ASHRAE Ireland 2017 Conference: BIM & Integrated Building Design (IBD)

By Daniel Coakley, 26th June 2017

The second annual ASHRAE Ireland Conference took place on 18th May 2017, kindly hosted by Engineers Ireland. This year’s event focused on the topical issue of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Integrated Building Design, and in particular the interfaces between design, construction and operation. We had a number of excellent speakers covering all aspects of BIM in each phase of the building life-cycle, followed by some informative feedback and debate with our audience.


ASHRAE Ireland’s outgoing president, Mr. Frank Caul, opened the evening’s proceedings with some perspectives on the current ‘state of the nation’ for the building services industry in Ireland. Mr. Caul pointed first to the return to growth in the Irish economy and construction industry in particular (e.g. new office buildings in Dublin Docklands, Data Centres, and new pharmaceutical plants etc.). Such growth brings new opportunities and challenges for industry practitioners, not least the challenge of environmental protection and climate change, which is having an increasing influence on our industry (e.g. refrigerant regulations, stricter new building regulations etc.). In addition, we are faced with a shortage of new graduates suitably qualified to address these challenges. ASHRAE Ireland is actively helping to facilitate the discussion with all stakeholders (Universities, IT’s, professional bodies, and employers) to address the skills gap in the industry, but we need more involvement from all parties in order to instigate meaningful change.


Ken Goodman, ASHRAE Sub-Region B Chair, provided further information on the growth of ASHRAE globally, and the importance of the work carried out by this volunteer-led organisation. Mr. Goodman announced the formation of a new European Region within ASHRAE, which will provide greater representation for Sections and Chapters at top level. Furthermore, we were delighted to announce the promotion of ASHRAE Ireland Section to Chapter status, following the acquisition of sufficient signatures from interested ASHRAE members in Ireland. This will give ASHRAE Ireland increased status and recognition at international level, but will also require more volunteers at board level as well as on our regional technical committees (Contact us if you want to get involved).

BIM and Integrated Building Design


Our first speaker, Ralph Montague, Managing Partner at ArcDox, discussed the interfaces between building services and architectural BIM models, as well the capacity for BIM, when used effectively, to support collaboration between disciplines. Ralph illustrated the ‘beautiful idea of BIM’ or ‘object-based modelling’ which leverages the capabilities of fully-integrated BIM, where outputs such as drawings and schedules are derived from the BIM model. Unfortunately, in many cases, the traditional document-driven linear approach is applied within a BIM, or “pseudo-BIM”, workflow. Rather than utilising a BIM workflow to create efficiencies, this leads to additional effort required and is prone to error. The ideal BIM implementation scenario more closely resembles the Agile approach applied to software development, where incremental developments are used to refine quality, reduce risk, and ultimately deliver project goals on time and within budget.

In order to achieve the optimal implementation of BIM in practice, there is a need for change within the industry – technology isn’t the problem, but rather we need to transform the traditional way of thinking in construction projects. ‘Collaboration is a “People” Issue, rather than a Technical Issue’. Ralph pointed to the CITA (Construction IT Alliance) BIM working group, which represents 20+ industry stakeholder organisations in Ireland, and is helping to facilitate the discussion around the future of BIM in practice.


Our next speaker, Mr. Brendan O’Riordan, CEO of ZuTec Ltd., addressed the topic of ‘Operational BIM’ and the use of Building Management System (BMS) data within a 3D visual environment. ZuTec is a Dublin-based software company which provides asset and data quality management services to the construction industry in Ireland, UK, Middle East and Australia. ZuTec have traditionally offered an integrated environment for managing and tracking asset information (e.g. data sheets, photos, actions, correspondence, snags etc.) during the construction and commissioning phase. However, Mr. O’Riordan explained how, after commissioning, such information is often discarded or relegated to lever-arch folders in a storage room somewhere.

By utilising BIM in its ideal form, such information can be preserved and utilised during the entire building lifecycle, providing added value to clients. Furthermore, such information can be enriched through the 3D visual environment associated with BIM models. Assets can be tagged and explored in a 3D virtual environment. Finally, by mapping to real-time performance data (e.g. from a building management system), users can monitor how systems are behaving and identify issues in an intuitive environment.

Our final speaker, ASHRAE DL, Mr. Dennis Knight, concluded with a holistic perspective on BIM and Integrated Building Design (IBD). IBD refers to “the interaction among all building disciplines, from earliest concept development throughout the building life cycle, in order to achieve integration of design efforts and operation of the total building” (ASHRAE TC 7.01). This requires collaboration between all stakeholders (Owner, AE, Contractor, Vendor, FM) in order to ensure asset performance, not just from an energy and environmental perspective, but also indoor air quality (IAQ), visual/acoustic/thermal comfort, etc. BIM provides the tools and the workflow to enable effective collaboration, but it requires a new way of thinking, hence the concept of integrated building design.


In current / traditional workflows, design and decision-making happens in silos, and the impact of decisions is often not fully appreciated, or worse still, completely unknown. For example, value engineering in the traditional sense, typically means ‘value elimination’ where important features or functionality are removed from the design to cut costs. However, this takes an extremely short-sighted view of ‘costs’ and often fails to consider the ongoing operational cost or performance impact of such decisions. We recently saw the most tragic impact of such short-sighted decision-making in the Grenfell Tower fire, where contactors opted to use cheaper external cladding during building refurbishment. This is an extreme example, and one where there were failures on numerous fronts, but serves as a stark reminder of the potential consequences of lack of sufficient foresight during building design and construction.

According to Mr. Knight, this is where BIM/IBD adds tremendous value to the process. “Iteration of Design to meet budget AND owner\’s requirements must happen earlier in the process. Life-cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) is key to inform VE decisions over the entire life cycle of the building from design through operation”. This is the specific focus of Chapter 58: ‘Integrated Building Design’ in the ASHRAE Handbook. Further information can also be found in the National BIM Guide for Owners.


As highlighted by all speakers, the key to effective BIM implementation is collaboration between all stakeholders, and a change to the traditional silo-based linear design mind-set. The tools, technologies, and guidelines are all available – however, we still lack widespread adoption and effective implementation in practice.

As always, we are interested in hearing your comments or feedback, so please reply below or Contact us directly if you wish to get involved with ASHRAE Ireland activities.

Presentation Slides

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