Building Information Modeling and Building Energy Modeling Applications: Comparison
Please note this is a comparison between Version 2 by Peter Tang and Version 1 by Tullio de Rubeis.

Building information modeling (BIM) has established itself as a tool with the potential to revolutionize the construction industry. In fact, due to the growing complexity of buildings, managing construction projects is becoming increasingly challenging. In this context, BIM, as a multifunctional method, can assist the entire building design process, contributing to the realization of green buildings. Furthermore, thanks to the potential interoperability of BIM with BEM (Building Energy Modeling) software, it is possible to integrate energy aspects already in the preliminary phase of a project. However, although various interoperability strategies are currently present, the current difficulties that arise during the model export process do not allow efficient software communication and, consequently, widespread use of the BIM to BEM method. 

  • building information modeling (BIM)
  • building energy modeling (BEM)
  • BIM–BEM interoperability strategies
  • BIM–BEM integration
  • BIM to BEM

1. Building Information Modeling (BIM)-Based Analyses for the Design of Green Buildings

According to the National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee in the United States, “BIM is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition” [1]. Through detailed three-dimensional modeling, it can offer an extremely precise representation of the building components, allowing the various users to fully understand all the characteristics of the project [2].
In a context in which the construction industry represents one of the sectors most responsible for global carbon emissions [3], learning how to design sustainable buildings is essential [4][5]. BIM could be the key to revolutionizing the entire construction industry, leading to a substantial reduction in its environmental impact [6][7]. In fact, this technology is able to support the designer in managing the characteristics of a building during the entire design and construction process, facilitating, for example, the prediction of the exact quantity of materials needed during the construction phase, the management of waste during the demolition phase, and the choice of energy-efficient design solutions during the design phase. Since the adoption of BIM, various efforts have been made to understand how this tool can contribute to the design of green buildings [8][9][10].
Antòn et al. [11] demonstrate that the integration and exchange of data between BIM software and lifecycle assessment (LCA) applications can bring a significant benefit in improving the environmental performance of buildings during their entire lifecycle. On the one hand, BIM is an excellent support in the design phase, helping to better manage information and data; on the other hand, the LCA is used to evaluate all the environmental impacts of the project [12]. Moreover, BIM-based models could represent the main source of information needed to conduct a comprehensive lifecycle assessment of buildings, avoiding the burden of manual data reentry [13].
In general, building lifecycle analysis requires the intervention of various professional figures, each with a specific skill. This leads to a multidisciplinary work environment that is potentially difficult to manage, with the risk of losing information by committing design errors [14]. Building information modeling, thanks to its collaborative logic, makes dialogue with other software possible, allowing professionals from various disciplines to share data and information and efficiently integrate all design aspects.
BIM is a useful support during the entire lifecycle of a building, starting from the design phase, up to the demolition/renovation phase [8][15][16], as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1.
BIM support during the various phases of the construction process.
The design stage of a building is crucial for making informed and environmentally sound decisions [17][18][19][20][21]. The BIM-based model enables construction stakeholders to work collaboratively for efficient project delivery, ensuring that sustainability measures are easily and effectively integrated into the entire design process [8][17][22]. The ability of BIM to exchange data and information with other software allows different professionals to work on the same project, dealing with different aspects, establishing a harmonious and multidisciplinary dialogue. The potential interoperability of BIM makes it possible to already insert energy aspects in the conceptual phase of the project, allowing for the evaluation of design alternatives that can benefit the building during its operational phase in terms of indoor comfort and energy saving [23][24]. An accurate prediction of buildings’ energy efficiency is important to minimize as much as possible their environmental impact [25][26][27][28][29][30].
Furthermore, the three-dimensional model created in the design phase is also useful for predicting the exact amount of materials to be used for construction [31], helping to reduce waste [32].
As for the operational phase, BIM could be a useful tool for controlling the indoor thermal comfort of an environment. In this context, Marzouk et al. [33] developed a wireless sensor network (WSN) integrated with a BIM model to monitor the thermal comfort of a subway. In their work, the WSN was used to measure the temperature and humidity of the air inside the subway, while the BIM model was used to visualize the recorded data.
Finally, the BIM tool can help in waste management during demolition and renovation processes. For example, Cheng et al. [34] developed a system that can extract material and volume data from the BIM environment for detailed waste estimation and planning.

2. BIM for Energy Analyses

The design phase is essential to ensure that the building provides high energy performance [35]. Thanks to BIM, some energy aspects can be evaluated, such as solar radiation [35][36].
In fact, BIM is equipped with a module for simulating the sun path [37], thanks to which the impact of building orientation and shading strategies, which strongly influence the energy behavior of a building [38], can be assessed during the entire year, at any time [39].
Ciccozzi et al. [40] explored the potential of Revit in the preliminary design of a photovoltaic system, analyzing shading and incident solar radiation on a sample building for academic use. The purpose of the study was to identify the most suitable surfaces for installing the modules.
However, despite the enormous potential of BIM, its use for energy performance analyses is still quite limited. In fact, although BIM may contain thermal and physical information about building components, it is not able to carry out complex energy analyses. Consequently, to fill this gap, BIM-based models need to be further analyzed through specialized software, i.e., building energy modeling (BEM).

3. BEM for Energy Analyses

Over the last 50 years, a wide range of energy simulation programs have been developed for the analysis and prediction of buildings’ energy performance [41]. Usually, these software use simulation engines based on mathematical equations capable of representing building behavior and calculating its energy requirements [42]. Crawley et al. [41] compared the characteristics of twenty energy simulation programs in order to highlight their applicability. Among these, the authors mentioned EnergyPlus and DOE-2. EnergyPlus is a free, opensource whole-building energy simulation tool able to determine energy consumption and water use [43][44]. Since EnergyPlus is a console-based program that reads input and writes output to text files [43], it is often used with graphical interfaces, including DesignBuilder [45], Insight 360 [46] and OpenStudio [47], of which the last two can also be installed as plugins on Autodesk Revit and Sketchup [48][49], respectively. DesignBuilder is extremely intuitive, and it is widely used to carry out dynamic energy simulations on various types of buildings [50][51][52]. As for DOE-2 [53], it was developed in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) [54]. This software is able to predict energy consumption and costs for all types of buildings. DOE-2 also uses graphical interfaces, such as Green Building Studio (GBS) [55] and Insight 360 [46], to simplify the energy analysis process. Green Building Studio is the most appropriate software for quick output and easy comparison of multiple solutions [56].
An in-depth review analysis conducted by Pereira et al. [57] showed that the most used BEM software turned out to be EnergyPlus.
To automate the lengthy energy modeling processes, simulations based on BIM models have become increasingly frequent [58]. By using BIM-based models, modeling times are minimized [59] and, at the same time, the energy aspects of the project are perfectly integrated with the architectural features. The transfer of data from one software to another, i.e., from BIM to BEM, falls under the question of so-called interoperability, which still requires great effort for efficient strategies to be developed.


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