BIM – Building Intelligence Modelling

Truly Intelligent buildings are within our reach.

Walking around the stands in the recent Protection & Management Exhibition at ExCel this month was a good demonstration of what goes into the design, construction and operation of buildings. A show that encompassed energy, renewables, FM, fire safety and IT  indicates the enormous range of equipment, skills and coordination required to get a building from plan to occupation.

The type of equipment now available for the modern building is also increasingly advanced. Everything from boilers, to air handling units to alarm systems are available with intelligence built-in. And clients are expecting more from their buildings. Energy monitoring that delivers information to hand-helds; boilers that pre-empt emergency shut downs with SMS text messages to engineers; buildings that respond to the weather, or that can reduce energy usage at peak demand times – all on the requirements list.

In fact, what clients are asking for is more intelligent buildings. And who can blame them? Frankly, if my car can automatically find my Bluetooth phone and respond to voice commands (and that’s just a Fiesta!) then why does my office not offer the same level of response? Many of today’s buildings are, well, dumb. They don’t do what the occupants want; they are energy inefficient and difficult to maintain. If the average commercial building was a car, you wouldn’t buy it.

The main barrier to intelligent buildings is no longer lack of equipment to make it happen, it’s the industry’s inability to coordinate. Unlike the sleek production facilities of the automotive industry, the construction sector relies on multiple suppliers coming together in often difficult physical conditions while trying to share information in a notoriously litigious environment.

Old fashioned methods of working are holding back a revolution in how buildings operate, even though manufacturers are offering cutting-edge technologies.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) will be a requirement on all government construction projects by 2016 – only 18 months away. Getting the construction industry on board with BIM has been a difficult process, but anyone with any vision for better buildings knows this could be what the industry has been waiting for.

By encouraging greater cooperation and sharing of information, BIM puts truly intelligent buildings within our reach.  Patrick MacLeamy, chief executive of HOK said: “BIM is a game changer”.  He was speaking about the potential impact of BIM on the construction industry, but it also has the potential to change buildings themselves.  Building Information Modelling is an important step on the road to Building Intelligence Modelling.

With a better approach to designing and delivering buildings, it will become more possible to achieve buildings that are truly capable of delighting clients. 

Karen Fletcher is director of Keystone Communications

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