August 2008

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Gordon HolnessEMAIL INTERVIEW  Gordon Holness & Ken Sinclair

Gordon V.R. Holness  P.E. Consulting Engineer

Gordon V.R. Holness P.E .is Chairman Emeritus of Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. Architects and Engineers, in Detroit.  He retired from the firm in 2001 having served for over 32 years including roles as Chief Mechanical Engineer, Treasurer, Board Member, President and CEO.   He currently provides Consulting Engineering Services and serves as an expert witness for design and construction issues

He is a Professional Engineer, registered in 42 States and 5 Provinces. He is a chartered engineer in the United Kingdom. 

He has over 50 years experience in design and construction, specifically in mechanical engineering services for industrial, health care and institutional buildings in England, Canada and the United States.

He joined The American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) in 1965 and is currently Society President Elect serving on the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors.  He serves as Chair of the Advocacy Committee, and  Chair of Members Council. He has won 12 Regional and National Awards for Technology and Energy Conservation. He will serve as President of the Society for 2009-10.  Named a Fellow of the Society in 1991, he has received the Distinguished Service Award and the Exceptional Service Award.

Be sure to read Gordon's ASHRAE Journal June article "BIM Gaining Movement"


As we struggle through these times of accelerating energy costs and concerns for climate change, it is important to remember that buildings consume 40% of all energy use in the United States and 76% of all electrical use. Information technology, whether illustrated by BIM, smart meters, smart grids or intelligent control systems, can help us monitor and control energy use and ultimately save both energy and cost. ASHRAE’s end goal is to provide the technology for net zero energy buildings - “buildings which, on an annual basis, use no more energy than is provided by on-site renewable energy sources.” Stay tuned for continuing developments.

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Sinclair:  What is ASHRAE doing with respect to BIM?

Holness: ASHRAE has established a BIM Steering Committee and will be developing educational seminar programs and technical articles to keep our members informed on the technology. We are also completing an ASHRAE BIM Guide for our members.

Sinclair:  Why does ASHRAE considered consider this important?

Holness: As we move towards development of High Performance Buildings, and certainly as we drive towards Net Zero Energy Buildings, then Integrated Building Design is critical towards successful implementation. BIM technology can be a major tool in achieving these objectives.

Sinclair:  Doesn’t it cost more to design using BIM?

Holness: For the architect or engineer there may be a small premium equal to around 5 to 10% of their fee (0.25 to 0.5 % of overall project cost). On the other hand there are significant proven benefits, as well as time and cost savings overall on the project that have typically equaled 10 to 15% of overall project cost.

Sinclair:  What other benefits are there?

Holness: Benefits can range from reduced errors and omissions, reduced interferences and development of automatic shop drawings saving time and money. There is also the potential for significant reduction in on-site waste.

Sinclair:  What other steps is ASHRAE taking with respect to BIM

Holness: BIM itself as a modeling tool is only part of the equation. i.e. the International Code Council is developing “SMART Codes” that can read the BIM and analyze whether the project is in compliance with code requirements. So it is important that ASHRAE’s technical documents such as Handbooks and Standards be similarly developed so that they can be “read” by BIM models. That means developing the documents in smart XML format and writing Standards as “rule sets” that can readily be implemented.

Sinclair:  Why hasn’t BIM caught on faster than it has?

Holness: One of the issues has been interoperability between the many different BIM software programs - that is slowly being resolved. Also the industry has developed open protocol management viewing software that allows exchange of information between disparate software systems. McGraw Hill, in their recent “Construction 2007 Interoperability Smart Market Report” of the building industry indicates that BIM is currently being used by approximately 20% of designers. However the responses also indicate a projected usage level of 80% within 5 years and 100% within 10 years.

Sinclair:  Where do you see this all going?

Holness: Certainly ASHRAE is enthusiastic about the potential benefits of this technology, particularly as it develops to allow dynamic energy modeling and load analysis. As the entire industry fully embraces the capabilities of BIM there will be significant cost and schedule benefits to be gained.

For further information I suggest which links to ASHRAE’s new High Performance Buildings magazine featuring buildings with a proven track record of performance. Also which should take the readers to our free downloads of the Advanced Energy Design Guides.


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