Fly Ash – Another Brick in the Wall for Greener Buildings

It’s a win-win equation for the construction industry and the environment, a distinct rarity. The construction industry has come under repeated fire for environmental damage in countless ways – construction waste, air, water/ soil pollution and the release of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In fact, carbon dioxide has been calculated to contribute up to 26% of all greenhouse gases* plaguing the environment. In addition to the reduction of carbon dioxide emission, the use of fly ash bricks in construction has introduced a range of environmental benefits. As the world moves towards developing green buildings, the manufacture and increasing the use of fly ash bricks in construction has the potential to effect substantial environmental change.

The basic ideology of fly ash brick technology is the manufacture of climate-friendly bricks without using coal for the process. Traditional brick-making burns large amounts of coal and results in the emission of tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. Also, valuable topsoil is used for the manufacture of clay bricks. If fly ash brick use is adopted on a global scale, it has the potential to eliminate carbon emissions from the brick-making industry.

Understanding fly ash bricks – what they are made of, how they are made and how they are used – is essential to understanding the extent of their benefits. To get right into it, fly ash is an unwanted residue, resulting from coal-fired power plants. Typically, fly ash was disposed on large areas of land, resulting in both environmental damage and human health issues, especially around power plants.  An Increasing need for power drove the extensive mushrooming of coal-driven power plants, generating sizeable amounts of fly ash. Decades ago, fly ash bricks were developed without the use of coal. Fly ash is combined with lime and gypsum to produce fly ash bricks.

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These bricks can be made in a range of sizes and strengths, perfect for their use in building construction. They need less cement and mortar than clay bricks. Cement wall plastering on exterior walls is not required when using fly ash bricks, as they are grey, already have a smooth, uniform texture and absorb substantially less water than other bricks. Lighter in weight than other bricks, fly ash bricks can be easier to transport. In addition, fly ash bricks do not require to be fired in huge kilns, a process for clay brick production that requires large amounts of burning coal, which adds to the greenhouse gas effect. This means that they do not contribute to environmental pollution.

Recognising their far-reaching impact, the World Bank is supporting a project to promote fly ash brick technology by granting entrepreneurs the chance to earn carbon credit revenues. A carbon credit is a certificate declaring that a company has paid to have the equivalent of one tonne of carbon dioxide or equivalent greenhouse gas removed from the environment. More than one hundred fly ash brick plants have earned close to $3.2 million*.

So, how does it work?

Traditionally, bricks were made with clay and sand or soil moulded together and dried and burnt. Burning these bricks used a considerable quantity of fossil fuel, which then generated carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming. A method called FaL-G, or Fly ash Lime-Gypsum, replaces the soil ingredient of traditional clay brick manufacture with fly ash. The bricks are made at room temperature, instead of over 2000F (for clay bricks), thus eliminating the generation of greenhouse gases. By preventing fly ash from being deposited on land, this method reduces water, air and soil pollution. In addition, human health benefits include the reduction of respiratory ailments of residents near power plants.

The quality of clay bricks had been deteriorating for some time, due to the poor quality of topsoil used to manufacture them. The FaL-G brick method has produced strong bricks. They can be created in different sizes and strengths and can speed up the construction process, while saving mortar. Here’s how:

Fly ash and water are compressed at 4000psi and then cured for 24 hours in a steam bath. The bricks are then toughened with an air-entrainment agent. Due to a high concentration of calcium oxide, the bricks can be considered self-cementing. This method saves energy and reduces mercury pollution in the environment.

Materials used to create fly ash bricks include:

  • Fly ash
  • Fine sand or stone dust
  • Lime – a source of calcium carbonate
  • Gypsum – to help shape the bricks
  • Cement – to increase cohesion and strength

Once manufactured, fly ash bricks enable a host of benefits.

