AutoDesk Revit: Yes! We have a fully integrated plugin that transfers data from a Revit model directly into eTool templates. See this video for more info.
Others: Partially. The Building Information Modelling (BIM) industry is still very much in its infancy and so is our integration with it. Users can currently use the import feature to upload data from a .csv spreadsheet file. A .csv file can be downloaded from most BIM models and match this quantity information to our library templates to fill the information gaps (assumptions/materials/people/equipment). Most BIM packages can facilitate either a .csv download or an .xml (or .gbxml for IES) download that can be opened in excel and saved as a .csv. Another option is to obtain a pdf or excel file of the cost plan and convert this to .csv.
Interestingly full BIM integration was one of our number one goals for software development three years ago. It just kept getting surpassed in the priority list by other new features that we introduce. Here are some reasons why this happens:
- LCA should be done as early in the design phase as possible (as is now recognised in BREEAM 2018). 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. In fact for target setting or early RIBA stage 2 analysis, we run a model from a basic accommodation schedule. There is far more opportunity for improving the outcome if our first LCA model is based on early concept designs than wait until a comprehensive 3D model has been completed, which will inevitably be too late to influence.
- There is a large amount of information that is entered into the LCA which doesn’t get included in a BIM model. For example, you might have the carpet area or cladding but do you have the glue, the underlay or the framing, the brackets, mullions/transoms etc and all the people and equipment used to install them? BIM is not generally at that level of detail yet (it will be soon and we will be ready for it). This can be very simply added using eTools unique template system, and the BIM integration solutions we have and will continue to develop will leverage the eToolLCD template system.
- 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 the templates manually.
- BIM expertise also has a long way to go. The gap in a single line of a model (which bears no importance for a BIM modeller) could be the difference between a hollow and a solid column having a huge impact on the material quantity!
- BIM is complicated due to inconsistency in how it is applied and managed around the industry. BIM 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.
- 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 is spent in conducting an LCA from start to finish. The data entry is actually quite quick (averages less than 20% of the time taken for an LCA). So technically the potential benefits of 3D or BIM integration are surprisingly minor.
We will complete further BIM integration in the future. We would 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. Decisions such as triple glazing or increased concrete thermal mass need to be considered in an LCA to truly understand their net environmental benefits or impacts. This is the goal and we want to achieve that.
Posted in: eToolLCD Software