Program review: M-SIX VEO

February 21, 2013 in BIM Blog

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It is about one and a half year ago since I first got introduced to M-SIX’s VEOTM©. At that point it was quite a mysterious piece of software, that based on the first glimpse, could seem to revolutionize the AEC (Architectural, Engineering and Construction) industry on the same level as Graphisoft did with their BIM-platform ArchiCAD© and Autodesk with Revit©. It would be truly awesome if I could deny or confirm this in my review, but the demo that I could get my hands on, together with the written material, is not enough to justify that statement seeing that it would require continuous work with the program.

So, in the following I’ll explain to you what kind of program VEOTM© is, what core features it has and what potential great use I see.

The intention

M-SIX’s VEOTM© is a cross-collaborative BIM-platform designed for the AEC industry. By cross-collaborative is meant, that the programs’ purpose is to join or link together the different disciplines and their very different focus areas on a project during the design and construction phases. Furthermore, this program takes into account that we, at some point, have to hand over the physical building and the virtual building model (if desired) to the owner for him to facilitate. This is also thought into the processes of working with this program.

Interoperability

VEOTM© is created to be used together with Revit and M-SIX has developed an API to be installed so that you can export directly from Revit© to VEOTM©, which means: no use of IFC or other open formats. That eliminates possible risk of lost data during export/import via these formats. During the export you will have the opportunity to setup the VEOTM© project such as the Model Stream Structure. It is possible to export both single- and linked Revit© files all at once, or separate divided up in Model Streams.

API’s for other BIM-platforms such as ArchiCAD© and Vectorworks© will also be available in the near future.

VEOTM© uses tags to organize many of the parameters to corresponding values in VEOTM©. These Tags gets organized according to the Revit© files Family Category’s and Type names, Material parameters, Level parameters and Object Categories. This require that you, as a Revit© user, know how to structure and organize your parameters, which again is needed to succeed in controlling a decent sized BIM-project.

Of course you also have the possibility to share your VEOTM© project just like Revit’s© central file-system, so you can work together across disciplines. Issues regarding scalability are unfortunately unknown to me.

The Use

VEOTM© deals with four core aspects of the AEC industry on a cross-collaborative level: Visualization, Time Scheduling, Quality Control and Data Gathering plus Documentation.

Visualization – VEOTM© LUX:

Video – The program’s rendering machine. Here you have the possibility to create real-world renderings in real-time. This means that you can set the render settings for a preview in the active BIM-model, and then render it. But the rendered view of the model remains active so you can press and interact with the model components like in the live views. This technology is called Intellipixel© and seems very useful to me during design work.

Materials that get imported from your Revit© BIM-model is in VEOTM© called Styles that can be organized and gathered in Style Sets.

The quality of the renderings is in the demo very grainy, but it has nice illumination settings and seems to have the potential to create good renderings. Though the time consuming and technical parts cannot be tested in the demo due to its restrictions, so how much time it takes to make a smooth and real-life looking rendering, is unknown.

Time Scheduling – VEOTM© Time:

Video – This holds a Visual Sequence feature that gives you the possibility to create sequenced model displays, showing how the building and it’s constructions are put together. Sequencing can be used actively in the cross-collaborative workflow during the whole project duration. Either in teams, including different disciplines such as Architects and Engineers, or as separate units creating their own sequences and link the results together in the end to evaluate issues such as constructability.

Creating sequences involves associating object in the VEOTM© BIM-model with a desired time based sequence placed in the preferred order. In relation to this VEOTM© also have bi-directional links to MS Project© and Oracle Primavera P6© which are well known time scheduling programs.

Another cool little feature is the Slab Slicer which at the moment is a work in progress. Basically what it does, is allowing you to “slice” bigger objects into smaller and more real-life sized objects. Image having a roof or floor construction drawn up in Revit©, but you want to sequence individual parts of these objects such as roofing and flooring. Then this little feature can do that for you, and you as a designer, then have the opportunity to use bigger and more overall-descriptive objects during your Revit© designs without losing the possibility to overcome issues with constructability and such. All this is done without destroying the original objects.

