Tuesday 8 May 2012

National BIM Library, IFC, Financial cost and Environmental impact

One of the highlights of the recent presentations at ecobuild was the presentation of the TSB funded Interoperable Carbon Information Model (iCIM) research project into BIM and financial and environmental cost information. An HD video of this presentation by Richard Watson and Professor Steve Lockley may be viewed at the link below.


I have also been demonstrating this software tool recently and the response it receives is absolutely fantastic. I thought I'd do a quick blog post on it with some screenshots. Please see these below. Also, I'll be delighted to demonstrate this to anyone coming to our stand at BIM Show Live this week.

This project was a joint research project that involved the following partners. However, a special mention must go to Steve Lockley's BIM Academy team at Northumbria for some really fantastic work on the IFC side of things.

The journey starts in the users BIM design tool of choice. For this research Autodesk Revit was used, however the great thing about this project is all interoperability is through IFC, so there is absolutely no reason why this could not be Bentley, ArchiCAD, Vectorworks or any other design tool. At this stage, it is possible that only concept objects are used and no firm decisions on materials or manufacturers have been made. Fig 1 shows that the user logs on and clicks to upload the IFC model directly to the iCIM website.
Fig 1 - The journey starts in a BIM desktop software design tool - in this case Autodesk Revit
Once at the website, project-level information may be entered. Items such as the project location, the project details and the budget targets in terms of capital cost and carbon benchmarks can be set.
Fig 2 - The key information from the BIM is uploaded and a project dashboard is shown
The second tab on the iCIM website is the main working area. The type objects are displayed in a tree view and automatically classified (in this example by NRM). An interactive visualisation of the model is displayed - familiar functionality like navigate (zoom, pan, orbit), object selection and show/hide is all available.
Fig 3 - A fully functional online BIM viewer using IFC as the data model helps the process
Each object selected can then be configured in terms of its materials. This may be done:
a. By starting with a pre-configured object from the National BIM Library
b. By starting with an object from a previous job, or
c. By starting with a blank object and configuring from scratch
Fig 4 - Each object may be configured online
As an object is configured, each decision can be made with detailed guidance as to what the impact will be. Designers regularly must balance performance, environmental and financial cost when it comes to building design. But there are not many (if any) commercial applications where all of this information is presented in context at the point of need. The following four screenshots show detailed guidance for:
a. Embodied carbon. As the industry move to dramatically lower the operational carbon of buildings, then the embodied carbon content of building materials is becoming more and more significant.
b. Recycled content. There is good recycled content guidance available already in products and services like NBS (in terms of WRAP). But having at this in parallel with the main BIM is much needed.
c. Capital cost. The last thing any designer wants to do is design a great environmentally friendly building, but find they are way over budget. So cost information is also provided.
d. Specification guidance. (Of course) NBS technical guidance is also available.
Clearly more tabs could be added over time for operational costs and other environmental considerations such as transport cost and water footprint.
Fig 5 - The materials may be specified based their embodied carbon
Fig 6 - Guidance on recycled content is also provided

Fig 7 - A range of financial costs for each material is given

Fig 8 - Technical guidance on specification considerations from NBS is also provided
The final part of this journey is exporting the results to IFC and round-tripping this information back intro the central model. This IFC content can be imported firstly into the main BIM - it can also be used to generate an outline specification that is already fully coordinated.
Fig 9 - Crucially, it is possible to export the design decisions back to IFC at the end
Fig 10 - By then importing this IFC file, the full round-trip is complete
This TSB project finished at the end of May. We will now investigate what the business model will be to turn this project into a commercial offering. Fingers crossed it continues to develop - there is a natural fit with National BIM Library and NBS Create. It also ticks the two big boxes in terms of reducing carbon and costs through using BIM technologies.

We've been carrying out user trials over the last two weeks, but any feedback on these concepts via this blog will be most appreciated.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Stephen,
    I am a student from Germany and i would love totry out iCIM on my Masterproject. Is there a possibility to get a demo or beta? I think it looks amazing, are you still working on this project?