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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
AECOsim for Interdisciplinary Building Design and Simulation
By Susan Smith
The latest version of Bentley BIM is a part of Bentley’s new AECOsim product family that is focused on interdisciplinary building design, analysis and simulation.
According to Huw Roberts, global marketing director, Bentley is recognizing the need for AEC customers to be able to simulate the design and performance of buildings in a robust and rigorous way so that those predictions of the simulations accurately reflect the real building when it’s done. The simulation aspect of energy performance is largely about recognizing that there are many variables interacting that impact each other. “There’s orientation, wind, sun, reflection, thermal properties, transmission properties,” said Roberts. “It’s not the same every day of the year and every hour of the day, and so we’re focusing on providing software that allows that simulation to both give you that quick response if you’re looking for that to point you in the right direction, and to also do rigorous simulation that really takes into account all the conditions and materials even crossing interdisciplinary.”
Roberts cites an example of the changing of the skylight system in the Toronto airport where they changed the amount of glazing and the configuration. “You change the steel that holds it up so you are looking to optimize both the energy performance and the structural buildability and cost, etc. Then of course, evaluate whether it is a good design or not.”
All that information lives throughout the life of the building, said Roberts. As you are commissioning the building and maintaining systems, the building systems degrade over time and need renovation. “That information is still valuable to the operations of the building, especially today as many buildings are active, they have active skins, active solar shading, and active structural dampening. The use of that information and interaction of that simulation applies in the operations phase as well.”
The family of AECOsim products consists of three products -
AECOsim Building Designer – A building information modeling tool that includes architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing all in one. “The user interface can be organized depending upon what you’re doing – the point is all the data, all the commands, the activities you would do in that software for any discipline are available to all,” said Roberts. “If you are in a multidisciplinary team or a design build firm or a big AE firm or small AE firm with others using the same technology you’re guaranteed full fidelity of all your interactions between the disciplines. It also supports industry standards like IFC for people using other products like Archicad or Revit but this puts that whole portfolio disciplines into one place for the project. And that gives you the environment within which you can predictively do your other kinds of simulation.”
This will be the next version of software for all Bentley Architecture, Structural Modeler, Building Mechanical Systems and Building Electrical Systems. AECOsim will also read those models so if you have made a model in Bentley Architecture, Bentley AECOsim will open that read it, and let you keep working in Building Designer, with greater functionality.
AECOsim Building Designer has all the rendering and hypermodels of MicroStation and walls, doors, windows, ducts, etc. of BIM in discipline specific tools for your discipline. As the next gen of Bentley BIM, this replaces the other BIM applications which are still supported. If customers are on SELECT for any of those products they’re entitled to this for free. Someone using Bentley Mechanical Systems gets AECOsim Building Designer for free, and it will open all their mechanical systems and models with new commands added and new interface, etc.
The second product announced is called AECOsim Energy Simulator and this is a building energy simulation and analysis tool that does heating, cooling calculations, fuel consumption, carbon footprint, cost of fuel, allows you to do offsetting of fuel consumption and purchasing, geothermal, solar, heat banking, passive cooling with open windows. “It really does all the kinds of analysis you can think of and at full scale of resolution of every space interacting with each other every hour of every day of the year anywhere in the world,” said Roberts. “It’s leveraging and includes the Energy Plus engine from U.S. Department of Energy which is the gold standard for the industry and adds capabilities and user interface and workflows, etc. to that calculation engine for all those activities.”
AECOsim Energy Simulator takes advantage of things in Bentley Building Designer so the two products can exchange information and simulate seamlessly between them. Energy Simulator also works well with models created in other tools, so users can bring in IFC, gbXML, Revit, Archicad or AutoCAD and do analysis and simulation of those models too.
The acquisition of the UK-based company Hevacomp plus new technology, and hiring two years ago of Drew Crawley, former head of the Energy Plus program at the Department of Energy have all helped build the Energy Simulator. Crawley is the director and designer of this product. Right now Energy Simulator is in product preview mode right while a private group evaluates and tests it. It will be commercially available later this summer.
AECOsim Compliance Manager is the third product, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) and online cloud subscription. It allows users to bring the whole project team together along with the information that that relates to understanding, designing for and submitting for the certification of your project. It allows users to achieve the highest LEED level more accurately and quickly, at lower cost than traditional methods. “Think of it as an online LEED data repository that everybody on the project uses,” said Roberts. “As you’re working through your design and documentation, it provides checklists, wizards, calculators, forms for you to store and manage all the information that relates to that LEED process that design teams are coming up with all the time as they’re doing their work. It makes it easier to check in and update your information and move on. At all times the project team can see where you stand in terms of achieving that LEED ranking that you’re going for.”
Everyone on the team can interact, and consider where the project is located for the material sourcing. For example, if you buy this nearby you can get LEED credit as opposed to buying a product that has to be shipped across the country.
When all three tools are used together along with ProjectWise you get the maximum benefit and value from them, said Roberts. “In particular AECOsim Energy Simulator and Compliance Manager are tools that will add great value to any size operation no matter what technology set is used,” Roberts said. “You can be a two-man architectural firm doing a project that you want to submit for LEED and Compliance Manager is great for you. For a 100-person AE or design build firm it is also great for them too.”
Pricing reflects those two ends of the spectrum as does the functionality that is really geared at all times for the single person who is interacting with it, because it’s a SaaS, it is a web browsing experience for an individual at all times. Because it can bring model information and data from other sources, basically from any source that’s commonly available in the AEC industry, that can be used with any design platform that people are using. If you’re a mechanical engineer and want to understand a mechanical system on a small building, or an energy consultant analyzing something huge and complicated, the tool can be used for this as well.
As AECOsim Building Designer and Energy Simulator are both products you install on your machine and like any other Bentley product, they are available as subscription or as a purchase and avialble on SELECT subscription or as part of enterprise licensing, as are other Bentley software.