Benefits of Fly Ash Bricks

  • Low absorption of water (13-15%, compared to 20% for clay bricks), thus near absence of wall dampness
  • Lightweight
  • Fuel saving
  • Reduced drying losses
  • Reduced linear drying shrinkage
  • Strength – ideal for construction
  • Clay conservation
  • Conform to IS:3102-1976 standards
  • Uniform shape, size, thus minimal plaster use
  • Gypsum plaster and plaster of Paris can be directly applied
  • Reduced need for cement mortar
  • Resistant to salinity and water seepage
  • Reduced bulk density – reduced resultant load on load-bearing walls
  • Reduced wastage of bricks, compared to clay bricks

Fly Ash Properties that Are Advantageous in Construction

  • Round shape: Fly ash particles are round, so they are easy to mix.
  • ‘Ball bearing’ effect: Fly ash particles create a lubricating action when the mix is in a plastic state.
  • Strong – Combines with free lime for increased structural strength over time.
  • Dense – Fly ash is dense, resulting in decreased permeability and increased durability
  • Resistant to the harmful effects of sulfate, mild acid, soft water and sea water.
  • Reduced drying shrinkage, due to reduced water content
  • Reduced heat generated when reacting with lime, thus reduced thermal cracking
  • Improved cohesion leads to reduced segregation, which could have caused rock pockets and blemishes

Since green buildings are also defined by their energy consumption, one of the additional advantages of using fly ash bricks is its ability to provide effective thermal insulation. This means that buildings consisting of fly ash bricks are cool in summers and warm in winters, reducing the energy consumption of the buildings.

Even sounds are more effectively absorbed, since fly ash bricks are sound absorbent and restrict sound transmission, making interiors quiet. Fly ash bricks also have high fire resistance, making them a great choice of material for fire prevention services.

All these advantages have enabled the use of fly ash bricks in factories, warehouses, power plants, as well as homes and high-rise buildings. With the right architectural CAD services support, especially from accurate, experienced and cost-effective drafting services in India, homes and other buildings around the world can be designed to effectively use fly ash bricks to their advantage in creating ‘greener’ buildings.

Chilled Beams – Why Are They Popular?

We need them for shelter, warmth or cooling, but buildings are required to be more than that these days. They need to look good, feel good and be good. By being good, we mean they need to be energy efficient. Ideally, designers or Building Services Design Consultants must plan for energy-efficient mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) engineering design, and chilled beam technology is one of the options that hydraulics and plumbing design services offer for energy-efficient systems, with the close collusion of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) mechanical engineering consultants or .

Growing in popularity in Australia, Scandinavia, central Europe, the US and the UK now, the first stirrings of chilled beam concepts, surprisingly enough, occurred in the early 1900s. In those days, under-sill inductions units were being developed. Then, during the 1960s, water from the River Thames was used by Shell Oil Headquarters in London to cool their building (using a secondary heat exchanger in the plant room). At the time, it was both efficient and just a little bit sci-fi. The significance of this system lies in the nature of building services energy consumption.

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It is widely accepted that HVAC systems are responsible for almost half (49%) of all building services consumption. Cooling and humidification account for 3% of the total. A component of MEP systems that can reduce that percentage is always welcome. So, what’s so special about chilled beams? Just what are they?

Chilled beam systems are a specific type of air conditioning system that can both heat or cool large buildings. Funnily enough, chilled beam units appear similar to fluorescent lighting fixtures and are not necessarily always chilled. Essentially, chilled beams cool spaces using water rather than air. Copper pipes carry chilled or heated water and are passed through a ‘beam’ (a heat exchanger or radiator) which is hung a short distance from the room’s ceiling. A coil of aluminum fins on copper tubing inside a metal casing is what makes up the beam. A chilled water system cools water to between 55°F and 65°F. The beam thus cools the air around it, and the air becomes dense and moves downward. Warm air moves up from below to replace it, is cooled and then circulated back down, causing a constant flow of convection and cooling of the air in the room.

Chilled beam systems typically use three main components: air handling units (AHUs), chillers and pumps. If the system is required to provide heating, a boiler is used. These units form a ceiling-mounted HVAC system that ultimately saves energy, increases interior comfort and happens to be a quiet operator.

There are two main kinds of chilled beams – active or passive. Active chilled beams connect to a system of ducts served by a central AHU (air handling unit). This system delivers fresh air through induction nozzles. The nozzles use a heat exchanger coil to induce secondary room air. Supply air is mixed with chilled air through the ventilation nozzles. Heating in active chilled beams works the same way, delivering warm air into the living space. Heating and cooling capacity is increased with this forced circulation. Using active chilled beams results in the need for reduced energy to operate fans, due to low pressure and the reduced amount of primary air that is circulated.