Quality Control – VEOTM© Logic:

Video – This feature is very much like Solibri Model Checker©. It has the ability to coordinate clashes between objects, both in relation to geometry and proximity. The clash detection is formed around Rules organized in Rule Sets. It is very simple to setup different rules, you simply just describe the rule and then apply the Tags of the different objects you want clash detected. It is as simple as that, the only barrier is your own organization and structuring of the Revit© parameters and VEOTM© Tags.

When the clash detection has been run, it is vital that the discovered information is passed on to the respective disciplines for correction. This is done by grouping the results and then assigning each of the detected issues to the respective group.

Data Gathering plus Documentation – VEOTM© Archive:

Video – This is where the program gets really interesting, because this is one of the features, I think, we lack in the AEC industry at the moment. Also because it’s a feature that is not well documented and developed enough in other BIM-platforms.

The Archives feature is basically a relational database integrated into the program. This database contains all documents such as PDF, Excel and alike, relevant to the project. These documents can then be linked to different objects in the project such as doors, windows, technical installations for Operation and Maintenance purposes. You also have the possibility to associate one specific document to a specific Tag in the project. Remember that VEOTM© categorizes your objects in Tags. This means that: if you associate one document to a Tag, all doors with that specific tag become associated with the Operation and Maintenance document.

The reason why I find this specific feature very interesting is because: during the construction phases of a project, we have to gather, categorize and store tons of information from the contractors and their suppliers. This process, in relation to the modern BIM-oriented workflows, has been raising a lot of new problems and actual barriers for a successful cross-collaborative implementation of BIM in the AEC industry, in my opinion. We can always go into a more technical and cultural discussion about this, but that’s for another blog post.

What VEOTM© contributes with, in this relation, is that it gives the project managers an opportunity to categorize and store the Operation and Maintenance information directly in the model, associated with the object that it relates to. This is insanely smart when we think about the handover process and the upcoming BIM-oriented Facility Management period, which usually have a span of 100 years. Because, if the Facility Manager decides to use programs like ArchiFM or ArchiBUS, they would want to link the Operation and Maintenance information to the respective objects in the Facility Management program, so why not do this during the construction period so it’s ready for handover?

Potential and personal opinion

I have covered some of this in the above text, but I want to add that my personal opinion on this program is overall positive. It is, if not the program, then at least a step on the way to what the AEC industry needs in relation to the modern cross-collaborative BIM-workflow. There is especially a great potential in the Archives feature, which I think a lot of project managers and contractors could have a great use of in terms of control, data gathering, quality assurance and optimization.

One thing that I don’t quite like about this new program is the user controls: why not keep the same control settings as used in ex. Revit©, seeing that the users of VEOTM© would be mainly Revit© users, until other API’s gets developed. I got frustrated when trying to navigate in the program.

So what you’re getting, if you buy it, is basically a cross-collaborative BIM-platform that includes the capabilities of a viewer, a model checker, a scheduling program and an Operation and Maintenance database. If it is as good as the other stand-alone solution cannot be determined here, only user experience and time can tell.

Usefull links

M-SIX – LinkedIn can be found here!
M-SIX – Introduction and demo page can be found here! 

Written by: Nis Boile Christensen

How to implement BIM and subsequently manage the processes – Part 1

October 28, 2012 in BIM Blog

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This post will be the first of three posts regarding what actions to take prior to implementing BIM and how to subsequently manage these new implemented work processes.

What actions prior to implementing BIM in a firm, is important to achieve success. That was the question answered by Abelardo M. Tolentino from the architectural firm Aidea on the Philippines, when he held his presentation this Monday the 22nd of October 2012 at the conferences “World’s Best BIM Practice” at the school of engineering in Aarhus.

As Abelardo described the way to a successful and total implementation of BIM, is achieved through two main focus areas:

(1)    The preparations prior to implementing.
(2)    A set of strategies for the actual implementation process.

(1) The preparations prior to implementing

1.1   Mindset changes and organizational restructuring:
Everyone within the company has to be willing to give a little extra in the terms of working hours regarding the initial and main phases of the implementation. However this is not the only change that the company workers and directors board have to overcome. It is also required that we change the way we design and build, together with the understanding of how important further training and knowledge sharing is to our benefit of a BIM implementation and the actual BIM workflow.

