INFORMATION INTEROPERABILITY BETWEEN BUILDING INFORMATION MODELING AUTHORING TOOLS AND SIMULATION TOOLS TO SUPPORT ENERGY EFFICIENT BUILDING DESIGN

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INFORMATION INTEROPERABILITY BETWEEN BUILDING INFORMATION MODELING AUTHORING TOOLS AND SIMULATION TOOLS TO SUPPORT ENERGY EFFICIENT BUILDING DESIGN

ABSTRACT

Effective Energy Efficient Buildings (EEB) design requires the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) design authoring tools, along with various simulation tools to support decision making for optimized building solutions. This requires frequent interactions between computational tools. Traditionally, people have been using a point-to-point model for data exchange between those tools, which is complex and inefficient. An integrated data-centric model can reduce the communication cost and improve the interoperability. By setting up a BIM data hub in the center, both BIM design authoring tools and simulation tools only need to talk with the data hub. In this way, the communication interface among those tools is improved.

However, even in this model, each tool still requires an interface to connect to the BIM data hub. If part of those tools have the same kind of interface, and part of them are supported by one single tool, the data exchange model could be further simplified. In this case, the building lifecycle is divided into two modes: design and simulation. The lack of a unified interface to support information exchange and interoperability among different building design and simulation tools has become a bottleneck of the EEB design process. Therefore, a link between design mode and the simulation mode is required for the whole simulation process.

In this thesis, two existing infrastructures are leveraged to build a connected workflow using this simplified approach. The open source BIMserver is used as the information retrieval center, and OpenStudio is used as the information exchange and simulation platform. BIMserver can support the storage, maintenance, and query of Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) based building information models, and OpenStudio is a platform supporting whole building energyrelated modeling and simulations. The main contribution of this thesis is to build an information exchange bridge between BIMserver and OpenStudio, which enables different design authoring tools and simulation tools that are connected to either of them to interoperate and exchange needed data.

This thesis describes the integrated approach at the data level, connecting BIMserver and OpenStudio to build a unified EEB data exchange model. The challenges of the seamless integration due to the dependency on both BIMserver and OpenStudio are also discussed in the thesis. The system, which organizes the data flow in a unified model, enabling effective exchange of data, has been open source released.

 

Chapter 1 

Introduction

This chapter introduces the concept of Energy Efficient Buildings (EEB) and the critical phases in the EEB project. After an overview of the current situation in the AEC/FM Industry, the chapter describes the research objectives and strategy. The outline of the thesis is discussed at the end of this chapter.

Introduction to Energy Efficient Buildings (EEB) Project

Recently, the U.S. and rest of the world have devoted more attention to reducing energy consumption when new buildings are constructed (Foley, 2012). In the Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Facilities Management (AEC/FM) Industry, energy efficient buildings design is becoming more critical, especially as it relates to energy retrofit projects. In the process of energy efficient building design, decision-making in the very early stages can significantly influence the energy consumption (Pollock et al., 2009). The decision-making process should be built upon a channel, which connects the computational representation of a building’s energy elements and the corresponding economic considerations (Jones et al., 2010). Energy modeling is such a channel providing designers with an outlook of potential energy consumption of varieties of designs prior to constructing the building (Fleming et al., 2012) to eliminate arbitrary decisions from the simulation process (Bazjanac, 2009).

During the building design lifecycle, EEB design depends on the collaboration of project participants using a variety of design tools and simulation tools to make decisions for the optimized building solutions. Building design authoring tools provide the data required by the simulation tools to conduct energy modeling and simulation. In this process, the data preparation for different simulation tools often reproduce already existing data created by design authoring tools (O’Donnell et al., 2013), which results in data fragmentation and inconsistency. Accordingly, seamless data exchange between building design authoring tools and simulation tools for building design, construction, and operation has been a goal of the AEC/FM Industry for decades (Hitchcock and Wong, 2011). Furthermore, different simulation tools running in different “energy simulation views” (Bazjanac, 2008) determine the varieties of data sets and data formats (Bazjanac & Kiviniemi, 2007) even in the simulation phase. It is quite necessary to agglomerate all energy simulation views into an integrated whole-building simulation methodology with the intent of exchanging data seamlessly (Guglielmetti et al., 2011). However, one of the most common shortcomings in the current industry practice is the lack of an integrated information exchange workflow. This causes fragmented connections and delays resulting in the inefficiency and ineffectiveness in the energy efficient building design process. Therefore, retrieval and exchange of building information in a timely and standard manner plays a major role in assuring efficient building energy simulation during the building design process. From the above discussion, we conclude that information retrieval and seamless information exchange are two core issues in the AEC/FM Industry for both the communication between building design authoring tools and simulation tools, and the communication amongst the simulation tools.

Research Objectives

It is difficult to retrieve ‘knowledge’ in the AEC/FM Industry (Redmond and Smith, 2011), and even harder to exchange data in different building lifecycle phases. To facilitate interoperability between design authoring tools and simulation tools for efficient information exchange, this research aims to provide an interoperable and integrated platform based on an 3

open standards-based data format. The objectives include improving the software and data interoperability among the existing and new building design and simulation tools, and helping implement building design and simulation workflows using standards-based information exchanges. The final goal is to simplify, automate and integrate the information exchange processes among different tools, and develop enabling technologies and platforms to facilitate and establish an integrated eco-system around a BIM server with many tools and users.

Research Strategy

The strategy is to leverage existing infrastructure, where available, instead of starting from scratch. In the proposed workflow, Revit is used as the design modeling tool; Building

Information Modeling (BIM) server platforms, such as ‘BIMserver’ implemented by

bimserver.org (Beetz el al., 2010) as the information retrieval center; and OpenStudio as the information exchange and simulation platform. Revit is an application including features for architectural design, Mechanical-Electrical-Plumbing (MEP) and structural design using BIM

(Autodesk, 2014). BIMserver supports the storage, maintenance, and query of Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) based building information models. OpenStudio, an interface to support whole building energy-related modeling and simulations, has another set of building energy modeling (BEM) representations (Weaver et al., 2012). Disconnect between different models prevents architects, engineers, and researchers from easily conducting integrated whole-building energy analysis (Guglielmetti et al., 2011). Accordingly, this thesis explores an integrated approach to leverage BIMserver and OpenStudio to enable open data exchange and interoperability among different building design and simulation tools. With the integrated approach, the inherent data inconsistency and mapping problems can also be solved.

Thesis Organization

The remaining of the thesis is organized as follows. Chapter 2 provides the background information about the concepts and representations in the AEC/FM Industry. Chapter 3 introduces several approaches to exchanging information among different simulation tools. Based on existing research results, this thesis proposes an integrated workflow to improve the software interoperability and building energy analyses efficiency. The validation tests are described in Chapter 4, followed by the limitations in Chapter 5. The last chapter summarizes the conclusion and discusses the future work.

INFORMATION INTEROPERABILITY BETWEEN BUILDING INFORMATION MODELING AUTHORING TOOLS AND SIMULATION TOOLS TO SUPPORT ENERGY EFFICIENT BUILDING DESIGN

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