In intelligent construction, simulation and cooperation are key

Jyrki Kesti, Technology Director, Ruukki
Jan 21, 2016

Incompatible devices, wrong valves, unsuitable pumps and incorrect meters. Functional testing is left half undone and when commissioned, the HVAC system does not work as intended. Sadly, this is still an everyday problem in many construction projects. Energy consumption measurement alone seems to be a nearly insurmountable challenge. One would think it would be everyone's benefit to know where the energy is spent, allowing those concerned to address faults before they become a problem. If even the energy management company involved in the project does not really know which values it is reporting to the customer, then there is definitely something wrong.

Many of the problems are caused by obsolete work practices or lack of cooperation. Things might turn out better, if the device suppliers were selected first and the systems designed second. Moreover, the systems should be designed together in one go, as this would ensure compatibility.

Energy efficiency relies on good HVAC and building automation design

HVAC systems have a key role in achieving true energy efficiency. Today, all HVAC systems and the entire operation of the building can be simulated extremely accurately using building simulation tools. Based on the simulation, the PLCs controlling the systems can be configured so that the relevant systems achieve optimal energy efficiency. In practice, the simulations are used by an HVAC system designer to determine the required systems and PLC parametres. The HVAC designer’s efforts, in turn, provide a basis for the building automation designer, who designs the HVAC systems for easy monitoring, control and management. In my opinion, the automation designer could be engaged in the process at a considerably earlier stage.

Building simulation, BIMs and the Big Room

Building energy simulation and building information models (BIM) deserve a bigger role in the final commissioning and adjustment of completed buildings. Simulation could also be used to plan out any changes in the building's intended purpose throughout its lifecycle, allowing the effects of the changes to be identified and understood well beforehand.

In the recent years, the Big Room method has gained traction and would also definitely improve the results in this context. In the method, designers and contractors work towards project-specific goals in a shared physical or virtual space either part-time or full-time. This cooperative model allows those involved to develop new solutions and test them faster and better than ever. It might also promote achieving goals by increasing different parties’ financial commitment to the project.

The first near zero-energy hall already up and running

Ruukki has worked in close collaboration with the Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK) in the construction of its new extension in Hämeenlinna. Housing the university’s Sheet metal centre, the building is the first near zero-energy hall in Finland. One of the main goals of the project was to achieve close cooperation between the customer, the designers and contractors at the earliest possible stage.

Naturally, commissioning the building’s systems was not without its hiccups. The building includes systems specifically designed for accurate monitoring of different areas of energy consumption. In addition to typical building automation data, the systems are used for piloting and testing various services bringing the systems closer to the user. One of the big goals is to tear down barriers between systems. Our future posts will focus on the experiences thus far.

Read more about the near zero-energy hall at greatestzero.com

Jyrki Kesti
Technology Director, Ruukki

Contact Jyrki on Twitter: @JyrkiKesti
Email: firstname.lastname@ruukki.com

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