Children and adolescents have been designing and creating cities in virtual space for more than twenty years. The capabilities of computer games are no longer a novelty, and it is now possible to create a clone of a living city in virtual reality – not only its 3D image, but existing buildings with all city communications, streets, transportation, power supplies and other things? Yes, this is already happening.
In Lithuania, the Baltishes Haus company, the developer of the ŽALI trade and service centre, started an innovative project – a virtual, 3D building model, using BIM (Building Information Modelling) technology. The greatest innovation is that the 3D model of the building is not only used as a platform for the architectural and technical design, but also for construction, its management and organization, supply and logistics. In addition, the virtual model will be used further, i.e. for the building’s operation and maintenance up until its demolition.
To understand how the virtual building model works, imagine a very realistic city building game program, where all the elements are programmed to look lifelike and have the properties of certain materials, such as concrete, plastic, glass or steel. Technically, this model is suspended in the Internet cloud, where all the architects, engineers, and clients have access and can augment it in real time.
“A 3D building model functions like a real building clone. Using it, it will be possible to manage the ŽALI building features and communications: heating, ventilation, lighting, water supply, communications – all in one place and live”, said Audrius Masionis, a project manager of Baltishes Haus.
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From one virtual building to an entire city
BIM enables designers and architects to connect several or dozens of projects in the virtual space in a single network, complete with streets and all city communications. Theoretically, it is possible to even have a virtual city on BIM. Of course, in order to implement it, you have to move every huge and existing building, street and infrastructure into the BIM.
Vilnius made a good start on doing that, because the municipal building at Konstitucijos pr. 3 was designed in 3D using BIM already a decade ago, but it its operation employs regular, conventional methods. Indeed, the number of BIM projects in the capital is not so low, but their integration costs considerable money. The BIM of urban engineering networks would be extremely useful and necessary, because it could accelerate the troubleshooting of accidents and disasters by several times, along with the opportunity to anticipate them in advance, and make preparations.
Monika Grimailaitė, a coordinator of the JP architektūra company that is creating the architectural project of the ŽALI trade and service centre said that 3D modelling is not a new thing for the company. They have been designing spatial building projects for more than 10 years, but the ŽALI project innovation is a completely new level of graphical and informational detail of the project, which will be needed during its construction and operation.
According to M. Grimailaitė, the project will be complemented with specific technical information about the materials of objects comprising the building, and there are technical details, physical and chemical properties, and even supply contacts included in the project data. The building model is already made up of several components – architectural, engineering and construction parts linked to the common operational information model.
Detailed data are especially needed during construction and later – during the operation of the building. For example, if you want to replace a broken window pane, the management specialist will only have to go in the vital building model, like in a game, to the “broken” window to find out information not only with the description of the window glass and frame dismantlement, but also the exact contacts of the manufacturer, seller and installer. The building manager will only have to order a new window pane.
Liudas Galdikas, BIM project coordinator of Baltic engineers, the partners of Baltisches Haus, says that BIM allows the simulation of experimental building behaviours and observing their real consequences. This is especially important for accurate building energy loss calculations. An analytical model of the building developed according to its realistic parameters, along with the results of situational analysis, allows evaluation of the reciprocal influence of engineering, design and architectural solutions. It can also forecast future building maintenance costs, and identify critical areas still in the design stage. This is invaluable information that facilitates the design of an efficient and environmentally friendly building.
One of the objectives of creating the BIM model of the ŽALI trade and service centre is to control the quantities of materials. It is expected to save about 20 per cent of various building materials, as accurate quantities will not allow contractors to accumulate excessive stock. BIM counts everything up to a centimetre, avoiding the waste of additional resources and dimensional updates. According to L. Galdikas, BIM also allows you to control and manage the logistics of building materials, exactly knowing how much and what materials are consumed every day. This is important in order to avoid the unnecessary storage of building materials at the construction site.
BIM enables you to control and manage the construction process itself. Building construction managers can track what has already been built, what operations are pending and what has been missed, and to monitor the daily progress of work.
“Our task at the moment is to create a model that could be used in construction, because so far, models have only been created for design and in most cases they cannot be used in construction. They have different forms for the presentation of information – the same objects are called different names, and pure building information is missing”, said L. Galdikas.
Currently, there are large building contractors in Lithuania who have started to use the information saved in a BIM model for construction. There is a strong interest from companies operating buildings. In order to fully utilise the building mode upgraded during the design stage, project information will be stored in the customer’s database and linked to the BIM model created during the ŽALI operation in a manner that, if necessary, will allow everything to be available in the digital BIM database.You can take a closer look at BIM by visiting the ŽALI trade and shopping centre. The centre that will be opened in the Balsiai settlement in 2017 will have a BIM room for continuous demonstration of the 3-D building model which, due to its scope and detail, covering all stages of the project, will be the first of its kind in Lithuania.