New Design Technologies Enable Intelligent Simulation
The world's construction industry, with annual spending estimated to be $2.3 trillion ($1.2 trillion in 2006/2007 in the U.S.), is facing serious challenges, including global climate change, aging infrastructure, a shrinking workforce, and poor productivity. To enable architects, engineers, and owners and operators of buildings and infrastructure to address these challenges, the design industry is investing in new technologies such as digital prototyping, model-driven design, and interoperability. These new technologies are not only going to change dramatically how we design, manage, and operate buildings and infrastructure, but are going to provide important benefits for first responders and emergency planners.
Challenges Facing the Construction Industry
The share of Americans calling global warming the most important environmental issue rose from 11 percent in 2003 to 35 percent in 2006. In the United States alone, buildings account for 39 percent of total energy use, 68 percent of total electricity consumption, and 38 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions. Many of our existing buildings and infrastructure are going to have to be either replaced or retrofitted to achieve zero net carbon emissions and minimize environmental impact while at the same time yielding a respectable financial return on investment. Global climate change has come to the forefront for this industry.
Aging infrastructure is the next issue. Every two years the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) prepares a Report Card for American Infrastructure. In 2005, the ASCEawarded American roads, bridges, and transit a grade of D. To put this in context, the Federal Highway Administration reports that outdated and substandard road and bridge design, pavement conditions, and safety features are factors in 30 percent of all fatal highway accidents. The ASCEestimates that motor vehicle crashes cost U.S. citizens $230 billion per year, or $819 for each resident for medical costs; lost productivity; travel delay; and workplace, insurance and legal costs. The ASCEestimates that a total investment of $1.6 trillion over five years is required to bring U.S. infrastructure to good condition.
The workforce is shrinking. In the U.S., one study predicted that by 2010, the number of workers aged 35 to 44 will decline by 19 percent, the number of workers aged 45 to 54 will increase 21 percent, and the number of workers aged 55 to 64 will increase 52 percent. This is a world-wide phenomenon. Areport prepared in 2004 by the U.S. Department of Labor reported, "Industry leaders noted that the construction industry is experiencing a shortage of workers. This current shortage is complicated by two trends: the growth of the industry, and the retirement of the baby boomers." The Employment and Training Administration projects that the construction industry will grow at an average annual rate of 1.3 percent between 2002 and 2012, adding over one million new jobs.
Figure 1 Construction productivity and Non-Farm Labor from 1964-2003. Constant $ of contracts / workhours of hourly workers. Sources: US Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of Labor statistics
The construction industry is facing declining productivity (see Figure 1). Statistics published by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in the last 40 years, while non-farm productivity has increased by over 200 percent, productivity in the construction industry has actually declined. In the context of the challenges already mentioned, this is creating a crisis for the construction industry.
Also, traditionally, disciplines such as architecture, structural engineering, construction, civil engineering, and GISrepresent classic information silos. Each has maintained its own information island comprised of design applications and data.
Several years ago, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) commissioned a study to attempt to quantify the efficiency losses in the U.S. capital facilities industry resulting from inadequate interoperability, including design, engineering, facilities management, and business processes, software systems and redundant paper records management across the entire facility life cycle. The NISTestimated that poor interoperability cost the U.S. capital facilities industry $15.8 billion in 2002, and this is likely to be a conservative figure.
New Design Technologies
To enable architects, engineers, and owners and operators of buildings and infrastructure to address these challenges, the design industry is investing heavily in new technologies such as digital prototyping, model-driven design, and interoperability. The business drivers for these transformative technology advances are productivity and efficiency by improving the performance of facilities over their full life cycle.
Digital prototyping, which allows architects to design and experience a building or highway before it is built, relies on many of the same 3Dvisualization and simulation technologies underlying computer games. The process allows architects and engineers to convey their designs more effectively, reduces the risk of major modifications to built structures, and enables optimization of buildings and infrastructure for the full life cycle, including operations and maintenance.
Most of the world's buildings and infrastructure (roads and highways, power, water and wastewater, telecommunications, and oil and gas pipeline networks) are designed using CADdesktop applications. Traditional CADdrawings are not intelligent because they lack a model or intelligent representation of real-world objects. Models make it possible to design an engine that can be animated to visualize the moving parts. In architectural design, this is referred to as building information modeling or BIM, and many people in the industry such as the U.S. GSAare convinced that BIMs not only reduce the costs of design and construction for new structures, but also significantly reduce the downstream costs associated with operation and maintenance.
Breaking down islands of technology enables the convergence of architectural design, engineering, land development, civil engineering, construction, geospatial disciplines, and 3Dvisualization and simulation technology. Convergence provides a framework of interoperability across the life-cycle of building and infrastructure investment involving design, construction, and operation, and enables seamless access to architectural, engineering, and geospatial data inside, outside, and under a facility.
Benefits of New Design Technologies for Other Disciplines
The new technologies that are being developed by the design industry mean that, during the post-construction phase of a facility or building, important benefits are expected to be realized not only for operations and maintenance staff, but also for emergency planners, first responders, and urban planners.
For example, emergency responders, instead of going into an emergency situation with limited information about the building or facility, will be able to have seamless access to facilities data inside, outside, and underneath urban structures in an interactive 3Dsimulation that will reduce the risk to themselves and allow them to deal more rapidly and effectively with emergency situations.
This access involves integrating the widest range of precision data that was created when the building was designed to deliver a precise synthetic environment that can be used to simulate the inside (utilities, HVAC systems, furniture, elevators, walls, doors, windows, and structural details); outside (aerial utilities, full city blocks of 3Ddetail, road access); and under; (underground water, wastewater, gas, power, and telecommunications systems) an urban location and make this available in a seamless, easy-to-use environment. See Figure 2.
Figure 2 Building’s internal 3D simulation
Today's 3D visualization, simulation, and gaming technology enables precision design data to be integrated into an easy-to-use, interactive model. This means that, when a first responder enters a facility to deal with an emergency situation, he or she will have at his or her fingertips all of the relevant precision architectural, engineering, and geospatial data inside, outside, and under that facility in an easily utilized, interactive simulated environment.
The integration of model-driven design, BIM/CAD/GISconvergence with 3Dvisualization and simulation technologies, including gaming engines, is breaking down traditional islands of technology. The objective is to improve the productivity and efficiency in the construction and facilities management industries, but these new technologies are not only going to change dramatically how we design, manage, and operate buildings and infrastructure, but are going to provide important benefits for first responders and emergency planners.