1.2   Immediate transition into relevant use of software:
It is vital to the future BIM processes and workflow, that the company immediately dispose of all non-relevant software. This is important to secure a consistent work- and dataflow in the virtual building models and design process. As an example; do not let your company architects do the initial sketching in Google SketchUp, when they with no problem can do the same sketching in a BIM-platform like ArchiCAD, MagiCAD or Autodesk Revit. By doing this we do not create a need for reconstruction of data and models, which results in an inefficient and costly process. In other words do not give your CO-workers a reason to go back to using old software, just because it may seem faster in the given situation. It is all about training, work transition and knowledge sharing.

1.3   Knowledge based sharing:
As the organizations CO-workers develop their software- and BIM skills, it is very important that the specific experiences are gathered and becomes available to the rest of the CO-workers for further knowledge and skill development. By doing this, it is not required for each individual CO-worker to single handed develop their skillset and BIM competencies.

So, which strategies can be used to implement these changes into the organization? There are some overall areas that have to be brought into place to control a BIM work flow. These can be categorized as “the general office setup” and as mentioned before “the mindset of the direction board and CO-workers”.

(2) Strategies for the implementation process

2.1   The general office setup:
Company organization complexity and size have a huge impact on the way your office is setup. If your company is employing many workers working on many different projects of different sizes, there would be a need for additional BIM managers within the organization to manage the different discipline models and organize the work in the different work teams. On the other hand, if your company organization is fairly small and less complex, it could be sufficient with just one BIM manager.

What is the main focus area of a BIM manager in a work team? It is to monitor compliance of BIM processes and secure that the BIM processes are done and followed correctly. It is important to note that this job position most like is not a full time job and that the BIM manager easily can be assigned to specific project work meanwhile attending his work as a BIM manager. So basically, the BIM manager is a designer with the additional competencies to handle the organizations BIM processes on work team level.

2.2   BIM manual:
This is the backbone of every company organizations BIM processes and work flow. The manual sets to describe principles and guidelines, file management, BIM standards, maintenance, classification and many other things. For a BIM manual to be usefull, it has to be easy to overcome and read, only contain the absolute relevant information regarding each specification and task. A BIM manual that is disorganized, hard to read and overwhelmingly large, is never a good tool for any CO-worker.

2.3   Monitoring:
It is important, in any organization, to monitor each individual CO-workers skills and development in regard to the specific persons BIM capabilities and compentencies. This is important to evaluate if additional training is needed to efficiently fulfill his or hers work duties. By that is meant, asses proficiency and skill gabs on an individual level as well as team level. This gives the possibility for the human resource staff to plan courses to train the individual CO-workers to bring their skillset up to the desired standard/level. Monitoring can also be used to determine which of the CO-workers has the capabilities and the required skillset to become a BIM manager for his or her work team.

2.4   BIM audit:
BIM auditing can be defined as an evaluation of a specific project before a handover process to the next design phase, with the intent to verify if it is compliant with the BIM criteria’s and standards set by the company organization. It is recommended that the organization conducts BIM audits at the end of every phase of a project. This can be done both electronically and manually. It is advised that you perform this in both ways.

A big “thank you” goes out to BIMequity for organizing this seminar aswell as the involved companies; AideaStruSoft and FEM-designExigo ConsultGraphisoftSolibri.

We have now adressed what actions to take, prior to implementing BIM and we will in the upcomming post adresse what tools we have available through eg. buildingSMART, to manage these new work processe.

Written by: Nis Boile Christensen

 

Is a single family Passive House in Aalborg cost efficient?

October 25, 2012 in Energy Blog

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Note: The full repport with all calculations and apendixes, will be uploaded to the homepage in the beginning of December 2012.

How much does a PH [Passive House] cost?

To professionals this question might be confusing, but it also is a frequently asked question.

During my researches on PH for previous electives and school tasks, I often ended up reading construction forums and discussions about the price of a Passive House and could see many professionals and non-professionals asking the same question: How much does it cost?, Is it really worth to invest in one?, What is the price per square meter?.

