Not yet. Interestingly this was one of our number on goals for software development three years ago. It just keeps getting surpassed in the priority list by other new features that we introduce.  Here’s some reasons why this happens:

  • A large majority of our current customer base are still working in 2D design formats.
  • BIM is complicated due to inconsistency in how it is applied and managed around the industry. BIM also has all the hallmarks of a typical ‘network’ technology uptake where one system gains all the market share because it’s easiest to then collaborate. We want to make sure we back the winner in terms of exchange protocols and categorisation systems etc so we’ve been pretty happy sitting and waiting to see which systems win the race.
  • LCA should be done as early in the design phase as possible. Most 3D drawings are completed well into the design phase, and we don’t want to lock designers into detail design before getting design feedback. We really only need a very simple line diagram to give us areas of walls, windows, floors etc. This is a much more simple than your average 3D design drawings, and we’d rather do our first LCA model based on an architects concept drawing they scribbled on a napkin over lunch than wait until they’ve completed a comprehensive 3D model, which may be too late to influence.
  • The current method for data entry into eTool is actually fast and reliable. At eTool we do a lot of LCAs ourselves, we’re probably the biggest single user of our own software, so we know where the time in spent in conducting an LCA from start to finish. The data entry is actually really quick (averages less than 10% of time taken for an LCA).  So technically the potential benefits of 3D or BIM integration are surprisingly minor.
  • We want to make sure we don’t actually end up making the LCA harder. There is a risk that the users spend so much time cleaning up the 3D drawing or BIM model that it would have been quicker for them to have just entered manually.
  • There is a reasonable amount of information that is entered into the LCA which doesn’t relate to the 3D geometry of the building (for example, water use and appliance energy use). This probably won’t be entered into eToolLCD through a 3D drawing interface, again, reducing the real benefits of 3D integration.

We will complete this feature, and the reason is that we’d really like people to be able to run a 3D package that gives them thermal performance feedback and also full LCA feedback in the same place. This is the goal and we want to achieve that. Some of the above barriers are dwindling so we expect to achieve this some time in 2014 or early 2015. Watch this space!

Posted in: eToolLCD Software