Thursday 31 January 2013

NBS Green BIM Conference

Today, for the third time NBS teamed up with New London Architecture to put on a free BIM conference. The theme this time was BIM and sustainability. The NBS speaker was our "Head of Sustainability" John Gelder - so I had the pleasure if sitting back and enjoying the morning whilst eating biscuits and drinking cups of tea.

Peter Murray, chair of NLA, and our own NBS CEO Richard Waterhouse started the day by asking the questions that we'd explore through the conference, can we reduce environmental impact without increasing capital costs? can we pass information to building operators and occupiers so that operational costs can be reduced? can BIM help with these challenges?
Fig 1 - Waterhouse and the Wedge
Fig 2 - Unfortunately not all occupiers understand how services operate
All presentations will soon be up on our website - so for now in this blog post - selected slides and pictures...

Casey Rutland from Arup Associates was first up and he looked at using BIM in new build and refurbishment work to lower environmental impact.
Fig 3 - Property sets associated with the geometry
Fig 4 - Simulation during design-time to ensure optimal performance
Chris Boyce of Capita Symonds looked at one particular project St Silas School and went through the design stages from sketches on paper through to construction.
Fig 5 - The sustainable school example as featured in Nov AJ
Elrond Burrell from Architype then gave a super presentation on Passivhaus and BIM. Elrond worked on the first BREEAM excellent Primary School in England and 3 of the first 4 Certified Passivhaus schools in the UK. He believes we should push much harder than the targeted 20% savings the Government are looking for - "we can achieve this just by building what was designed". In his example school, the savings on heating were 80%. See image below...
Fig 6 - The energy savings possible
After the break we heard about FM from the public and private sector. The biggest environmental impact by far is in the operation of a building. It was only right that we had a decent session from an FM point of view. Roy Evans represented the UK Government's BIM Task Group and then Marilyn Standley from BIFM gave the private sector view.
Fig 7 - The UK Government Hypothesis
Fig 8 - We must learn from every building and continue to get better
Brendan Patchell from Rider Levett Bucknall did a presentation that was strengtehened by slides showing many detailed figures. The work they are doing benchmarking different types and constructions of buildings for the Cabinet Office was particularly interesting.
Fig 9 - How much a school costs to build in the UK
At NBS we already work very closely with BRE, examples of this are in NBS with the third party certification specification choices and the comprehensive BREEAM guidance. Daniel Doran from BRE showed how they are experts in environmental impact data. This was demonstrated nicely with their IMPACT dataset that is being released as a module within IES in the next few weeks.
Fig 10 - BRE - delivering structured environmental impact data into BIM software
And finally.. John Gelder from NBS wrapped up the conference. Three key messages from John:

  1. Operational and embodied carbon are important - but sustainability is much more - material waste, water usage, pollution, health...
  2. We need structured information so that BIM can best help with environmental impact
  3. Manufacturers need to structure their environmental credentials in a way that they can easily be imported into BIM tools
Fig 11 - NBS Head of Sustainability John Gelder walked from Newcastle to London to
minimise his environmental impact contribution with respect to attending this conference
Final thoughts from me...

It was nice to have a BIM conference around a particular theme. Of all the current construction topics of interest (eg. contracts and law, health and safety, regulations, standards etc...) I think sustainability is probably the one that works best for me. I am by no means a sustainability expert, but I cannot help thinking there is an analogy here with the food and drinks industry. We make our own choices with what we eat - but all food now is clearly labelled - we can see what the sugar, fat, carbohydrate, alcohol etc content is in a standarised form.

In construction, we have fantastic technology now. But the structured information is way behind. What is a products embodied carbon content? How many miles from the quarry has this product travelled? How does the energy efficiency of manufacturer A's insulation compare with manufacturer B? Has this got third party approval? Until this information is structured and provided free to industry by the manufacturers then life will be difficult for the many construction professionals who want to make a difference.

And finally, it was a slight shame that we didn't have a presentation from a Landscape Architect (kicking myself a bit here). In addition to embodied carbon and carbon in use - planting can of course provide a positive contribution. A contribution that grows over the years as the plants and trees mature.

But all in all, a really interesting day - good to see some familiar faces. As always, please feel free to add comments in response to this post.

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