RESSEEPE Project – Sustainable Building Innovations at Coventry University – PCM

Coventry University and the RESSEEPE partners have been very busy over the past few months progressing the RESSEEPE research into the demo site activities phase.  It’s at this point where the practical end of the demonstrations is coming into action and the really exciting work is happening. Having been a part of the project since its initial practical kick off its great to see the technologies explored as a part of the project actually gong onto the buildings. Over the next few weeks a number of articles will be released discussing each of the technologies installed at Coventry University.


PCM – Sample of the tube form unfixed and loose

The first major works at Coventry consisted of the installation of Phase Change Materials (PCM).  PCM is a passive system, which behaves similar to ice, in that the material ‘freezes’ and melts at a fixed temperature.  The PCM installed in Coventry is a S27 phase change material, which is a salt hydrate that peaks at 27oC.  In reality, the PCM may start the melting process at 25oC and be completely liquid at 29oC.  In reverse, the PCM may show signs of solidification at 29oC and be completely solid at 25oC. 



The PCM Tubes are installed and respond to the surrounding temperature of the room.  At the beginning of the day, the TubeICE are frozen.  As the room heats up due to body heat, and heat from the sun, the PCM Tubes passively cool the room by absorbing the heat until completely melted. 

PCM Passive System Throughout Day

PCM Passive System Throughout Day

The duration of the cooling effect is dependent on the intensity of the heat being absorbed.  I.e. the PCM will melt quicker if the ambient temperature in the room is 40oC compared to if the temperature is 35oC, much like a block of ice would.  As the temperature cools over night, so does the PCM.  The PCM effectively looses energy to the immediate surroundings, charging for the next day. 


PCM - Overnight

PCM Overnight


PCM bracket System

One of the challenges with installation was due to the unknown entity of the PCM. A number of local contractors were approached to install but were put off by the increased risk factor when dealing with a technology which is very new. Contractors rightly so have to consider the increased level of risk and liability that they will take on when dealing with something they have little precedent or experience in handling. In reality once a contractor had been identified the installation was fairly straight forward. Certain protocols had to be adhered to such as a structural assessment of the space and an asbestos survey, both to ensure that firstly the structure could hold the increased loading of the PCM tubes and secondly to ensure that no surprises were found in regards to asbestos. Both were cleared and the installation was quick and uneventful. As can be seen from the image the PCM tubes were fixed using a standard tube fixing bracket system which was fixed to the underside of the ceiling.

PCM technology was installed within the Architecture Studio and 2 offices within the John Laing Building at Coventry University. The spaces and tubes will be energy monitored over the next year to gather full performance data, which will be objectively compared to controls rooms neighbouring the spaces. Below the PCM tube can be seen in-situ.


PCM tube in-situ


PCM tube in-situ

PCM tube in-situ

Contributors – Danny McGough and PCMproducts


The Misconceptions of BIM

(Exercise support content contained in this article. These articles are developed to support flipped learning approach so some comments are present to direct higher education discussion)

The reach a summary singular definition for BIM is extremely difficult.  There is a mass of differing definitions, perspectives and approaches than can often be valuable when understanding BIM however a number may have the opposite effect. Reaching a consensus amongst the informed masses on BIM is gaining momentum with greater awareness on BIM being demonstrated and recorded across the AEC industry.

An early stage render showing BIPV refit optionMany not so useful definitions, or maybe better termed assumptions exist such as BIM is purely about the 3D model. This was the common misconception of BIM in the early years but hopefully it’s a misinterpretation that we have or are very near to moving beyond. Another assumption similar to the above is that BIM is solely a technical process, assuming that once the tech is in place we can push the magic BIM button and the design appears at an instant. A better understanding of BIM is aware that BIM goes beyond the technology aspects and draws together a combination of the people, technology, process and policy. It is within this BIM quartet of factors that personally I find BIM clearer defined. BIM or useful and successful adoption of BIM requires the BIM quartet of factors to be considered and aligned appropriately. The technology on its own can not navigate a team for a BIM project. The technology is simply a support tool within the process.