Passive chilled beams circulate air through natural convection means, without using a fan. Exterior air is supplied through a separate diffuser or grille into the space. Water passing through it chills the beam and the air around it is cooled. As the surrounding air cools, it becomes denser and moves down in the room space. Warm air, which rises, then replaces the cool air. A chilled water temperature of 14-16˚C is maintained by chillers to flow through the system. The return temperature will be a few degrees warmer. The chiller works more efficiently because of the higher chilled water temperatures in chilled beam systems and lower temperature lift.

A third type of chilled beam that has made a recent entry into the industry is a multiservice chilled beam, or MSCB. These are specifically designed for each project and provide heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and sound, fire and cable pathway services. They are typically preferred in commercial buildings in Europe.

All chilled beam systems reduce energy. The AHUs can be installed with energy-recovering devices so that energy can be recovered from the exhaust air and transferred to the supply air. Due to the higher chilled temperatures, free-cooling can be used for longer, where exterior low air temperatures can be used to chill the water. Both chilled water and hot water can, at low temperatures, be produced by air and ground source heat pumps. These heat pumps use less energy than boilers and chillers.

Saving Energy
So, what kind of savings in energy result from using chilled beams?
The potential to save energy using chilled beams may range from 20% to 50%, depending on the weather and type of building. Water is known to transfer more energy than air. The use of water in chilled beam systems result in less energy usage. Also, since heating and cooling is delivered directly to the relevant space, chilled beams help facilities reduce the energy required for ventilation fans, saving money in the process. Overall heating and cooling costs are reduced because chilled beam systems transfer outside air to interior spaces where it is needed, rather than bring it into the entire facility and then condition it.

Benefits of Chilled Beam Systems
Chilled beam systems offer other potential advantages besides energy savings, including:

  • No moving parts result in quieter operation
  • Not requiring mechanical rooms or large ducts results in an increase in available space
  • Buildings with limited space to accommodate conventional conditioning systems can be retrofitted
  • Maintenance needs are reduced, since there are no filters to maintain and beams stay dirt-free
  • Widely applicable for commercial buildings
  • Significant thermal efficiency
  • Requires less ceiling space and height than traditional systems, thus facilitating shorter buildings with the same floor space for tenants.

Further benefits may be environmental, in that recyclable materials, such as steel, aluminium and copper, can be used to manufacture chilled beams. Potential resale value is increased and the procedure for decommissioning is easier, as scrap metal merchants prefer the materials free of refrigerants and oils. Also, chilled beams contribute to long-term sustainability in both new and renovated buildings.

Typically, a conventional cooling or heating system uses forced air. A forced air system is less efficient and more expensive due to the requirement of large ducts in taller buildings. A typical chilled beam system requires less outside air to operate than a forced air system. It only needs one air change every hour and uses air from the outside air to pressurise the space. Using a forced air system, eight to ten air changes of fresh air are needed.

Also, chilled beam systems can be prefabricated off site and then installed on site, reportedly saving up to 75% in labour costs.

The diverse benefits of chilled beam systems, including long-term costs, make these systems a preferred choice for hydraulics and plumbing design services in a building’s MEP engineering design and also Building Services Coordination. With experienced and technically certified HVAC mechanical engineering consultants on board, the trend of chilled beam systems seems to be headed in the right direction for sustainable construction.

Revit Families: An Effective Tool for MEP Engineers

Families – they are integral to just about everything in life. This is doubly true for Revit families in the world of MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineering. The importance of Revit family creation, especially Revit MEP family creation, is paramount in Revit 3D modelling. So, what is Revit MEP family creation and how beneficial is it?

Since the Revit platform was created by Autodesk, perhaps the more relevant question is: What is Autodesk Revit MEP?

Revit MEP from Autodesk is a building information modelling (BIM) software created specifically for MEP engineers or other MEP professionals. The software enables modifications, additions and communication in intelligent models so that MEP systems, regardless of their complexity, can be precisely designed and documented in a relatively short time. An entire project can be represented as a single model created by Revit MEP and is typically stored in a single file. This way, any changes effected in one part of the model is automatically updated and modified in other parts of the model.

