Your Energy Modeling Options for BIM

Increasingly the true value of BIM is becoming clearer to the industry, in that the ultimate outcome is not 3D CAD and coordinated design services, it’s the creation, capture, analysis and sharing of information throughout the design, construction, and operation of an asset. Design teams who get the process right, see the technology fit together much better.

The idea of having an integrated energy feedback loop throughout the design process sounds great, but why haven’t more people adopted this? That’s because BIM is a mindset and process not just a technology, and the people involved in this process need to change in order to fully exploit a BIM enabled workflow. This is starting to happen more and more, but there are still many misconceptions that trip up the industry from taking full advantage of this process.

There are many reasons for these misconceptions; it’s because we’re all at different stages of the Change Cycle. The first stage starts with uninformed optimism which can come from the promise of software vendors or even blog posts such as this one. That leads you to the second stage of informed pessimism where you start exporting your BIM projects to import in your energy modeling software, and then you realize that this process is going to take some work. Without the proper resources to cross the chasm of stage 3, you may start to wonder whether this workflow is even worth the effort. At this point, people either drop off or develop a hopeful realism of what’s required to make the process work.

I’ve helped people through each of these stages and get through the 4th stage of informed optimism, ultimately to success. One way I did this is by authoring an online course on building a simple BIM using the 5 modeling techniques I developed to seamlessly integrate all my projects with energy modeling. I’ve had students sign up from all over the world and this led to lots of feedback from many different perspectives.

What I learned is that the workflow I developed doesn’t work for everyone and I had to incorporate more robustness to handle different scenarios. What typically happens is that the architect starts off by modeling the building for coordination and then passes off this model to the engineer for energy modeling. The problem is that these models don’t work and the engineer needs to rebuild the geometry natively in the energy modeling software or attempt to patch the model and risk wasting lots of time if the ladder doesn’t work.

Teaching architects to build simpler models for the engineer’s scope of work didn’t really solve the problem, even though the workflow technically works. What we need is to teach engineers how to fix the coordinated models they’re receiving from architects. This approach is more difficult than building a simple model since you need to adapt an existing detailed model without compromising it during the process.

Fortunately, the techniques from the simple model approach can still be applied for the detailed model approach. Learning the simple model approach has helped me understand the root cause problem for most of the issues that typically occur in a detailed project. With this understanding, I’ve been able to coach some of our software customers at IES to help them on their projects. But without a robust process in place, I’m simply putting a band-aid on the errors as they come up.

That’s why I decided to launch my second online course, covering the detailed modeling approach. I’m teaching this course on Saturdays in the BIM Management Graduate Program at George Brown College in Toronto, and this part of the curriculum starts on February 11. I’ll be opening the course for enrollment next week on February 2nd after the IES BIM4Analysis webinar, where I’ll be demonstrating this process and explaining the details of the course. I invite you to sign up for the course pre-launch and I’ll keep you informed with all the details. Follow this link to register.

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