Helping contractors make green buildings

Erin Rae Hoffer, industry programs manager, Autodesk, discusses how computer modelling can help contractors be more energy efficient.

ERIN RAE HOFFER: Sustainability has to be factored in.
ERIN RAE HOFFER: Sustainability has to be factored in.

Erin Rae Hoffer, industry programs manager, Autodesk, discusses how computer modelling can help contractors be more energy efficient.

What is Autodesk's computer modelling system

It is called Navisworks and is a technology which supports a range of design and enterprises. The focus is very much on civil, 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 or focus.

You can take your data and send it to get results that 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 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 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.

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 just 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 modelling. 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 modelling 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 they can use the model for is 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. They can work out exactly when they need this truck to come and deliver the materials.

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 and many large firms are 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 sub-contractors 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, you have the government backing sustainable development and the Leed system, and as developers realise it is cost-efficient, I am sure it will become the norm. I don't think it is just a flash in the pan.

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