Exercising the Right BIM Strategy for the Renovation

Exercising the Right BIM Strategy for the Renovation

BIM-for-renovation

With the help of BIM, collaborating designers and engineers can in short order make more informed and better coordinated decisions about to what extent a dysfunctional old building should be preserved, remedied or replaced.

Renovations are essentially the art of compromise. New space planning, lifestyles and work practices need to be fitted around existing load bearing structure and styles of a different era with elegance, efficiency and at minimal cost and inconvenience. In this article I will be discussing firstly the architectural issues of renovation and then how BIM facilitates the methods of documenting and dealing with these issues.

Reasons to Renovate

There are several reasons driving a decision to renovate old inadequate or dysfunctional buildings in preference to demolition and new construction. The following list gives the main reasons that come to mind but is by no means exhaustive:

  1. Preserving heritage buildings
  2. Modernising outdated buildings
  3. Upgrades to reduce energy costs
  4. Conserving resources through reuse
  5. Alterations with changed use
  6. Alterations with building extensions
  7. Alternative to new construction for lower building cost

While a renovation usually involves more than one of these motivations, it is important to understand which is the primary driver in order to adopt the right strategy for the renovation.

The preservation of historical or heritage buildings has become a strong priority around the world since the building booms of the 70’s and 80’s obliterated much of the old inner city building stock. This is frequently enforced through town planning conditions on redevelopment projects. It rarely leads to reduced building costs, and usually involves stringent conditions of approval, where very thorough and detailed documentation is required. These often include requirements to replicate the original building methods, fixings, and colour schemes in restoration work. Conversely new additions in many cases have to be distinctly differentiated to avoid confusion as to what is genuinely historic. New extensions also sometimes have to have reversible connections to the old, i.e. which do not mar the original building fabric if the new extension should eventually be removed. Figure 1 shows one such design solution. In this case the added awnings were not allowed to obstruct the view of the building above.

When an old building has no historical significance and no redeeming aesthetic qualities, but has a sound structure, a decision is sometimes made to renovate and modernise its appearance, usually in conjunction with changes to the internal functional planning. The assumption behind this decision is often that this is a cheaper alternative to new construction, but the need for continuous occupation could also be a major factor. Below Figures 1, 2 and 3 show various stages of one such house renovation.

bim-renovations

Our increasing awareness of sustainability issues has for many years now been driving a wave of building renovations with the aim of upgrading to reduce energy costs and eliminate adverse health issues. This often involves a strong focus on increased insulation, resolving damp-proofing issues, providing adequate ventilation, replacing and improving building service runs, and replacing components found to be toxic.

Sustainability through recycling is increasingly becoming a strong motivation for renovations in order to limit the dependence on new building materials. However, reuse of building materials, while lowering the cost to the environment, will almost always lead to higher labour costs and need to be carefully evaluated as to the net benefit before going down this path.

Challenges

The first and greatest challenge when undertaking a renovation is the unknown and hidden condition of the existing building. Over time all buildings deteriorate, and all old buildings can be expected to have deteriorating drainage, plumbing, and electrical service runs that need replacing. A cursory inspection would also easily reveal sagging or cracking structure, either due to inadequate bracing, or foundation movement. Such issues are fairly easy to predict and budget for in the renovation program.

However, a building that at first may appear sound will, once a renovation gets underway, almost inevitably reveal latent problems that are costly to rectify. Such hidden issues are often specific to particular climate zones and building vernaculars.

In Cold and Temperate Climate Zones some of the more common old building problems are:
Poor insulation, draughty windows and doors, incorrectly placed vapour barriers in walls and roofs causing ice build up in wall framing, inadequate ventilation or damp proofing giving rise to mould growth, spalling concrete beams and columns because of rusting reinforcement. Copied from Architectural Evangelist.

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