To answer such questions is a very difficult task. How would somebody react if asked: How much a computer cost? Probably the first reaction would be to ask what kind of computer: is it stationary, is it laptop, Windows or Mac?, Is it going to be used to surf on the net or to draw on, or to load heavy games? After some of these questions are answered, then the matter gets more specific and I believe most people would be able to name a guess-price, to have an idea or a limit.

It is the same for houses. In Demark people use a price per square meter to determine if a house is expensive or not. When knowing if the house is new or used, where it’s situated and what is the construction and the style – most people can put a price on it or can look in internet for suggestion, or consult with real estates or building companies. They can also look for orientation prices in the V&S price book (the Danish building prices database) or look it up in internet. In the area of Aalborg for example, a square meter of a single family detached house (new or used) costs between 9.800 and 15.000 crowns[1], depending mostly on distance from the center.

To find an orientation price for a PH in Denmark is not that easy yet. In Germany, where they have leading experience in the area and many built houses, they can point approximate price per square meter (around € 1,375 ) [2] and some other key numbers in relation to ordinary houses.

I have already answered that question in my bachelor elective at the ATCM programme by making a case-study house, designed after the current [BR10] regulations and situated on a plot of land in Aalborg.  That same house I hypothetically turned into a PH and calculate the difference in materials and installations in Sigma 2010. The estimated sales price for a new BR10 house, situated in Aalborg Øst was 1.400.000 dkk (excl. taxes) [estimation via Sigma]. The calculations showed that to convert the case house into passive, an additional 124.000 dkk have to be invested in it – both for design and construction. That makes the Passive House 9% more expensive than the conventional one.  This percentage can be accepted as a fair result, because most sources over the internet point at range between 5 and 20 % – when 5% more expensive are PHs in Germany and Austria as most experienced in the area and 20% for US, where PH are far from common and there is no political strategies to promote them. In Denmark an accepted extra cost for a PH is around 10%.

In this case study, what makes PH more expensive is the extra insulation around the building envelope, the ventilation system and the distinctive system for foundation. The ventilation system and installations for hot hater alone contribute to almost 50% of the additional cost for the passive house (before subtracting the district heating system). The additional insulation forms app. 30% of the extra cost for construction and the rest 20% are for the windows, foundations, shading and blower door test.

What makes PH less expensive than the ordinary house is the lack of district heating installations: water distribution, pumps, heat exchanger and especially pipes and radiators, as well as tax for connection.

Whatever the result so far is, the question: ‘’How much does a PH cost?’’ cannot be answered before scrutinizing the occupational costs, especially the costs for heating the two houses and maintaining them.

Annual expenses for heating

To compare the annual cost for heating of PH and BR10 house, we need to assume that the houses used the maximum allowed energy. However there’s a difficulty by that because unlike the clearly stated maximum energy usage of PH, the conventional one doesn’t have a specific number for that.

A PH’s max energy usage per year is 15 kWh/m2 (for heating and cooling [H&C] ), when for ordinary BR10 house that’s (1650 kWh/heated floor area) + 52,5 kWh/m2, but the BR10 standard includes: heating and cooling [H&C] , ventilation [V] and domestic hot water [DHW]. It is problematic to compare the two usages when they don’t represent the same things:

BR10 house: (1650 kWh/126,65m2) + 52,5 kWh/m2 = 65,53 kWh/m- [H&C], [V], [DHW]

Passive house: 120 kWh per year for the whole unit (house) for [DHW], [V] and electricity for domestic needs.  For [H&C] -> up to 15 kWh/m2 y.

Fig.1 [Scope of the demands; Teodora B.]

