Sunday, June 23, 2024

3D visualisation is opening the door to a more sustainable future

Martin Huber, CEO and Co-Founder of 3D modelling and spatial data company Amrax, discusses how 3D visualisation can lead to more innovative and efficient building layouts.

According to the US Government, operational carbon emissions – that is the heating, cooling, and lighting of buildings – account for approximately 28% of global emissions each year. That is a staggering amount. To put it into context, it’s just shy of the 30% contribution from all the planes, trains, trucks and cars in the world. While electric vehicle sales are soaring, a report by the World Green Building Council found that well under 1% of the world’s commercial buildings and homes were net zero. A CBRE analysis also revealed that only 13.8% of commercial office buildings could be considered ‘green’. I could go on throwing out statistics but the bottom line is that there is huge scope for the world’s buildings to become more sustainable and, if we achieve this goal, it could go a long way to solving the climate crisis. 

Of course, identifying the problem is a far cry from solving it. We have to ask ourselves, with sustainable buildings making both economic and moral sense, why are developers, building managers, landlords and tenants not doing more to make their buildings green? The simple answer is that designing, renovating or maintaining a building to make it greener has a lot of up front costs and unknowns. To make a real impact, information, tools and techniques to become sustainable need to be much more accessible. We need to empower stakeholders – particularly in facility management – to choose greener, more efficient options. 

Enter advances in design and visualisation tools. Digitization and Building Information Modeling (BIM) is propelling the AEC industry towards efficiency, collaboration, and sustainability.

3D modelling and visualisation is increasingly being used in the design and construction process. Now, with growth in the power of AI, designers and facility managers have unprecedented insights into how the layout of their buildings influences a huge range of factors – including energy consumption, maintenance and sustainability. 

The combination of spatial data and AI is a powerful cocktail. First, an astonishing number of data points can be collected that really drill down into how buildings are used in practice – everything from the route people take to their desks through to which windows lose the most heat and the efficiency of insulation or air conditioning. This information, coupled with predictive analytics, can be used to inform changes to design that make building layouts more ergonomic, efficient and functional. 

Crucially, tools like virtual modelling can take these proposed changes or design ideas and allow stakeholders to see how they work in practice. Everyone can work across the project lifecycle, from owners to facility managers. Shared digital representations allow teams to visualise, simulate, and analyse design and construction decisions in real-time, ensuring alignment of vision and reducing costly error. Innumerable tweaks can be made to marry what would work best in theory with practical reality. This is no small thing – it is manifestly different experiencing a design in 3D, VR or AR versus seeing it on a flat screen or piece of paper. 

This ease of collaboration and experimentation vastly reduces the time, cost and risk associated with designing new offices, factories or residencies. As a result, there is no longer a balancing act for developers or building owners to strike between what they deem to be a safe cost-effective solution and more complex considerations such as sustainability. In short, every need can be factored into design and adequately balanced to get the best outcome possible. 

The entire lifecycle of a building can also be better managed. BIM has expanded beyond the design and construction phase to encompass models for maintenance and space utilisation. A host of promising products including Nemetschek dTwin, Autodesk Tandem and Catenda Duo have entered this segment and gained serious traction. 

And that’s just the start. Eventually, the majority of buildings will be embedded with smart devices and beacons that will monitor energy consumption and a range of other factors in real-time. When combined with AI automation and visualisation platforms, we’ll have an incredibly powerful set of tools to create ultra-efficient and highly responsive ‘living buildings’ that will use considerably less energy and resources to maintain. With AI, spatial data and 3D visualisation advancing hand-in-hand, the speed and precision of room and building design and ongoing maintenance are only going to accelerate. In the not so distant future, machine learning algorithms will be powerful enough to create design proposals with optimal efficiency. 

In short, the AEC industry is on the cusp of a digital revolution. This will be instrumental as challenges such as urbanisation, sustainability requirements and resource management play a critical role in combating climate change.

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