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What are the key benefits of using Revit MEP?

Using Revit MEP within a BIM workflow increases productivity, streamlines design and documentation and speeds up project completion from the design stage to the construction stage while automatically updating changes across the model for every single change anywhere in the model. It does so with a range of tools and features designed to improve productivity, such as Building Performance Analysis, Autodesk 360 Integration, Construction Documentation, Pressure and Flow Calculations, Pressure Loss Reports, Parametric Components, etc.

Revit MEP also reduces risks and helps create high quality designs. It can be used to develop detailed BIM-ready product models with a high level of accuracy by an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) manufacturing company, for example.

The engineering design process is streamlined with the use of a single model. The single model enables a more efficient communication of design intent before the start of construction. Building performance is improved this way, as project stakeholders can make more informed and precise decisions on design.

A thorough knowledge of creating ‘families’ and ‘types’ can positively influence the length of time it takes to create a model. Families consist of categories and sub-categories. Each category consists of individual families. For instance, consider the Sprinkler Category.

The category of Sprinkler can create several kinds of sprinklers. It is possible for families within this category to perform different functions and use different materials, which makes each of them a family ‘type’. Each family type has a graphical representation. When a specific family and individual family type is used to create a design component, it is known as an ‘instance’. Each instance has its own properties.

The parameters of an element can be changed without changing the parameters of the family type. Only the instance or element or component is affected by the change. When the parameters of the family type are changed, every instance of elements in the family type are changed.

The three main classifications of families are: system, loadable and in-place families.

System families are preinstalled families and create basic MEP elements, such as ducts and pipes. . System family settings include types for levels, grids and drawing sheets.

Loadable families are created elsewhere and then uploaded into the project. They are typically used to create MEP fixtures or other elements that be purchased, moved or fixed in and near a building. Revit MEP helps create and alter loadable families, as they are customisable. External RFA files are used to create them, and then they are loaded into the project. A loadable family with many types uses type catalogs to select a type of family. This family type can be identified and loaded into the project without loading all the family types. Specific kinds of loadable families are nested and shared families.

The third kind of families is the in-place family, which can be used to create customised elements. When a project requires a special individual element, in-place families are created with a specific geometry. The geometry of in-place families will then reference other project geometry and change itself based on the changes of the referenced geometry. Revit can create a family with a single-family type to create an in-place element.

During Revit MEP family creation, Revit 3D modelling can help analyse electrical systems, especially lighting, in a project, since a source of light has its own properties in a modelling setting. Nested families, which are families within other families, can be used to create families with multiple light sources. This is done using the host geometry of the main family. Various lighting fixtures can also be included.

Besides electrical components, Revit MEP family creation includes the creation of elements from other trades too. Some of the examples of Revit MEP family creation components, or elements, are as follows:

Revit Mechanical Family Creation

  • HVAC components
  • Pipes – valve, strainer and pipe hanger
  • Duct hangers
  • Air terminals

Revit Plumbing Family Creation

  • Pumps
  • Fixtures – urinals, wash basins, water closets
  • Valves
  • Devices – measuring devices, gauges
  • Fittings

Revit Electrical Family Creation

  • Transformers
  • Distribution boards
  • Switches and sockets
  • Fire alarm devices
  • Lighting fixtures

Revit HVAC Family Creation

  • Fan coil units
  • Air handling units
  • Fire dampers
  • Diffusers, grilles and registers
  • Fittings and valves

Revit Firefighting Family Creation

  • Sprinklers
  • Valves
  • Fittings
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Cabinets

Autodesk’s Revit is BIM software that includes MEP features and is commonly called Revit BIM, but Revit is not BIM. Revit has been created for BIM. The nice thing about BIM, well one of the nice things, is that the data that is stored in BIM throws up a few advantages for users of Revit BIM. Convenient scheduling, marketing that is exclusive, design changes that can be quickly communicated and implemented throughout a project and easy access for MEP designers are some of the advantages of using the information in BIM models.

