Merging BIM and Sustainability Into One

When I began looking back over my previous blogs, I noticed that two of my main topics have been Building Information Modeling (BIM) and sustainability. So it was kind of ironic when I went to a seminar last week that merged these two topics. The presentation was about two of Autodesk’s newer software products – Green Building Studio and Ecotect. At a quick first glance, these both seem like great tools for architects.Green Building Studio is an online tool that is useful during early design to analyze energy, water and carbon emissions.

The program lets you import the project model, type in the project address, and it pulls information from online sources to give you data about the project. It can calculate such things as where is the best location on the building to put PV panels, what is the payback period for the PV panels, what is the annual energy and water savings for the building. By changing the design or orientation of the building you can see how these numbers change. One funny feature is that it grades your building’s carbon footprint by giving it an equivalent number of SUVs.

Ecotect is a more sophisticated software that deals with the impacts of the sun. It has many tools to visualize solar radiation, shade and shadow, and other solar factors. One cool feature of the program are the wizards that can help with the design. The one I saw demonstrated was for a window shade. You type in the months of the year you want the window shaded, pick the type of shade you want from a list and based on the design of the building and the location of the project, the software generates the minimum shape that is needed to shade that window. Architects can then take that information and design their shade using those minimums.

Of course all this technology comes with a pretty hefty price tag, about $4,000 per license, but it’s amazing to see what can be simulated on the computer. I would love to get my hands on the software and play around with it. I know this kind of information would have been extremely helpful when we were designing the library I’m working on. Hopefully on a future project I will get the opportunity.