Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is a method of designing buildings using sophisticated 3D software that makes it much easier to visualize how various components and systems come together in a 3D space and how they will interact or interfere with one another. Perhaps most importantly, BIM facilitates identifying potential conflicts/defects prior to construction, and is a very powerful tool for sustainability by supporting the integrative design process.

Unfortunately, the construction industry isn’t exactly well-known for its rapid adoption of the latest technologies and the majority of A/E/C firms have yet to implement BIM as part of its workflow. Since few A/E/C professionals use BIM, even fewer are going to be able to articulate the benefits of using BIM to building owners.

For that reason, the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) has developed the National BIM Guide for Owners. Here’s what they have to say about it:

A building information modeling (BIM) guide for building owners has been developed under the auspices of the National Institute of Building Sciences. The National BIM Guide for Owners is a new guide that building owners can adopt to provide a documented process and procedure for their design team to follow in order to produce a standard set of BIM documents during the design and construction of the facility, and for maintenance and operations of the facility upon handoff. The National BIM Guide for Owners is based on the foreign, federal, state and local BIM guides that currently exist, but geared to a generic facility with uniform requirements for use by a variety of government, institutional and commercial building owners. It references a range of documents and practices, including those contained within the National BIM Standard-United States® developed by one of the National Institute of Building Sciences’ own councils, the buildingSMART alliance®.

You can download the full guide in PDF format directly from NIBS.

Water efficiency is the next major issue impacting the built environment after energy efficiency. (Not that we’ve necessarily solved the issue of energy efficiency…) Despite the fact that our planet’s surface is 2/3 water, protecting this natural resource is of utmost importance to human survival.

The best way to reduce water usage is to reuse water through reclamation. One obstacle to further implementation (including mandatory requirements) of water reclamation systems is a lack of peer-reviewed research including life cycle assessments (LCAs) of such systems.

Until now, that is. Phys.org reports on a new study based on the decentralized water system implemented by Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes:

“Evaluating the Life Cycle Environmental Benefits and Trade-Offs of Water Reuse Systems for Net-Zero Buildings,” published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology (DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b03879), is the first-of-its-kind research utilizing life-cycle assessment (LCA). Co-authored by Melissa M. Bilec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt and deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI), collaborators at Phipps included Richard Piacentini, executive director; and Jason Wirick, director of facilities and sustainability management. Pitt PhD graduate student, Vaclav Hasik, and Pitt undergraduate, Naomi Anderson, were first and second authors, respectively…

Dr. Bilec noted that while the research found that a decentralized water system operates well for a facility like the CSL, the environmental benefits or trade-offs for such systems are dependent upon their lifetime of use, and may not necessarily be practical or environmentally preferable. For example, a similar system might be more environmentally and economically efficient for a development of multiple homes or buildings, rather than one structure.

Conversely, the relative impact of a decentralized system built in a water-scarce region may be more beneficial than its environmental footprint. The decision of what water system to build and its scale, she says, should be evaluated within the context of the entire life of the structure or site it supports.

(Via Construction Dive)

One of my favorite things about the new Apple TV is the screensaver that comes on after sitting idle for a bit. There are several slow-moving, but highly cinematic low flyovers of several iconic cities. The pass over Abu Dhabi in Dubai is stunning, to say the least.

In a country known for outlandish skyscrapers, and currently holding the record for the tallest building (Burj Khalifa), it should come as no surprise that it will also play host to the world’s first rotating skyscraper.

What is a rotating skyscraper and why would you want one? Mashable says:

The “Dynamic Tower,” which was proposed in 2008 by Israeli-Italian architect David Fisher, will feature 80 rotating stories that make the building look as if it’s in constant motion. Not to mention it’ll produce insanely cool views.

Each different story of the futuristic apartment building will rotate 360 degrees and move independently, so residents can control their speed or decide to stop movement altogether with simple voice commands. The downside? Each unit costs $30 million.

Before you put down a deposit, make sure to check out the promo video:

Back in June of 2015, a relatively unknown company by the name of Daqri introduced an augmented reality-enabled hard hat that they dubbed the Smart Helmet.

While there clearly is not yet massive adoption among the trades for a more than $1,000 hard hat, that doesn’t mean Daqri has ceased innovation. In fact, as Construction Junkie reports, the company unveiled its next wearable device purpose-built for the architecture, engineering and construction industry: Smart Glasses. (Not to be confused with Google Glass, of course…)

Here is a video showcasing Daqri’s products at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show:

And here is a case study produced by Autodesk and Mortensen showcasing the Smart Helmet:

Learn more about the entire product line at Daqri’s website.

Researchers have for years warned the public, various government agencies and building owners/managers of the potential dangers related to older buildings within reach of Southern California’s notorious faults in a major earthquake. In short, what building experts once thought would be sufficient, in terms of structural design requirements, we now know could leave building occupants seriously injured, or worse.

Los Angeles’ city council has been working on a seismic retrofit program for buildings previously identified by various experts as at risk. Beginning tomorrow, Santa Monica will formally announce its own mandatory seismic retrofit program. The LA Times’ Rong-Gong Lin II, Raoul Rañoa and Jon Schleuss have more:

Santa Monica is poised to require safety improvements to as many as 2,000 earthquake-vulnerable buildings in what would be the nation’s most extensive seismic retrofitting effort.

Santa Monica’s safety rules would go beyond what Los Angeles has done by requiring not only wood apartments and concrete buildings to be retrofitted, but also steel-frame structures.

