Optimists and Realists – The State of BIM to BEM Integration

Eric Ringold

Integrating Building Energy Modeling (BEM) from Building Information Modeling (BIM) was a significant discussion at the 2017 International Building Performance Simulation Association Building Simulation conference which posed the question: “Are we there yet?” In other words, does BIM content seamlessly integrate with building energy analysis?  Responses to this question varied, in this writer’s opinion as a member of Ambient Energy’s Building Performance Engineering team, on a spectrum from optimists to realists.

The optimists about integration were predominantly representatives of software companies. They presented situations where information transfer from BIM to BEM had indeed occurred but perhaps in an ideal setting, demonstrated tools developed to make a simplified form of energy analysis available to designers using a BIM suite, and hailed the arrival of a new Golden Age of integration between two previously disparate disciplines.

The realists were more likely to be Building Energy Modeling practitioners who both expressed an affinity for the tools and ideals behind integrating BIM and BEM as well as shared experiences of difficulties trying to make integration happen. As a practitioner, I am interested in processes that work in the real world of limited time and budget.

Ambient Energy recognizes the power of the integration proposed by the optimists. We are constantly looking for ways to advance and promote the use of BEM on all projects. The advancement of data exchange formats such as gbXML and IFC are critical to this effort, as is the standardization of building system data proposed by ASHRAE Standard 205 ’Standard Representation of Performance Simulation Data for HVAC&R and Other Facility Equipment’. Ambient Energy’s Building Performance Engineers contribute to project BIM standards and work with architects developing BIM models to target full integration.  We remain realists to the question posed at the conference, but are excited for what future developments hold. While our sense is that we are not quite “there yet”, we remain excited about the possibilities of BIM and BEM integration and it’s use in advancing the energy efficiency of every project.