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  1. 1. 2010 CRC PhD Student Conference An Investigation into Interoperability of Data Between Software Packages used to Support the Design, Analysis and Visualisation of Low Carbon Buildings Robina Hetherington R.E.Hetherington@open.ac.uk Supervisors Robin Laney Stephen Peake Department/Institute Computing Status Fulltime Probation viva Before Starting date January 2010 This paper outlines a preliminary study into the interoperability of building design and energy analysis software packages. It will form part of a larger study into how software can support the design of interesting and adventurous low carbon buildings. The work is interdisciplinary and is concerned with design, climate change and software engineering. Research Methodology The study will involve a blend of research methods. Firstly the key literature surrounding the study will be critically reviewed. A case study will look at the modelling of built form, with reflection upon the software and processes used. The model used in the case study will then be used to enable the analysis of data movement between software packages. Finally conclusions regarding the structures, hierarchies and relationships between interoperable languages used in the process will be drawn. This will inform the larger study into how software can support the design of interesting and adventurous low carbon buildings. Research questions: 1. What are the types of software used to generate building models and conduct the analysis of energy performance? 2. What is the process involved in the movement of data from design software to energy analysis software to enable the prediction of the energy demands of new buildings? 3. What are the potential limitations of current interoperable languages used to exchange data and visualise the built form? Context Software has an important role in tackling climate change, it is “a critical enabling technology” [1]. Software tools can be used to support decision making surrounding climate change in three ways; prediction of the medium to long term effects, formation and analysis of adaptation strategies and support of mitigation methods. This work falls into the later category, to reduce the sources of greenhouse gases through energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources [2]. Climate change is believed to be caused by increased anthropogenic emissions of green house gases. One of the major greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide. In the UK Page 33 of 125
  2. 2. 2010 CRC PhD Student Conference the Climate Change Act of 2008 has set legally binding targets to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 [3]. As buildings account for almost 50% of UK carbon dioxide emissions the necessary alteration of practices related to the construction and use of buildings will have a significant role in achieving these targets [4]. In 2007 the UK Government announced the intention that all new houses would be carbon neutral by 2016 in the “Building a Greener Future: policy statement”. This is to be achieved by progressive tightening of Building Regulations legislation over a number of years [4]. Consultations are currently taking place on the practicalities of legislating for public sector buildings and all new non- domestic buildings to be carbon neutral by 2018 and 2019 respectively [5]. The changes in praxis in the next 20-30 years facing the construction industry caused by this legislation are profound [6]. Software used in building modelling Architecture has gone through significant changes since the 1980s when CAD [Computer Aided Draughting/Design] was introduced. The use of software has significantly altered working practices and enabled imaginative and inspiring designs, sometimes using complex geometries only achievable through the use of advanced modelling and engineering computational techniques. However, the advances in digital design media have created a complex web of multiple types of software, interfaces, scripting languages and complex data models [7]. The types of software used by architects can be grouped into three main categories: CAD software that can be used to generate 2D or 3D visualizations of buildings. This type of software evolved from engineering and draughting practices, using command line techniques to input geometries. This software is mainly aimed at imitating paper based practices, with designs printed to either paper or pdf. Visualization software, generally used in the early design stages for generating high quality renderings of the project. BIM [Building Information Modelling] software has been a significant development in the last few years. BIM software contains the building geometry and spatial relationship of building elements in 3D. It can also hold geographic information, quantities and properties of building components, with each component as an ‘object’ recorded in a backend database. Building models of this type are key to the calculations now required to support zero carbon designs [8]. Examples of BIM software are Revit by Autodesk[9], and ArchiCAD by Graphisoft[10] and Bentley Systems [11] Energy analysis software Analysis software is used to perform calculations such as heat loss, solar gains, lighting, acoustics, etc. This type of analysis is usually carried out by a specialist engineer, often subsequent to the architectural design. The available tools are thus aimed at the expert engineer who have explicit knowledge to run and interpret the results of the simulation. This means that, until recent legislative changes, there was no need for holistic performance assessment to be integrated into design software [12]. Calculation of energy consumption requires a model of the proposed building to make the detailed estimates possible. Examples of expert tools that use models for the calculation are TRNSYS [13], IES Virtual Environment [14], EnergyPlus [15]. One tool that supports the architectural design process is Ecotect [16], which has a more intuitive graphical interface and support to conduct a performance analysis [12]. Page 34 of 125
