Sustainable Refurbishment of University Buildings

(Exercise support article) These articles are developed to support flipped learning approach.

The need for refurbishment for University buildings is becoming a common concern due to the nature of construction of many estate assets. Many University estates have a high number of Post War buildings in which the structure itself is sound, but the energy performance is suffering.

The Association of University Directors of Estate (AUDE) commissioned and published a paper titled “The Legacy of 1960’s University Buildings” which highlighted that much of the building stock held by Universities is progressively becoming out of date and unfit for purpose. The report considers “how to renew (refurbish/replace) a very large proportion of the property portfolio that was built in the 1960’s.”   A number of key challenges have been identified such as the poor performance of out-dated components, a lack of flexible functionality to spaces and a complete lack of accurate and reliable data necessary for efficient building management.

The below resources are particularly relevant to the area and can be used as flipped approach media with the supporting critical questions:

1. – A University Renovation : A Case Study – featured on ‘sustainablebuild’

Discussion points:

  • What are the key elements of this article?
  • What are the critical consideration when pre-evaluating refurbishment opportunities?
  • Are there any similarities between this article and a local refurbishment?

2 – University buildings Pre-refurbishment – featured on BRE Group

  • What are the key elements of this article?
  • Is the process of reclaiming and responsible waste management an area often forgotten?
  • Should it be adopted more?

3 –Hampshire County Council – low carbon building refurbishment

Direct link –

  • Have you noticed any trends in how the refurbishment was presented?
  • Who are the key stakeholders?
  • What factors should be considered during a refurbishment?

There is a consistent threads through the discussions that will be interesting to discuss the following week.


Innovative Sustainable Retrofit-RESSEEPE

RESSEEPE will bring together design and decision making tools, innovative building fabric manufacturers and a strong demonstration programme to demonstrate the improved building performance through retrofitting.

Over the past two years I’ve been working as a co-investigator on the RESSEEPE project. The Project title stands for ‘REtrofitting Solutions and Services for the enhancement of Energy Efficiency in Public Edification’ (RESSEEPE). It’s an EU funded project that focuses on the refurbishment of existing public buildings in three European cities. The aim of the project is to bring together design and decision making tools and innovative building fabric manufacturers to collaborate to improve building performance through low impact retrofitting interventions to achieve a 50% reduction in energy consumption.

The project has some significant research partners and stockholders with demo sites in the UK at Coventry University, Skellefteå in Sweden and Barcelona in Spain. Additional to the demo sites partners, research partners include Coventry University, Exergy, IES, OHL and Tecnalia. As well as a number of other contributors which can be found via this link.

Below is a short video which will introduce the project;

Over the next few months I will continue to update the site with further progress and videos on the project, including details on the innovative technologies and low impact strategies.

Main Links can be found within the article and below;


Coventry University






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.   


Drivers behind BIM Part 2

The article this week will follow on from lasts week’s article looking at the drivers behind BIM. This week I will focus on the NBS surveys from the last few years as well as looking at some of the industry take up and commitments towards BIM that has taken place recently.

wheel BIM

Drivers Behind BIM Part 1 can be found here

Another key driver in the push for wider adoption of BIM across the industry is the positive effects that BIM working practices will have in regards to delivering low impact sustainable buildings for the future, in an increasingly energy conscious time.  By increasing the BIM awareness and skills of the industry whilst at the same time parallel to these further increasing the industries abilities to analyse and design low impact buildings, the construction sector will be in the best position to contribute positively towards a low impact future.

The National BIM Report 2012 canvassed the opinions of over 1000 participants with differing levels of awareness and understanding of BIM for 2011. The results showed that 73% of participants agreed that the industry was simply not yet clear enough on what BIM actually was. Following on from this, NBS repeated the survey in 2012-13 titled the NBS National BIM Survey 2013, once again canvassing the opinions of the industry for the year 2012. The same question was asked and this time around 74% now felt that ‘the industry isn’t yet clear enough on what BIM is yet’, clearly with this continued statistic there is still further work to be done in regards to preparing the industry for full adoption of BIM.

Also highlighted within the findings was the lack of awareness amongst all participants. The National BIM Report 2012 established, “that awareness of BIM is (was) not universal, with 21% of participants stating that they were not aware of BIM (in 2011)”. In the repeated study, NBS National BIM Survey 2013 the same question was asked again, this time around however the number of participants ‘neither aware nor using BIM’ fell to 6%. This result is a marked improvement on previous years amongst the industry participants.  As good as an improvement as this last result is it would be somewhat counterproductive if the industry was to stand still in regards to BIM adoption and training. Similarly once again it would also be counterproductive if Higher Education institutions continued to allow graduates to leave university without any awareness of BIM themselves. I believe if this was to happen it could hinder the Government and the industry in their push for greater adoption of BIM.

Personally I feel it’s the responsibility of Governments, the firms who can realistically afford to, as well as Higher Education institutes to ensure that the necessary training is provided to enable graduates and existing professionals to succeed within an increasingly competitive industry, with a clear awareness and ability to work within a BIM working environment being one of those skills.  For those smaller companies who work to an ever increasing tighter staffing and technology budget I’m afraid I don’t have all the answers! Yes I feel that the smaller SME’s need to adapt to survive but at the same time I recognise the barriers. What is encouraging is various funding schemes that are popping up to assist SME’s with CPD funding etc. such as the Sustainable Building Futures (SBF) based in Coventry to assist SME’s in and the Midlands region.