Likewise process implementation such as proper planning support documents, regulations and protocols such as the PAS 1192, BIM protocol, Implementation and execution plans are crucial to successful adoption. Prudent industry representatives are buying into this factor and learning from the early mistakes made by many AEC organisations in the like of purchasing waves of technology with no real consideration to the process and cultural change required. Which as you can imagine leads to expensive no return ventures into the world of proprietary software choices. Proper process planning leading into organisational BIM adoption like wise to project BIM adoption helps to support and smooth the process. Having experienced BIM adoption in projects for retrofit, without adequate process and cultural planning the wasted workload, time and costs are clear to see. It would be wrong to state adequate process and organisational planning clears the path for assumed success, however it defiantly supports towards successful adoption.pas 1192 use

And finally the consideration of the people within the BIM adoption process. This factor, i.e. The directors and the users etc. cannot be underestimated. Disgruntled and unhappy adopters will only leads to negativity within the process. This negativity leads to essential BIM corners being cut. Some processes within BIM clearly save time from the outset however others such as the understanding and awareness of new software take some investment. It’s this need for investment from users that can often put many off and leads to the anti-BIM reactions, which it could be argued are not solely tied to the genuine known or agreed shortfalls of BIM but instead are incarnations of the reluctance to change.

In summary, one perspective of BIM is that BIM isn’t a newfound tool, nor simply a newfound process but rather it is the adoption of existing best practices which already exist within industry with a twist of ‘new’ enabling tools to facilitate the process. It’s making the information available when you need and want it and is naturally encouraging positive collaboration. The technologies and processes provide a modern and 21st century infrastructure to support this best practice.


Flipped classroom considerations:

Also watch the external videos below by the B1M team

What is a “BIM Model”? | The B1M –

All credit for the below video goes to the team at B1M which can be found at the following website; Permission has been sort and provided by Fred Mills of B1M to embed his material on this site with credit forwarded.

Imagine (what BIM could do) | The B1M

Discussion points:

  • What misconceptions have you heard or perceived yourself prior to reading further into BIM?
  • Do you see BIM as a useful tool or another forced process or hoop you have to jump through?
  • Consider how BIM can be used to reduce waste, such as time, cost and material waste.
  • What impact will BIM have on improvements within energy performance?
  • Considering the quartet of factors discussed above how do each of these factors differ from each other?
  • What are the key success factors of each of the 4 factors




Retrospective BIM Modelling of Buildings

Even with the challenges that are there in regards to retrospective modelling I feel the difficulties encountered in the process of actually attempting it emphasise the clear need for more efficient processes of data storage and access to building information, and isn’t that what BIM is all about? Having the information there, when you need it? Yes in this example I’m modelling a pretty old building with very outdated standards of data handover in the sixties, but the lack of available data has similarities to non-BIM’d buildings of today.

Over the past few months I’ve been extremely busy on some very innovative and intriguing projects which have been taking up a considerable amount of time, hence the lack of articles! I’ve finally had a few minutes to put aside to dedicate some time back into the site.

Over the past few 6 months I’ve been heavily involved in a European funded project Resseepe, which is focusing on the retrofit of large institutional buildings such as Universities, hospitals and schools. The project aims to establish informed and innovative solutions to optimise how we manage and develop refurbishment strategies for buildings.  Focusing not only on the innovative technologies that can be used and combined in refurbishment projects, but also on the processes and decision making procedures preceding retrofits.

The Building in Question

The Building in Question

Part of this project has led me to retrospectively ‘BIM’ modelling a large university building, around 5000m/2. Now having quite a bit of previous modelling experience I believed this would be a reasonably straight forward task. How wrong was I! Now modelling any building often takes a bit of technique refinement to get the software to do what you want, I’m talking a ‘new’ way to model a bespoke roof design, or massing a particular shape or form in a way that you haven’t done before. This kind of skills refinement is pretty normal as you progress through any existing or new software. I’ve always found that regardless of level of skill at any software with the commercial ‘new edition every year’ platform there is always something every year to brush up on. This process has been as usual invigorating, to keep pushing personal understanding and skills.