It’s easy to see why Revit families and their creation are an effective tool for MEP engineers, but since sound technical knowledge is required to create object-based models in Revit BIM, many Western firms opt for offshore Revit modelling services when local talent is either challenging to find or too expensive to afford. Offshore modelling services developed with Revit family creation are increasingly found to be affordable, precise and delivered on time, making it the popular way to go.

Elements to consider in 3D BIM coordination

Why is 3D BIM coordination so crucial to building design?

There are several elements to consider in 3D BIM coordination, and one of the first places to start the process is with a 3D coordinated model. Integrating architectural, structural and MEP trades together into a coordinated 3D model is part of the 3D BIM (building information modelling) coordination process. The BIM process is an effective 3D modelling tool that helps generate precise, accurate 3D coordinated models during the design development of a construction project. With a fully coordinated BIM model, users can see just how the architectural, MEP and structural systems have been coordinated in a 3D environment, and making changes becomes easy.

The process of 3D BIM coordination involves recording, using and reviewing detailed data about a building’s physical functions. The information can also be used to prepare task schedules in 4D, calculate project costs and material take-offs and optimise the sustainability of the overall business design. One way of looking at BIM coordination is to think of it as being a grouping together of 3 distinct functions, namely:

  • Actual physical construction (building)
  • Coordination of detailed data (information)
  • Coordination of an accurate 3D model (modelling)

or BIM.

What is interesting about BIM coordination is that it involves much more than just modelling. It includes data and construction management responsibilities and improves efficiency in terms of saving costs and time and enables more informed decision-making.

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A useful function of 3D BIM coordinated models is that they are used to perform clash-detection processes. A 3D BIM coordinated model can help find any clashes, interferences or shortcomings between architectural, structural and MEP systems. One of the most popular software used for this process is Revit, which has advanced features to help merge the different disciplines of the model effectively, helping architects, structural engineers and MEP engineers.

Models can also be studied to determine complex space allocation and how the different MEP trades can fit into the available space. Each of the building’s deliverables involving data-related tasks can be easily and clearly identified, tracked and coordinated at any point or stage of the project’s life cycle. Building risers, plant rooms, prefabricated corridors and ceiling modules can also be coordinated using quality checks in the process of BIM coordination.

Management tasks, such as common data environment (CDE) information management processes, are performed to support data exchange and help both model and data integration and coordination. Also included as part of the 3D BIM coordination process are constructability reviews, clash detection reports, virtual/personal coordination meetings with consultants, construction/project managers, sub-contractors, architects and engineers.

There are several benefits to be gained from using 3D BIM coordination, such as:

  • Reduced errors by the construction team and design team
  • Streamlined workflows in accordance with global standards
  • Reduction of construction material waste
  • Savings on total costs and project time
  • Improved technology and innovative ways to maximise project value

A significant part of 3D BIM coordination involves BIM services, specifically MEP BIM, architectural BIM and structural BIM processes. These BIM services combine data from individual architectural, structural and MEP drawings, using Revit and Navisworks, to help generate intelligent BIM models that feature the following functions and products:

  • Coordination
  • Fabrication
  • Optimisation
  • Installation
  • MEP engineering
  • MEP BIM coordination
  • MEP shop drawings
  • MEP 3D modelling
  • Mechanical room modelling
  • Builders work drawings
  • As-built drafting
  • Piping spool drawings
  • MEP quantity take-offs

Since the MEP systems of any building is crucial, it’s critical to be aware of some of the detailed MEP BIM modelling and drafting services available. They include:

  • Mechanical equipment modelling
  • Diffuser and grill modelling
  • Electrical lighting fixture drafting and modelling
  • Layout modelling
  • Plumbing layout modelling
  • Sanitary fixture Revit modelling
  • Walk-throughs of MEP/BIM models
  • Revit MEP Families Parametric modelling

Common Elements to Consider
The classification of 3D BIM coordination can be as follows:


Electrical Systems

  • Electrical site plans
  • Electrical one-line diagrams (riser diagrams)
  • Electrical schematics
  • Solar panel detailing
  • Electrical, power and lighting plans

Plumbing Systems

  • Drafting services for domestic water plumbing
  • Plumbing and drainage drafting services
  • Location and coordination of pipe sleeve requirements
  • Isometrics, riser diagrams, details, schematics and schedules
  • Sleeve/Penetration Drawings