  3. 3. 2010 CRC PhD Student Conference Energy analysis is one-way iterative process, with geometric meshes and data transferred from the design package to the various analysis tools. Every design iteration will (or should) involve a re-run of the environmental analysis tool [17]. The mesh geometry requires manipulation for this movement into the analysis software from the modelling environment and data such as material properties needs to be re- entried, with a significant penalty in time and possible loss or corruption of data [18][19]. Key research into interoperable languages used in the AEC [Architectural Engineering and Construction] industry A number of interoperable languages, relating to building designs, have been developed since the release of version 1.0 of the XML [eXtensible Markup Languages] standard in February 1998. They include visualisation schemas mainly used for as the source for the display of models: X3D[eXtensible 3D], based on VRML [Virtual Reality Modeling Language], CityGML for the representation of 3D urban objects and COLLADA [COLLAborative Design Activity]. The ifcXML [Industry Foundation Classes eXtensible Markup Language] specification, developed by the IAI [Industrial Alliance for Interoperability], was designed to facilitate the movement of information from and between BIM software. It was designed in a “relational” manner, as a result of the BIM database concept. Accordingly there is concern about the potential file size and complexity of the standard arising from the XML format and the amount of data it can contain [20] [21]. Also, the seamless interoperability it is intended to support has proved to be elusive. Take up has been slow and incomplete with software companies not always supportive [22]. A language designed specifically for interchange of data between design modelling environments and energy analysis packages is gbXML [Green Building eXtensible Markup Language]. In comparison with ifcXML it is considerably simpler and easier to understand [23]. However, it limitations are evident in the geometric detail contained in the file which inhibits the transfer back to the design package [17]. Next stage – a case study This paper has set the case study in context and given the key research in the area of interoperability in AEC projects. In the next stage a small house will be designed in Revit and the environmental design analysed in Ecotect to gain experience in using the tools and enable reflection on the software and procedures involved. ifcXML and gbXML files will be exported and analysed. Future work The software used in this study are all developed by commercial organizations, typically with an incremental, yearly update. New software, such as Ecotect, is often brought in from an independent developer. However, open platforms are generally considered to “promote innovation and diversity more effectively than proprietary ones” [24]. In the field of climate change, given the profound threat to humanity, a community approach is seen as potentially a better way forward [25]. Future work will look at how building design software may evolve to meet the challenge of designing interesting and beautiful low carbon buildings. References [1] S.M. Easterbrook, “First international workshop on software research and climate change,” Proceeding of the 24th ACM SIGPLAN conference companion on Object oriented programming systems languages and applications - OOPSLA '09, Orlando, Florida, USA: 2009, p. 1057. [2] S. Peake and J. Smith, Climate change : from science to sustainability, Milton Keynes Page 35 of 125
  4. 4. 2010 CRC PhD Student Conference [England]; Oxford: Open University; Oxford University Press, 2009. [3] Great Britain, Climate Change Act of 2008, 2008. [4] Department for Communities and Local Government, “Building a Greener Future: policy statement,” Jul. 2007. [5] Zero Carbon Hub, “Consultation on Zero Carbon Non-Domestic Buildings” http://www.zerocarbonhub.org/events_details.aspx?event=3 [Accessed January 28, 2010]. [6] T. Oreszczyn and R. Lowe, “Challenges for energy and buildings research: objectives, methods and funding mechanisms,” Building Research & Information, vol. 38, 2010, pp. 107-122. [7] R. Oxman, “Digital architecture as a challenge for design pedagogy: theory, knowledge, models and medium,” Design Studies, vol. 29, 2008, pp. 99-120. [8] E. Krygiel and B. Nies, Green BIM : successful sustainable design with building information modeling, Indianapolis Ind.: Wiley Pub., 2008. [9] Autodesk, “Revit Architecture Building Information Modeling Software - Autodesk,” Revit Architecture Building Information Modeling Software - Autodesk http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/pc/index?id=3781831&siteID=123112 [Accessed April 26, 2010]. [10] Graphisoft, “ArchiCAD 13 - Overview,” ArchiCAD 13 - Overview http://www.graphisoft.com/products/archicad/ [Accessed April 26, 2010]. [11] Bentley, “Construction Software | Architectural Software | Building Information Modeling,” Construction Software | Architectural Software | Building Information Modeling http://www.bentley.com/en-US/Solutions/Buildings/ [Accessed April 26, 2010]. [12] A. Schlueter and F. Thesseling, “Building information model based energy/exergy performance assessment in early design stages,” Automation in Construction, vol. 18, 2009, pp. 153-163. [13] Transsolar Energietechnik GmbH, “TRANSSOLAR Software | TRNSYS Overview,” TRANSSOLAR Software | TRNSYS Overview http://www.transsolar.com/__software/docs/trnsys/trnsys_uebersicht_en.htm [Accessed April 26, 2010]. [14] IES, “IES - Sustainable 3D Building Design, Architecture Software - Integrated Environmental Solutions,” IES - Sustainable 3D Building Design, Architecture Software - Integrated Environmental Solutions http://www.iesve.com/content/default.asp?page= [Accessed April 26, 2010]. [15] U.S. Department of Energy, “Building Technologies Program: EnergyPlus,” Building Technologies Program: EnergyPlus http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/energyplus/ [Accessed April 26, 2010]. [16] Autodesk, “Autodesk - Autodesk Ecotect Analysis,” Autodesk - Autodesk Ecotect Analysis http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/pc/index?siteID=123112&id=12602821 [Accessed April 26, 2010]. [17] N. Hamza and M. Horne, “Building Information Modelling: Empowering Energy Conscious Design,” 3rd Int’l ASCAAD Conference on Em‘body’ing Virtual Architecture, Alexandria, Egypt: . [18] I. Pritchard and E. Willars, Climate Change Toolkit, 05 Low Carbon Design Tools, RIBA, 2007. [19] A. Lawton and D. Driver, “Autodesk Sustainable Design Curriculum 2010 – Lesson 1,” 2010. [20] V. Bazjanac, “Building energy performance simulation as part of interoperable software environments,” Building and Environment, vol. 39, 2004, pp. 879-883. [21] R. Howard and B. Bjork, “Building information modelling – Experts’ views on standardisation and industry deployment,” Advanced Engineering Informatics, vol. 22, 2008, pp. 271-280. [22] R. Jardim-Goncalves and A. Grilo, “Building information modeling and interoperability,” Automation in Construction, 2009. [23] B. Dong, K. Lam, Y. Huang, and G. Dobbs, “A comparative study of the IFC and gbXML informational infrastructures for data exchange in computational design support environments,” Tenth International IBPSA Conference, Beijing: IBPSA China: 2007. [24] S. Johnson, “Rethinking a Gospel of the Web,” The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/technology/internet/11every.htm?pagewanted=print [Accessed April 26, 2010]. [25] A.A. Voinov, C. DeLuca, R.R. Hood, S. Peckham, C.R. Sherwood, and J.P.M. Syvitski, “A Community Approach to Earth Systems Modeling,” Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union, vol. 91, 2010, p. 117. Page 36 of 125