Now as I say, this level of skills evolution is normal, the real learning curve or hurdle has been the lack of available information on existing post war building stock. This is an issue that many Estates and asset management teams have to try to endeavour to overcome, in that much of the information on buildings is old, outdated and/or buried. For the building in question that I’ve been modelling there has been a close relationship with in house estates to try and muster up what information we can to give the best available current state and picture of the building. The challenge here is that this still leaves a lot of assumptions and estimations. For instance in a building designed in 1961, no one at the time considered the 3D modelling requirement of some BIM user when compiling the plans. The plans of the day were constructed with one criteria in mind; enough information to raise the building from the ground, in time and for the right money. Building handover or management was at best an afterthought, if that. In modern years the information being handed over to FM teams is greatly improving with initiatives like softlandings in the UK. Although, we don’t have to go too many years back’ looking at buildings where handover of data was an afterthought and still is in parts.  I’m thinking the rushed collection of building management and health and safety binder’s minutes before the impending deadline.

An early stage render showing BIPV refit option

Another key issue when retrospectively modelling existing stock is the accuracy of the details. In this case you can’t rely on existing original or CAD plans to hold accurate data because over
the years buildings evolve and often the records don’t show this in every detail. It may even be the case that when a plan reaches site, the detail was just not viable and the process or reality of the build altered slightly, this is where the need for ‘as built’ records derives, again this is key to BIM and softlandings. To counteract this there needs to be a process of model validation. Now this may differ slightly from the new build validation in that were not directly validating immediately against rule sets, such as in Solibri etc. The key here is to validate the accuracy of plans, CAD or assumptions so that the model is as close to ‘as-built’ as possible. Now what were encroaching into here is a level of detail aspect, much the same as any BIM new build, in that it needs to be established as to how accurate or refined does the model need to be. This all depends on what information will be required down the line, i.e. will the model be solely used for energy simulation or is there a desire to use the model for quantities asset management which will require far greater component and parametric data to be added. As with new builds, you can only draw off quality information when quality information goes into the model. There is a point where decisions have to be made on the practicalities of entering the detail and specification of every light fitting if that information is never going to be required.

Even with the challenges that are there in regards to retrospective modelling I feel the difficulties encountered in the process of actually attempting it emphasis the clear need for more efficient processes of data storage and access to building information, and isn’t that what BIM is all about? Having the information there, when you need it? Yes in this example I’m modelling a pretty old building with very outdated standards of data handover in the sixties, but the lack of available data has similarities to non-BIM’d buildings of today. The benefits that a BIM model can bring to new builds are very similar to those that are on offer in retrofit or building management. The challenge is to bridge that gap in retrospect. In years to come I envisage a FM process where it’s a lot more common for reasonably sized existing stock to be retrospectively modelled as the alternatives of traditional data management are far to cumbersome. In the case where a building retrofit is to take place I would go as far to say it’s crucial.   


BIM, success or failure, leap or crawl? (Processes and Protocols)

BIM, success or failure, leap or crawl? In this article I’m going to question whether BIM protocols and improved collaborative and integrated working processes can be the lasting legacy of BIM regardless of technology take-up.  Should companies concentrate on getting the processes and people aspects of BIM implementation right before considering what technology aspects of BIM to adopt?



Project Execution Plans (PEP) and Project Implementation Plans (PIP) are an area where quick, cheap and effective steps can be made in the early stages of BIM adoption.  Small or large companies can use these tools or documents during the implementation stages of project at relatively small costs as compared to actually implementing the technology platform needed to run a BIM project.  The documents if anyone is familiar to them will be aware are not a radical new concept, there are clear similarities to any existing planning documents that firms have set up internally for projects. Other BIM protocol documents such as the Pas 1192-2 have additional reference and guidance for a  BIM strategy outlining project  planning, structure, sharing and modelling protocols etc.


