Cost-cutting technology

Erin Rae Hoffer, industry programs manager, Autodesk, discusses how computer modeling can help construction firms be more energy efficient and cost effective.

INTERVIEWS, Design

Erin Rae Hoffer, industry programs manager, Autodesk, discusses how computer modeling can help construction firms be more energy efficient and cost effective.

What is Autodesk's computer modeling system?

It is called Navisworks and is a technology which supports a range of design and enterprises.

The focus is very much on civil and infrastructure design for engineers, designers and contractors.

How does it work?

It allows designers, engineers and contractors to build in particularly efficient ways using the information in the model, particularly connected to sustainable design.

You can input data into the system and then, using algorithms, it breaks this down in terms of areas of focus.

You can take your data and send it to get results which say whether your design is using, for example, enough daylight.

If you are creating an office you can model the office space and then use the system to assess what the day lighting will be for the occupants.

You can find out whether there is enough daylight to be Leed-certified or not.

So early in the process you get the feedback that you need to create more windows or reflectors to allow more daylight in.

The concept behind it is to build for today, in a way that doesn't compromise future generations.

Do you think the leed system is stringent enough to promote sustainability?

Leed helps people how to design their buildings, but it doesn't incorporate much performance feedback.

It is constantly evolving and beginning to do this, but right now it needs more feedback about the energy performance of these ideas.

The designers make decisions, they want to support sustainability, but they need help.

Everyone is saying which are the right decisions to make?

A system like Leed has drawbacks perhaps, but as we get feedback about projects which are built and how they perform we have an infrastructure we can work on.

We are at the beginning stage of sustainable development and the more buildings that are completed the better idea we will have about what works and what doesn't.

How can your system help contractors to be more sustainable?

Contractors are getting really interested in building information modeling. One of the factors is that we now have some customers who are able to document the process.

They can say ‘we built this project for this client and with building information modeling we were able to reduce the costs'.

One of the advantages of Navisworks is to create a number of models that can bring together different parts of the structural process.

We can bring together the MEP and civil contractors, who often don't work together to be sustainable.

When you bring them together in the architectural model, you can create an area of focus.

You might realise, for example, that the duct work will penetrate caulk. Learning this before you start construction could save a tremendous amount of money.

Another thing is that they can use the model to stage the construction process so they can reduce waste of materials delivered on site.

They can work out exactly when materials need to be delivered and the precise time they are going to reach the site.

Sustainability has a lot to do with the construction process and to get your Leed certification you have to show how you reduce your waste.

Contractors are aware of this and they are signing up for it, with many large firms now actively investigating it.

What sort of savings are we talking about?

One contractor did an award-winning project where they integrated the work of the architect, engineer, contractor and all the subcontractors to build a model together. They found they saved a figure that was worth multi-millions of dollars.

What is your view of sustainable construction in the GCC region?

I think it is catching on. There is a long way to go everywhere in the world, not just here.

In the USA, it is slowly catching on region by region. You have mayors and governors in certain areas saying all new buildings have to meet Leed standards.

Here in Dubai, the government is backing sustainable development and the Leed system, and as developers realise it is cost-efficient, I'm sure it will become the norm.

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