Simply placing the word "smart" before any kind of architectural or technological term, or any term for that matter, seems to convert it into something new and futuristic. Some examples, such as the smart city, smart industry, or smart commerce show us that the "smart" adjective is already more common than we think, and that, moreover, it doesn’t sound that strange anymore. The smart building is also a novel concept used in today’s architectural world. The difficulty of discussing this concept, as with every innovative yet ambiguous term, is finding a clear definition of it. There is already much writing on it, and we won’t find an absolutely clear definition, but generally, we could define a smart building as: "A construction that strives for full energy efficiency in its usage, reaching this goal thanks to integrated and automated management and control of all its systems."
Knowing that smart buildings are targeted towards energy efficiency, what better way is there to design these constructions than using BIM methodology? The appearance of this new work method, parallel to the exploration and evolution of smart buildings, allowed for huge steps toward the implementation of efficient and intelligent constructions. When we talk about BIM methodology, as we have already seen in previous articles, we talk about different essential phases: planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance. In Smart Buildings, these steps are simplified down to just two: the virtual phase and the real phase.
Equating the first phase, the virtual phase, to the stages of a "traditional" BIM model, we would compare it to the first phases of the project: planning and designing. The goals of this first phase of smart building require an exhaustive analysis of how the construction will respond to certain scenarios or conditions. Basically, architects will use this part of the project to realize all the necessary calculations required in the BEP (BIM Execution Plan), which will give numerical results describing the efficiency of the building. This data will allow architects to make calculations about lighting, water consumption, energy, electricity, airflow, etc.—ultimately, all kinds of calculations that favors efficiency. As a result, in this first "virtual" phase, architects will be able to prevent possible errors during construction, compare different elements and/or machines in different systems, and have a much more accurate analysis of the energy use of the building once it is finished.
After going through this first phase, all relevant decisions about the design of the smart building will have been cemented; the construction has been virtually completed. This is when the project can move on to its second, and final, phase: the real one. Going back to comparing stages in BIM models, the "real" phase would cover the physical building processes and the operation and maintenance phases once the construction was complete. This time, the goals for smart buildings are very simple: ensure that the materials and machines used are the ones that have been decided on earlier, and that there can be optimal maintenance of both. It will be key in this stage to comply with what was already established in the early phase, because if any change occurs to a product or a machine without previously calculating its impact, we might see a reduction in the efficiency of the building when compared with what was expected.
The BIM methodology greatly favors these kinds of smart building constructions, since using such dynamic and powerful software allows architects to precisely calculate data and anticipate possible future problems. Therefore, this work method is a fundamental part of the design and construction processes of smart buildings, demonstrating yet another reason why training in BIM is key when we look at the future of architecture.
BIM models can easily be applied to illustrate the whole life cycle of a building to both clients and architects. In addition, programs such as Autodesk Revit allow users to analyze every stage of construction from laying the foundation up until the project completion, from concept to demolition and the eventual reuse of materials.
If you are looking to dedicate the next few months to learn all about the now extended Revit software for BIM design, you can enroll in one of the professional BIM video courses offered by the online training school GoPillar Academy. To access the offer, simply enter the following link to get a 70% discount valid until March 31th, 2021.