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Changing the way we design HVAC systems

BIM is transforming how buildings are designed – but in some cases they are still not as energy efficient as they could be.

BIM allows building designers to create 3D models of structures featuring digital versions of all the systems contained within them. This means that buildings can be created on screen and the efficiency, energy consumption and other variables can be measured and tested before physical installation begins.

In theory, this should allow for streamlined building design and highly accurate modelling of a structure’s energy use and efficiency. In practice, however,  buildings are still not delivering the efficiency that the modelling suggests and this may be down to the quality of data.

It is important, as BIM becomes the industry standard, that all the data provided is 100% reliable and there is no “data vacuum”. Clients are increasingly looking not just at the cost of a build, but the ongoing costs. BIM must address this consistently.

In the recent Adoption of BIM manufacturers’ survey, 40% of respondents said they already offer BIM and around half of respondents plan to before 2016. The construction industry is demonstrating that it has faith in BIM and its ability to make the process of building design not only more efficient, but smarter.

A system is only as smart as its data, however, and there needs to be a real push from the bottom up to ensure that every fixture, fitting and material placed in BIM is as accurate as possible so that client confidence remains strong.

Costs do not end with the design and build of a system; there is a running cost associated with a building during its lifetime.

If our data is incorrect and we give a false efficiency to the system, that will ultimately cost facility managers in the long run. We all have a responsibility to deliver cost-effective projects – not just at the build stage, but throughout the lifetime of a structure.

And this applies to retrofit as well. BIM is a great tool for facilities managers to renew parts of a system and improve its efficiency, but only if the data is accurate.

Suppliers need to understand this and provide comprehensive, accurate BIM versions of their products in order to ensure the system works for the construction industry as a whole.

Stephen Hart is managing director at Frese UK

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