Building Information Modelling is transforming the design process of buildings by offering savings on construction costs as well as operational savings in terms of waste, water and energy use. Combining BIM with other developments such as advances in data analysis and cloud-based collaboration also open up exciting potential to reshape the way engineers, architects and designers collaborate on future projects.
This is according to Tristram Carfrae, Global Board Director of Arup, who talks us through a system that is transforming the design process of buildings worldwide:
Rather than simply creating a physical model of a building, architects, planners and designers now have the capability to work together and test every aspect of a building in a virtual world, before any work on the building even starts. The advancements in technology allow everyone involved in a project to examine different elements of the build at the same time. For example, to try out different building materials, plot heat emissions and examine how people are likely to move through the space, years before starting the actual construction.
3D modelling is becoming the norm, enabling greater collaboration and real-time improvements to designs. For example, if a column is moved in a building, the ventilation ducting has to be rerouted – 3D modelling highlights this immediately, preventing any disturbance at a later date. This technology was used for the planning and construction of the Chinese National Aquatics Centre (Water Cube) for the Beijing Olympics. The success of the intricate design was assisted by 3D modelling. The technology enabled architects to asset-manage every element of the design, down to the smallest door handle or light fitting, predicting the effects of any change made to the building.
This new way of modelling doesn’t only affect the appearance and functionality of developments but also enhances their environmental sustainability. Buildings are thought to contribute nearly 40% of the world’s carbon emissions, making energy use a big consideration. BIM enables the assessment of everything from heating and air-conditioning systems to the potential for using natural light and ventilation – something that has not been available to assess to its full potential previously.
Due to these revolutions, architects, engineers and designers are increasingly embracing the creative freedom that 3D building modelling offers and are also adopting 4D and 5D. 4D modelling aligns the 3D models to time, allowing it be controlled and manipulated to show the building as it should appear at any stage during construction.
The 4D technology played an integral role in the development of Heathrow’s Terminal 5, saving the project £2.5m in the first nine months of use. The technology helped in bringing together the design and the construction team to resolve problems before they escalated – crucial when construction is under way at one of Europe’s busiest airports, with millions of passengers travelling through each year.
When it comes to crowded public spaces, such as airports, it is vital to take the flow of movement in the building into consideration when designing the area. This is where Arup has developed the MassMotion technology to predict the movement of occupants in different buildings and on roads. Each character has its own artificial intelligence, which enables the prediction of possible behaviour of passengers and pedestrians in real life. All characters are unique and make decisions based on their surroundings, as they move from one environment to the other in real time. For instance, the movements of the economy and business class travellers differ greatly and can create previously unforeseeable congestion hazards.
A fifth dimension is the next phase which models costs and enables well-informed financial decisions as a project evolves. Decisions about a change in material can be predicted and unforeseen impacts on other parts of a project anticipated. Advances in computing power and data analysis also mean that more data is available than ever before about other similar buildings already in use, which can be drawn into the design process to take into account how occupants already use comparable buildings.
These modern technologies, predicting the pace and cost of a development, as well as simulating the way occupants will react in it, are giving way to a new collaborative way of designing buildings. Architects, designers and engineers are increasingly adopting the different innovative planning models to deliver sustainable buildings. It is an exciting time for the building modelling practice in terms of seeing how the design and building performance evolves in the years to come.