One of the reasons to choose Nilan’s solution (Comfort P) for heating the PH was that it combines [H&C], [V], [DHW] in one and that makes it possible to compare the otherwise different heat requirements for the two types of houses. The combined solution uses app 1350 kWh per year in this

BR10 house uses Aalborg district heating for heating and [DHW]: 0,385 dkk/kWh

and electricity for [V]  and cooling: 2,2 dkk/kWh

PH (in this case) uses electricity for [H&C], [V], [DHW]: 2,2 dkk/kWh]

(Energy prices are valid for Aalborg municipal)

1) Calculating annual energy usage of the BR10 house

Heating, [V], [DHW]: 65,53 kWh/m* 126,65m2[I assumed the house is 150m2 in gross area and I took the Netto area from Revit Architecture] = 8299,37 kWh * 0,385 dkk/kWh = 3195,26 dkk /year

In the 65,53 kWh/m2 is also included the energy used for ventilation. The building regulations allow natural ventilation. However most new house, built after the BR10 standard have a mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery minimize the heat loss through natural ventilation and because very often, the client wants so. A simple ventilation aggregator for a conventional single family house uses between 350 and 550 kWh of electricity per year. The one I have chosen for these calculations (Nilan Comfort 300) uses 420 kWh/year.
Then:

Electricity for running ventilation system:  420 kWh * 2,2 dkk/kWh =  924 dkk / year

To be more precise in this calculation, we have to subtract these 420 kWh from the overall allowed 8299,37 kWh per year: then 8299,37 – 420 = 7879,37kWh is left for the heating and domestic hot water:

7879,37 kWh * 0,385 dkk/kWh = 3.033,56 dkk / year

When the energy for space heating and the [DHW] comes from district heating, we need to consider some other fixed expenses coming together with it like subscription tax, maintenance and the electricity a circulation pump uses.

Subscription tax including MOMS: 1.250,00 dkk/year
Annual maintenance: 1.150 dkk/year

Circulation pump energy usage: 120kWh / year  * 2,2 dkk/kWh = 264 dkk/year

The subscription tax, annual maintenance and circ. pump energy usage I found on: 1)http://www.forsyning.dk/media/36368/varme_-_boligkunder_-_juli_12.pdf, 2) http://www.jtvvs.dk/vvs-arbejde/service-eftersyn-af-fjernvarme.html,3)http://www.vvs-eksperten.dk/upload/brochure-alpha2.pdf

Total annual energy usage for [H&C], [V], [DHW]  in a BR10 house:

924 + 3.033,56 + 1.250 + 1.150 + 264 = 6.621,56 dkk

2) Calculating annual energy usage of the passive house

Calculating the annual cost for [H&C], [V], [DHW] through the solution from Nilan that provides fresh air supply with hot water and blowing-in hot air if additional heating needed, is relatively easier because it combines them all in one, using electricity. The incoming air before the heat exchanger is preheated in the earth heating ducts.

Total Energy usage for [H&C], [V], [DHW]:

Electricity for the whole combined solution and appliances: 1350 kWh/y * 2,2 dkk = 2.970 dkk
Annual maintenance: 1.000dkk
Filters: 200 dkk
In total: 4.170 dkk
Difference: 6.621,56 – 4.170 = 2.451,56 dkk

The energy usage for the combined solution from Nilan (Compact P) I got from e-mail correspondence with one of Nilan’s very helpfull sales consultants.

If the heating expenses in a PH are cheaper only with 2.451,56 dkk per year, the client can start benefit from his investment in app. 57 years (maybe even more if we take into account the inflation). Unfortunately that deal cannot be sold due to obvious reasons, so heating a house with electricity is not that great idea, when the area the house is situated at provides district heating which is almost 6 times cheaper than the electricity.

If this case-house was situated in the Copenhagen’s area for example, where the district heating costs 0,853 dkk per kWh and the electricity is the same:

Then for a BR10 house:

7879,37 kWh * 0,853 dkk/kWh = 6.721,10 dkk / year  summed together with the prices for electricity for ventilation and circulation of the heat pump (which are the same like in Aalborg) and also summed together with the subscription tax including VAT and the annual maintenance (which are most probably higher than Aalborg, but I’ll take them as they were the same to be on the safety side), then that gives: 10.309,10 dkk /year for [H&C], [V], [DHW]  in a BR10 house in the area around Copenhagen.                            

The price for [H&C], [V], [DHW] in a PH, build in that area, however remains 4.170 dkk / year, because the prices for electricity are the same or up to 2,3 dkk/kWh, which would give 4.305 dkk / year.

