Computer-Aided Green Design
The best of the new breed of architecture are beautiful to look at and provide healthier environments in which to live and work. These buildings tend to epitomize efficiency through the integration of design and environmental control systems. The return for LEED-certified buildings has been shown to be seven to ten times the investment, making green building one of the best investments an enterprise can make.
The advent of the LEED rating system and BIM-capable platforms such as Autodesk Revit, Graphisoft's ArchiCAD, Autodesk Architectural Desktop, and the Bentley Systems software suite, will facilitate a much-improved methodology in mainstream practice. The combination of sustainable/ high-performance design strategies and BIM technology has the potential to change the profession dramatically and bring a higher-quality design to mainstream architectural practice.
Computer technology by itself is not a panacea, but in combination with a proven sustainable-design methodology, it can provide powerful tools for efficient, expanded, and improved services.
BIM Meets LEED
On the Columbia campus of the University of South Carolina, the recently completed West Quad Living/ Learning Center exemplifies use of a computer-aided methodology for high-performance architecture. Its Georgian-style architecture, designed by Little Diversified Architectural Consulting and the Boudreaux Group, belies its "state of the art" sustainability, built within conventional construction costs, fees, and schedules.
The cluster of buildings forms a new quadrangle and contains suites for 500 students, a convenience store/ cafe, and a learning center under the quad's turf roof. It is a showcase of environmentally-conscious design, featuring an energy use reduction of 45 percent, integrated bioretention/ stormwater management, and many other features.
Design of the Living/ Learning Center began in 2001 with a stakeholder team eager to develop the university's first LEED-certified project. Our design team formalized and accepted the initial challenge of achieving a LEED silver certification within the university's standard construction budget and schedule. The project went so well that the goal was raised to a gold rating during construction.
From the beginning, the architects used Autodesk Revit to streamline the decision-making process. We evaluated many massing concepts for solar access and shading. To facilitate the design and approval process, we continued to use Revit as the main design, analysis, and visualization platform. This allowed for daylighting studies to be done "in-line" as the project was designed, without going "outside" to a lighting consultant or to a daylighting lab requiring physical models.
Readily available computer renderings, along with convincing documentation of design decisions based on data from the building information model, streamlined the approvals. Because of the inclusive design process, together with the rational and documented design methodology, the complex design was completed and approved on a conventional schedule.
Daylighting design for the earth-coupled learning center was most critical. The BIM design model allowed concepts for daylighting the "underground" building to be studied quickly, and the final concept proved to be the most effective and least expensive. The savings are estimated to be approximately $900,000 over the next ten years at current electricity rates.
Revit Goes Greener
Today, high-performance design can be executed with a coordinated team effort characterized by an understanding of the holistic design process fostered by LEED and an ability to integrate architecture and engineering through a shared technology.
BIM helps by providing a design platform which allows sharing of information. By designing in a 3D, database-driven BIM platform, and with the help of architect-friendly tools such as Energy 10, architects can work with mechanical and electrical engineers to provide a building envelope that minimizes the energy load and sets the stage for HVAC designs that greatly reduce fuel use and cost to the owner.
BIM design models can currently be used to produce complete construction documentation, as well as to:
1) Link project information directly to a Web-based MasterSpec/ LEED specification generation through e-SPECS from InterSpec.
2) Quantify material content or fixture/ furniture count for recycled content or other credits requiring quantification.
3) Link the design model to energy modeling programs such as DOE-2 from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and eQuest through Green Building Studio, a Web-based service from GeoPraxis.
4) Assess building-product life-cycle information. At the U.S. Green Building Council's GreenBuild conference in Portland last November, a prototype tool, eLCie, from the International Design Center for the Environment was demonstrated, linking life-cycle assessment data of building products from Autodesk Revit models to LEED credit evaluations.
Some architects may see BIM simply as another way to produce 2D construction documents rather than as a better way to design and document buildings. But it is harder to justify the transition to BIM when you are only trying to accomplish the same result you are already getting with 2D CAD.
By taking advantage of many readily available service enhancements, architects can pay for the time and cost of learning how to use the new software systems. Applying these systems will mean automated information coordination and, ultimately, large efficiency gains, both in the design process and in the resulting buildings.
Those who make the transition to integrated design can be ahead of the mainstream and may become the "master-builders" of the new millennium.
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Jim Gleeson, AIA is founder and president of Jim Gleeson, AIA/ Design Integration, Charlotte, North Carolina, a sustainable design and integrated design consulting firm. He was lead designer and LEED Consultant for Little Diversified Architectural Consulting on the USC West Quad Living/ Learning Center. He is also a partner in GMVirtual, an architectural visualization/ analysis company.
All computer renderings were done with Autodesk Revit.
Client: Department of Housing and Student Affairs, USC
Design Architect: Little Diversified Architectural Consulting
Architect of Record: The Boudreaux Group
Mechanical Engineer: McCracken-Lopez Engineering
Construction Management: Southern Management Group
Contractor: Contract Construction