The extent to which BIM is adopted across the construction industry depends on whether industry leaders buy into the Governments sentiments. Currently major players within the industry are making strong drives towards the adoption of BIM, with some already delivering projects at maturity level 2. Balfour Beatty has recently invested a considerable amount of funds into the adoption of BIM across their company. In 2012 Balfour Beatty “signed a three year, $12 million agreement that will help Balfour Beatty expand its adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM)” balfourbeatty (2012). Capita, formally known as Capita Symonds soon to revert back to Capita!, have also been investing heavily in the adoption of BIM they announced last year that from  “July 2012 all its new design projects will use BIM Level 2 as standard” capitasymonds. (2013). The Royal BAM Group have also recently signed a three year contract worth “(£2.8m) with software firm Autodesk to provide Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology across its global operations, including all BAM projects in the UK” building (2013). Speaking about the deal in October 2012, BAM Construct Design & Marketing director Chris Gilmour stated that BIM would be used across all projects, “Not just special projects – no matter how big or small the project, we will be fully embedding BIM” (February 2013). This review of the construction industry is by no means exhaustive; it is however a small indication of the commitment that industry is making towards adopting BIM.

So as you can see there are many factors at stake when we talk about the drivers behind BIM, whether it be Government, Industry or Education they all have a big part to play in the future of the construction sector. What are your thoughts on BIM, do you believe enough is being done push forward with BIM? Also do you feel it’s he to stay, or is it just another buzzword or phase that will pass?


Drivers Behind BIM Part 1

This article is the first of two parts, the focus will be on the drivers behind BIM, why are many companies adopting this new or not so new (depending who you talk to!) way of working. BIM has many believers and just as many critics! But one thing is for sure as it stands, the UK government believes it’s here to stay as well as many of the early adopters who are making whole sale changes to the infrastructure of their project set-ups.

Over the last few years the UK Government has made significant moves outlining where they expect the construction industry to be over the coming years in regards to BIM. The UK Government has mandated that all public building projects will have to be using BIM design processes at level 2, fully collaborative 3D BIM, or higher by 2016.  Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office has recently stated in 2012 that, “The Governments four-year strategy for BIM implementation will change the dynamics and behaviours of the construction supply chain, unlocking new, more efficient and collaborative ways of working. This whole sector adoption of BIM will put us at the vanguard of a new digital construction era and position the UK to become the world leaders in BIM”.

Now….within this particular article I’m not going to get too caught up in the whole debate of how much of this ‘new’ BIM methodology already existed in certain people’s workflows and how much is a ‘new’ way of thinking. Yes certain collaborative working processes did exist previously, what I feel BIM has brought and is bringing to the table is a repackaging of the best aspects of collaborative working processes and protocols along with new ones as well as establishing further integration of existing 3D CAD technologies and the newer BIM technologies that are sprouting up on what seems like a daily basis!

Sourced from-

Sourced from-

The Cabinet Office states in the Government Construction Strategy (2011) “there is a detailed programme of measures Government will take that will reduce costs by up to 20% by the end of this parliament”; it is believed by many that BIM will be one of the key factors in achieving this target. I still feel that even with all the good work that the BIM task groupBIM Regional hubs, OpenBIM network and the BIM academic forum are doing more work will be needed to move onto the next phase. We’re at the point now where all the believers are fully on board and committed to BIM ethos. What phase 2 needs to do now is move beyond the tight-knit and familiar group of people who accept and believe in BIM and begin to convince some of the remaining doubters on board. I say some because I feel you will always get some people who don’t like change an d wish to stick with what they know and are comfortable with.

As well as the Government drives i also feel that education has a big part to play in BIM adoption. As discussed in the BIS BIM strategy Report carried out by the BIM Industry Working Group (2011, p6) “key to any successful change programme is communication of the change and adequate support during the process”, part of the responsibility to provide that support will fall on Academic Institutions. The BIS BIM strategy Report (2011, p6) goes on to state that in regards to how training is provided the “recommended solution is a strongly led hybrid provider drawing on the educational and research expertise of universities, the robust experience of accrediting bodies and the engagement of credible industry led best practice, as well as vocational training delivered by CPD or the training supply chain.” From this information it’s clear to me that the incentive or at least the outwardly perceived incentive is that education is seen as a major supporting act. In my opinion however I feel much more has to be done at undergraduate level (UK at least). In respect of this point I also feel further guidance and support needs to be established and clearly set out and put forward to higher education institutes as to what their role is.

Barison and Santos (2009) found the application of BIM in HE to be focussed predominantly on single course integration rather inter-disciplinary. However as we all know by now the application of BIM in the industry is an integrated practice! The aim for education has to be for effective collaboration between different professionals.  This is why I feel that BIM should not only be taught in theory and technical lectures but imperatively all of the knowledge should be brought together in multidisciplinary collaborative projects.

So as you can see there are many factors at stake when we talk about the drivers behind BIM, whether it be Government, Industry or Education they all have a big part to play in the future of the construction sector. What are your thoughts on BIM, do you believe enough is being done touch forward with BIM? Also do you feel it’s he to stay, or is it just another buzzword or fad that will pass? Catch up here next week for part 2 of this article.

Driver Behind BIM part 2 can be found here


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