In this case the annual savings from PH (without taking into consideration inflation) will be: 6.004,10 dkk / year which means that it takes 23 years to cover the extra expenses for building it (without taking into account the inflation and the rising prices for district heating and for electricity).

Electricity is expensive to heat a house with in Denmark. That’s why in all of the passive houses built in Vejle and known as ‘’Komfort Husene’’ are using bigger ground heating and/or sun panels. That can reduce the electricity bills to half.

Calculating the energy usage in 30 years with 3,3% annually inflation

The district heating in Aalborg has a tendency of rise in price with 7% each year (incl. general inflation), when the electricity goes up with app. 1.2% per year (calculated from over the past 4 years). Therefor we can assume that this is the tendency in the future. I will also assume that the electricity goes up with 3,3% a year instead of 1.2%, just to be on the safety site, because all these numbers are really unpredictable and because this is the general inflation. So the prices for raw energy use are subject to this annual rising percentage, when the prices for maintenance, filters and subscription are subject to general inflation, which for Denmark are the average 3.3% calculated over the past 30 years.

BR10 house in Aalborg:
6.621,56 dkk total annual expenses with district heating; 3,3% inflation; 30 years = 341.704,88 dkk

 PH in Aalborg:
4.170 dkk total annual expenses with electricity; 3,3% inflation; 30 years period = 215.192,40 dkk

DIFFERENCE = 126.512,48 dkk

BR10 house in Copenhagen:
10.309,10 dkk total annual expenses with district heating; 3,3% inflation; 30 years = 531.999.98 dkk

PH in Copenhagen:
4.305 dkk total annual expenses with electricity; 3,3% inflation; 30 years period = 222.159.06 dkk

DIFFERENCE = 309.840.92 dkk

Summary

This table summarizes the results of the calculations made in my bachelor elective

The results show that Passive House can start returning on its investment in the period of 30 years, which is also the period for paying of mortgage loans and also the period most installations run without repairs, if they have been periodically maintained.

The inflation plays a great role in the calculations, because with the time prices go up and that increases the difference between the expenses for heating a BR10- and a Passive house even thought their correlations are the same.

Fig.2 [Economy over 30years; Excel]

The electricity is an energy that every house in Denmark uses and the prices over the country are more or less the same: they currently vary from 2.0 to 2.4 crowns per kWh. However district heating prices currently vary from 0.3 to 1.584 crowns per kWh. Aalborg and the surrounding areas benefit from some of the cheapest district heating in Denmark, but in many others regions (most of them quite major and populated like Aarhus and Copenhagen) people are not that lucky with their heating bills. That makes the location of a future Passive House very vital to how long the period for paying up the investment is. The results however show that Passive Houses can be an economically smart solution even in areas with cheap district heating because of the constantly rising prices for energy and services.

Paying up the extra investment for a PH in the Aalborg area in this case takes 29 years, which is almost the mortgage period and may not seem very attractive to house developers and owners which will not live in that house for more than 30 years, but they have another reason to consider investing in such house anyways, because its sells value will be higher than the value of the house that complies to the current building regulations and energy demand in particular. Passive House, if built proper, is always a quality building and this is a great advantage over the conventional houses.

Meanwhile, paying up the investment in a PH in the area of Copenhagen [Fig.2], where district heating costs nearly 2.2 times more than in Aalborg, takes respectively almost half the time it takes in Aalborg.

Conclusion

In this case study Passive House is cost efficient even in Aalborg, where the district heating is among the cheapest in Denmark! It takes 29 years to get return on the investment, which is almost the whole mortgage period, but the client will still benefit from a high re-sale price.

Passive houses have been a topic for discussion in the Danish building industry for many years. They are a great tool in achieving the fellow goal set for 2020 for drastically decreasing the energy usage for heating buildings. The Passive Houses are a challenge, but if they are designed and built properly they will always be a quality home that pay up its additional costs and help us save in long term. By living in a Passive House, the tenants may no longer worry about the constantly increasing energy prices. When we invest in such a house, we not only benefit economically but we also contribute to a reduced environmental impact and enjoy a comfort living.

Written by: Teodora V. Borislavova