By at the very least adopting integrated planning structure of BIM project firms would be able to get the people and processes aspects of BIM right first, reap the benefits and then get the technical aspects ironed out either immediately after the BIM protocols and people structure has been established or even further down the line. Now some firms may be able to make the leap in one go, but others firm may require a more gentle transition period. The danger of making a great leap is that the early end spending may not be directed in the long term right direction. It’s not unheard of for companies to spend a huge amount on BIM models or technology before even having a clue on what they actually want to achieve through BIM adoption.


To briefly outline BIM protocols; BIM protocols are the setting up and adherence to processes and procedures that are part of BIM. Documents such as the Implementation Plans and the Project Execution Plans are used to outline the goals, skills, protocols, responsibilities and many other aspects of a BIM project at an early stage.  Whilst in their current reference these types of documents are often referred to as BIM projects tools or plans I believe they could have a wider use across a multitude of projects, from basic standard construction projects right the way through to international research projects. Protocols and Executions Plans can be used to take a team beyond the initial brief into and through a project from start to finish providing clarity on what rules and procedures the team should adhere to, in a pre-agreed and documented format.


pas 1192 use

One of the major benefits of at least adopting BIM protocols first  is that as mentioned trough reducing initial outlay the leap into BIM can be less of a leap and more of a steady passage.  Another factor to consider is that by tackling the people and organisational aspects first you can skip the nervous and often ill-informed leap of purchasing a costly full software package deal before even knowing what you want out of BIM leading to multiple problems further down the line. The kind of problems I’m eluding to are ones such as being tied into a proprietary vendor, or not considering the actual companies or clients (depending on who’s the driver into BIM)  requirements for the first or future BIM projects. Making these leaps into the technology aspects of BIM before fully understanding what you hope to get out of it, or maybe more importantly what you actually need out of a BIM project could be extremely costly. I have seen many testaments of companies purchasing astronomical amounts of software before even having a real clue as to what BIM or BIMM actual is and what it means for the firm beyond that of buzz word adoption. If a company is going to invest in BIM they need to be sure that they have sifted through the initial stages of the BIM wash and have begun to really evaluate and establish what BIM can do for them as an outfit.

Many people are getting BIM the wrong way round and coming unstuck when they have a flashy and pretty BIM model, or should I say 3D model as it is in most cases and not actually understanding what kind of data or processes they want to draw off from the BIM process as a whole.


Many people talk about the top>down approach of implementation i.e. getting the directors and managers to agree on the push for BIM and then look at the ‘down’ or general staff and assess what needs to be done in regards to training and technology etc. One step that I feel could get the ‘top’ on board more easily could be to present the notion of improving the simple and low costs things first to improve the methods and protocols of working.  By implementing BIM protocols you can make quick gains in efficiency and processes with little outlay which could then be used as leverage to encourage any doubting bosses. In an ideal world all parties would be on board at a firm from the get go but this is obviously not always possible in reality. There are still factions out there that don’t understand BIM enough yet or are simply not encouraged enough by the current arguments to wholly make any huge leap. It’s often the case in business to adopt the ‘let’s see what everyone else does first’ policy.


With all these fluctuating variables coming into to play, getting the people working more efficiently and truly collaborative from the outset of projects could be one of the key lasting legacies of BIM as the area naturally metamorphosis’ and evolves over its lifespan.  Certain processes, technology and aspects of BIM may fade over time, but the people involved, providing there’s no radical automated robotic takeover of the industry, will be there for the long run so getting the people aspects right makes sense, doesn’t it?


To put a delicate twist on my opening line; BIM, success or failure, leap or crawl, BIM protocols and improved collaborative and integrated working processes can be the lasting legacy of BIM at the very least I hope.


BIM Workshop Attended in Coventry

I recently attended a BIM workshop which was held at Coventry University. The 2 days were presented by the ‘2 David’s’, David Emery and David Jennings. It was good to hear BIM described and discussed in real terms in real life applications.  The event was one of a reoccurring set of workshops which are funded by Sustainable Building Futures (SBF) with the aim of assisting SME’s on their road towards greater BIM adoption.



