To design, plan, and execute a building renovation, engineers need to not only understand the building itself, but also need to know quite some about the building’s environment. Knowledge about the environment is already required in the early stages of building condition assessment. For example, to plan drone flights round a building it is important to know whether there are trees of other objects around that would inhibit the drone flight. To evaluate different design options later on in the process with respect to the energy and occupant related performance knowledge about the local weather conditions or objects that might provide shading is required. During the execution one of the most important aspects that need to be accounted for is accessibility.
The above are only a couple of examples of the required knowledge. On our projects, more often than not, this knowledge is not systematically managed using our existing information models. To overcome this problem, in her research within the European BIM-Speed project Maryam Daneshfar explored the knowledge that engineers require to for renovating buildings. She formalized her findings in an ontology that is freely available here and discussed in a preliminary conference paper. I am sure publications about the ontology will soon follow in scientific journals. I will keep you posted.
I was just working on an initial business plan for a consultancy business for Architects to support and manage renovation planning and execution. The consultancy service is targeted towards local districts and assumes that the service providers are able to build a strong network with the local property owners in this district. I envisioned a number of services that could be provided that follow the 4M process we designed during our P2Endure project:
- providing a service for an initial evaluation for the feasibility of a renovation (Mapping)
- supporting the detailed planning of the renovation with energy simulation, engineering the renovation, and managing the supply chain for executing the renovation work (Modeling and Making)
- setting up continuous monitoring to be able to assess renovation possibilities on a continuous basis throughout the life-cycle of a building (Monitoring)
I conducted an initial financial assessment for a district of roughly 100 privately owned properties and roughly 20% of owners who are interested in upgrading the properties. The assessment resulted in a sound business for an office with two partners. Such businesses could significantly improved the renovation rate of the building stock in Europe and, in turn, make a large contribution to the reduction of CO2. All in all a true green deal business deal. We will discuss this business mode now internally within the P2Endure project, but once the model is formally published I will provide an update. Stay tuned!
While preparing for our new module ‘Circular economy for the Built Environment: Principles, Practices and Methods’ I was reading three papers today in an effort to select some required readings for our students.
I first read Ghisellini et al (2016) ‘A review on circular economy: the expected transition to a balanced interplay of environmental and economic systems‘. This is a very comprehensive review of a large amount of papers, however, the results from this review were a little inconclusive. In the end, the paper reiterates the different approaches taken in China and the EU, while China employs top-down planning and the EU bottom-up planning. The paper also stresses the need for good business models.
I then read chapter 18 ‘Products & Services’ from Lacy et al.’s book ‘The Circular Economy Handbook’. This chapter discussed possibilities to improve products during all stages of the product life-cycle from design, to use, to use extension, to end of use. I liked the inclusion of ‘use extension’ as a separate phase in the product life-cycle, certainly something we should do much more explicit. The chapter also again stressed the need for good business models, as well as, developing a sound understanding of the product portfolio of a company.
Finally I read Bocken et al. (2016) ‘Product design and business model strategies for a circular economy’. I truly enjoyed reading the paper as it introduced a strong framework about how to design products for slowing down the resource loop and for closing the resource loop. I thought these two goals are quite helpful concepts to think along when designing products. To slow loops, the authors suggest to design for attachment and trust, reliability and durability, ease of maintenance and repair, upgradability and adaptability, standardization and compatibility, as well as, dis- and reassembly. This reminded me at the classical idea of ‘ilities’ from de Weck. To close resource loops the authors suggested to design for a technological cycle that allows to reuse technical materials and sub-products, as well as, for a biological cycle. I found this again a powerful guide for designing products.
In the last years I was working with a lot of organizations, trying to explore how to better integrate advanced building performance simulation into the design and engineering processes for buildings. The struggle often is to figure out in what detail simulations are helpful during different stages of design. I have been working with companies that targeted very early decision making to support real estate developers all the way to companies that provide sophisticated consultancy in very detailed design phases. For me results are not conclusive and I really would like to do much more detailed and structured research. The farthest we are coming with our insights is in the area of supporting the renovation of buildings in two large EU funded research projects (P2Endure and BIM-Speed). Here we suggest that detailed building performance models of the existing buildings need to serve as a first step in the design process. These behavioral digital twin can then form a baseline to explore different building renovation options. A key within these efforts is to generate a baseline of the building behavior that normalized factors that are out of the control of the design, such as, weather or occupancy behavior, that cannot be statistically modeled to allow for fair comparision. From the technology development aspect at our firm Contecht we probably came furthest in setting up parametric modeling tools that allow for early simulations and host these tools through dedicated APIs that we developed in web-based design tools.
Upgrading the European building stock is still painstaking slow. Only around 2% of the buildings are renovated yearly, while a large part of the building stock still originates from the 60s. So why is up-scaling so hard, when we have also very positive cases, such as for example, the Berlin housing corporations who renovated large parts of their building stock already a decade ago? In our EU funded research project P2Endure we found that one inherent problem is that renovation approaches are very dependent on the local typology of buildings and the social fabric of their inhabitants. Therefore, renovation approaches cannot be scaled on a large scale. The alternative are local entrepreneurs, architects and engineers that are willing to develop businesses around developing renovation solutions for specific districts, the type of buildings in this district, and can get in close contact with the locals.
More information about the P2Endure project.
Report: Technical and alliance plan for temporary local renovation factory at a district level