM, and accessible data. Because of the simulations we ran, it will hopefully continue to run efficiently for years to come, and, as it eventually needs repairs or updates, building operators will return to data to make the best decisions.
About the Author:
Patricia Kusumadjaja, CEP, Assoc. AIA, is the virtual design and construction director at cove.tool, a leading provider of building design and construction software. She has more than 8 years of experience working in the AEC industry, namely in architectural cost estimating, VDC, and project delivery. She strives to make a difference in the way owners, construction and architectural professionals view high-performance design, with the hope that sustainability and environmental consciousness becomes a non-negotiable priority in all future building design and construction.
Modern Contractor Solutions, April 2023
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