Many topics within BIM were covered, from the origins of BIM to what BIM actually is and isn’t? As many who understand BIM already know BIM isn’t something new! This point was highlighted by David Jennings with some nice references to historical builds right back to the Empire State Building and even further beyond that to the construction techniques adopted for the Egyptian pyramids. The Empire State Building consists of 102 floors and was constructed in the 1930’s. Surprising to some may be the schedule of works and completion time; the building was completed in just 13 months, which was no mean feat back in the 30’s! They achieved this through various ways, one being a collaborative and integrated design environment in which all of the various design and construction teams worked in close proximity of each other. This enabled decisions and alterations etc. to be made live without any lengthy delays for information exchange. Another point of interest regarding the schedule was the fact that there were no critical paths which enabled for a smooth process. A point that strikes me was contrast in complexity from many buildings today. There was a simplicity to the design of the building, in essence only two floor plan variations were used which obviously lead to a more efficient progress and schedule during construction. Aside from the BIM aspect one aspect which makes today’s building far more difficult to build is this complexity, and from a sustainable and construction point of view possibly over complexity. The iconic focal point buildings we have in our major cities are great for the viewer but are the levels of complexity they bring to much in a low impact conscious industry? One argument against this however would be the level of revenue that a landmark building can bring to a city, just look at the money that follows a Renzo Piano design!

The way that what is BIM was explained was put in a nicely succinct manner by David Jennings as ‘the access to information when you need it’. To further explain BIM the definition set out by BuildingSMART was also displayed showing the variations in the BIM acronym; Building Information modelling, model, management etc.  From these definitions in my personal opinion if, as we are, we a struck with some kind of acronym then personally I prefer the BIMM acronym that has been bandied around, Building Information Modelling and Management (BIMM). I feel this best encompasses all of the technology aspects of BIM as well as signifying the importance of the people and processes aspects.



Next up on day 2 we had various run troughs of some of the more technical aspects of BIM such as COBie and quality assurance check via Solibri.  It’s clear to me that COBie for many is a bit of an unknown territory, so it was nice to see it running live on Solibri and see actual outputs of intelligent data. Later on I will be doing an article on putting REVIT through its paces in regards to how to get from REVIT to COBie outputs so will cover that aspect myself then. What was outlined within the talks were the Benefits of quality assuring a model or IFC file to be more specific before running the COBie calculations/export. One point I’m really intrigued to follow the evolution of is the progress to be made in regards to COBie drops and the path towards fully integrated models and data. As discussed within the workshop COBie drops 0,1,2,3 have all taken place within live projects but drops 4 and 5 have yet to be fully completed. I’m keen to see how far these drops can be automated and how fluid the process becomes for drops 4 and 5 as it’s the major data drop area for the Operations and Management side of things. And in my view handover and Softlanding’s are one of the current missing links where BIM could achieve its true ROI and prove its worth to doubters!


I won’t go into too much detail into the Solibri process as in the near future I will be doing a hands on assessment of how I find the process but from what I seen of it in live action I do feel there are some neat aspects to the software. Having used Tekla BIMsight for clash detection I can immediately see the differences in what Solibri can bring to the table from the live demo. One of the major abilities I liked was that you can use pre-programmed definitions to interrogate a model such as building codes etc. (I’m told British codes are to be updated in the near future) which in my understanding will take it beyond many other clash detection software’s.  As a teaching aid or as a real world live project tool if I can utilise a tool to do Building Codes and Building Regulations checks as well as the more common clash detection it will surely speed up process. One of the toughest aspects to teach students within construction is to get them to design with building reg’s and such in mind.  A checker won’t and shouldn’t eliminate this skill but it would defiantly be a useful tool to ‘double check’ for human error.


Overall it was a well done workshop with good real world content so congrats to the two David’s for getting me thinking about a good few points to keep my eye on in the future as well as areas for future articles! You can check out their site at Virtechs 


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