Steel buildings were once considered by seismic experts to be among the safest. But after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, engineers were stunned to find that so-called “steel moment frame” buildings fractured.

Santa Monica City Council has already established a website to serve as a central repository for the latest info regarding the program. Of the six building types listed, the first to require a structural evaluation report to be submitted will be unreinforced masonry buildings, which must submit their evaluation within 3 months and have retrofits completed within 2 years.

As this is a developing story, expect to hear much more about this issue over the coming months.

You can download the complete list of addresses identified by the city in Excel format from the city’s GitHub repository (meaning the file will likely be updated over time).

Part of the magic that separates Apple from being just another consumer technology manufacturer is the relentless pursuit of perfection. Steve Jobs famously describes lessons imparted from his adoptive father imploring him to make the unseen components of a product just as beautiful and carefully executed as those that are plainly visible.

Jobs’ final product, possibly his magnum opus dedicated to the company he loved so dearly, is in fact the Apple Campus 2 project, otherwise known as the “spaceship.”

The Verge’s Jacob Kastrenakes does a recap of a more in-depth article by Reuters pointing out the following nuggets:

One particular highlight of the report is Apple demanding that doorways be perfectly flat, with no subtle bump between the outside and inside of the building. A construction manager told Reuters that “months” were spent debating this, because they’d have to spend time and money figuring out a way to accomplish it. Apple reportedly wouldn’t give in because it worried that “if engineers had to adjust their gait while entering the building, they risked distraction from their work.”

But wait, there’s more!

  • No vents or pipes could be reflected in the building’s glass exterior
  • There are 30 pages of guidelines on how to use wood
  • Apple inspected “thousands of ceiling panels” to ensure they were “immaculate inside and out”
  • Debate over what doorknobs should look like went on for over a year and a half

Apparently, the Hartford, CT Mark Twain House & Museum contains an amazing collection of artifacts collected by Samuel Clemens throughout his life. Sadly, however, much of that collection has been threatened by mold growth caused by a faulty HVAC system.

According to Susan Dunne of the Hartford Courant:

In November 2015, mold was found in the storage facilities of the historic home’s museum center, tainting at least 5,000 of the museum’s 16,000 artifacts. The vulnerable pieces are varied: 19th-century furniture, upholstery, metal, glass and leather items, as well as books, including some Twain first editions and translations, whose fabric and leather bindings are conducive to mold growth. The spread of the mold has been halted for the time being — the HVAC system has been repaired and the archive’s relative humidity is being carefully monitored — but the task remains to remove the mold that already is there…

More specifically, the cause was related to a rather sophisticated geothermal heat pump system designed to use substantially less energy than more traditional HVAC systems.

“The motors in the geothermal wells that moderate the temperature in the building would break down regularly,” Lamarre said. “One of the wells malfunctioned, causing enormous pressure to build up in the system. The pipes in the mechanical room burst in multiple places, causing water to flood down the back hall of the museum center. The auditorium was flooded with a foot and a half of water.”

“The explosion of the geothermal well led to an increase in the humidity problem in the building at large because the decision was made to cap the wells instead of repairing them,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the historic home and museum has faced operational issues, however. From 2002 through 2010, a former employee of the organization embezzled more than $1-million. In 2008, the organization laid off 33 of its 50 employees following a financial restructuring.

Sanjoy Malik, writing for Green Biz, discusses an issue that is something most building owners, developers, operators and other stakeholders aren’t too familiar with. However, for those of us with experience in improving/optimizing existing buildings, the issue can be a real deal breaker.

What’s the problem? Since de-regulation of the energy utilities, the data produced by rate-payers is now proprietary. Without readily available access to both quantitative and qualitative data regarding the energy usage of existing buildings of certain sizes and use types, it is extremely difficult to develop new strategies for improving efficiency. (You can’t improve what you can’t measure…)

Malik proposes a new business model mirroring the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model that many technology providers have successfully exploited in the past decade or so:

The Energy-data-as-a-service (EDaaS) model holds great promise for the industry. There are various firms providing services within the energy industry that could benefit from a single source of energy data, including:

  • Accounting and finance. Many firms provide energy budgets, pay utility bills and forecast future costs and progress towards reduction goals. These activities require significant process-oriented operations and analysis capabilities. Adding the acquisition of energy data may be too much effort for these firms.
  • Energy optimization. Energy performance in many buildings can be improved using more detailed data, analyzing it and creating statistical models that include other variables such as weather and occupancy. Firms that provide such analytics products can scale their operations by using a standard energy data provider.
  • Energy procurement and supply. Energy purchasing decisions are complex and firms that provide these services typically invest in analysis of historic bills and bidding and negotiating capabilities to find and secure the best prices on energy. By using a third-party for the raw energy data, they can more quickly make decisions about the procurement strategy for their clients.
  • Sustainability and compliance. Many firms are investing in greater transparency around energy performance, using sustainability reports and other public information disclosures. Many large cities are starting to mandate that building owners get Energy Star scores to benchmark their properties. Both of these processes can be expedited by more quickly and systematically collecting energy data via a third party.

Happy Friday, everyone! Today’s treat is a neat video that a builder made during the construction of his brother’s home.

The way he made this video is actually really cool. By programming a route for the drone, and then flying that exact route every day, Youtube user ChuckPPhotography then edited the video from around 32 to 34 of the passes together. The end result makes it look as if the entire home was constructed during a single pass of the drone.

My team and I have been working on something similar for our clients.

Check out the video below: