A smart building is defined as any structure or facility that uses automated processes to control the building’s operations. The key focus is on reduction in the use of non-renewable sources of energy and relying more on renewable sources of energy thereby reducing the impact on the environment. That apart, business benefits like optimized operations, better management, reduced operational costs, and less effort can accrue.
Though this definition encompasses various factors it is not restricted within these parameters. There is no single standard definition available to describe a smart building or structure in the construction and infrastructure industry. The common parameters amongst the smart structures are better resource-utilization and reduced effort.
Constructing a smart building involves linking the core systems of the structure such as lighting, power meters, heating, cooling, pumps, fire alarms and plants with sensors, and easily accessible integrated control systems.
The conventional structures remain just structures, unlike smart structures which could improve with time and external factors to provide more than just shelter and safety to its inhabitants.
Smart Buildings & Building Information Modelling
According to the experts, the future of the construction industry lies in building smart structures that will evolve with the ever-evolving technology. It is not technology alone that makes a structure smart. A smart structure is an amalgamation of technology, processes, and standards – the guiding force behind this paradigm shift in the construction and infrastructure industry today.
If smart structures are the future, then one cannot overstate the importance of BIM in this endeavour. Constructing a smart building involves the integration of several different aspects that go into the construction and BIM specialises in doing that.
BIM can be extremely vital in the initial stages of a project. The digital graphical representation of the facility helps in identifying and eliminating any shortcomings before beginning the construction of the facility. A building plan can be optimised with the assistance of the consolidated streamlining of data provided by the BIM software.
BIM can play a crucial role in the inception, execution, construction, and maintenance of these smart buildings. Here is how:
1. Integrated Design
One of the highlights of the BIM approach is the integration of data that is easily accessible to architects, engineers, designers, and builders. Every change that is made in the design gets automatically updated across the project. This helps in avoiding conflicts and gets everyone on the same page.
2. Digital Representation
The graphical representation of the design in the form of a 3D model helps in understanding and thereby eradicating conflicts in the design. This is done during the inception phase which helps in avoiding loss of time and curtailing costs during the construction phase. This assists in the smart utilization of resources and in reducing wastage of time as well as materials.
3. Integrated Data
The digital platform of BIM helps in centralising the data for all the involved stakeholders. It provides a single source of truth. The availability of information to every party helps in eliminating errors of judgement and miscommunication that commonly happen during large scale construction projects. Information regarding the quantities of the required material to be procured, estimates of proposed and current usage helps in keeping a lid on over-ordering and unbudgeted expenses.
4. Security System
BIM software provides a base that can be leveraged for a comprehensive and cohesive security apparatus. This can be the foundation for consolidating and generating data points with the help of smart sensors and systems installed throughout the facility. The advanced security system is not targeted to be used by the inhabitants alone. It can ensure safety during the construction period as well, by restricting unwanted manoeuvring on the project site, by assisting the management team with an overview of the activities being carried out on the site.
5. 3D Modelling
3D modelling in BIM helps in understanding not just construction plan for a facility that we can see but also the underground construction (unseen or buried). It provides useful information to the construction team regarding existing pipelines or fibre-optic cables. The information also helps in knowing how far to dig without causing any damage to the existing underground structure. Adding in the 5D, 6D, and 7D dimensions helps to map the scale, scope, and state of construction at various project stages with respect to critical cost parameters during construction and on an ongoing basis post construction too. This provides invaluable information for planning, execution, and management of the building.
6. Enhanced Project Visualization
BIM-modelling promotes enhanced and more accurate visualisation of the facility post-construction. This can become the foundation for creating management plans for the facility. This is especially critical as it captures the as-built condition of the building including providing for the changes in the plan that would have been made during the construction phase. This becomes an essential foundation to build automation strategies on. It removes the guesswork from the automation strategy and helps create a better, more comprehensive, and more tightly-integrated plan.
The future is digital, and BIM is accelerating technological advancement and innovation in the construction industry. The journey to a Smart Building starts well before the construction starts - and BIM can drive that Smart journey from day one!