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) Systems

  • Equipment schedules
  • Compressed air and medical gas system plan drawings
  • Demolition and existing plan drawings
  • Equipment piping sizing and design layout plan drawings
  • HVAC system drafting
  • Details, schematics, schedules, legends and control diagrams
  • As-built drawings, equipment specifications, coordination drawings, shop drawings and addendums
  • Mechanical equipment layouts, submittals and elevation drawings

Heating Systems

  • Boilers
  • Direct vents
  • Space heaters
  • Indoor coil systems
  • Heat pumps
  • Wall and floor furnaces
  • Forced hot air/water
  • Thermostats
  • Natural gas heating
  • Heat pumps – standard and ground source

Ventilation Systems

  • Overhead units
  • Ductless split systems
  • Sheet metal ducts
  • Humidifiers/Dehumidifiers
  • Central air systems
  • Window/rooftop unit systems
  • Air cleaners and filters
  • Cooling Systems
  • Air conditioners
  • Air handlers

Architectural BIM

Using the BIM methodology, architects can develop digital design simulations capable of managing the vast stores of information that is part of an architectural project. Besides the 3D characteristics of models, BIM can incorporate 4D (time) and 5D (costs) associated with a project. Stakeholders can access and manage data intelligently and several processes can be automated, such as programming, conceptual design, detailed design, analysis, documentation, manufacturing, construction logistics, operation, maintenance and renovation/demolition.

Libraries of architectural models are available online, providing elements that can easily be incorporated into a project, saving time. This way, data is loaded, the quality of work can be improved, and the amount of decision-making and modifications made can be reduced, lowering both time and costs.

Importantly, these elements, with unique characteristics, can be parametrically related to other project elements, which means that any changes on one element will effect automatic changes to other elements that are connected to or dependent on the first element. Thus, architects can interact with clients, builders and engineers in a shared process.

Structural BIM

The methodology of structural BIM modelling enables design analysis and review of structural elements in a project to further improve the overall design process. Structural BIM services consist primarily of 3D modelling, detailing and drafting. The analysis of these services results in cost-effective design and improves the safety of the design. Building geometry, location and space data, building properties, building materials and resources are better understood with structural BIM services. Some of the major structural BIM services are the following:

  • Structural analysis
  • Structural design
  • 3D modelling
  • Steel structure detailing
  • Creation of 3D, 4D and 5D BIM services
  • Extraction of structural components
  • High-quality construction documents
  • Clash detection and risk management
  • Intelligent parametric library development
  • Precise quantity take-offs and cost estimates

With the help of BIM services, design errors are reduced from the improved coordination and communication of decisions. Thus, the main benefits of BIM services include:

  • Better communication
  • Faster approvals
  • Improved coordination
  • Easy modifications of design
  • Reduced errors
  • Reduced time to create drawings and revisions
  • Improved performance analysis, evaluation
  • Improved project efficiency

There are many elements to consider in 3D BIM coordination, and there are many ways to utilise and optimise the benefits resulting from 3D BIM coordination. Typically, the processes of 3D BIM coordination require the expertise and experience of several stakeholders, sometimes separated by countries. Many Western construction firms opt to outsources these processes to countries further east, such as India, since they have large groups of technically qualified, experienced, English-speaking personnel who deliver these BIM services accurately, clash-free, on schedule and cost-effectively. Bringing together clash-free MEP, structural and architectural systems after careful consideration of its many elements, high-quality 3D BIM coordination services remain an essential part of modern construction.

How Architectural Rendering Contributes to Design Development

What you see is what you get – how many times has that been said? In the field of architecture, this could be said about architectural rendering in the Design Development phase. The Design Development phase of architectural design can be of considerable importance in the ongoing communication process between designers and customers or owners. Visuals help keep this communication clear and transparent, and one of the key visual representations in this phase, rendering, is versatile, photorealistic and accurate when depicting the final structure. Here’s why high-quality architectural rendering services can move a project forward.

Useful both for new constructions and for renovations, rendering software’s prime objective is to provide a simulation of a building from a range of angles and distances, in the most accurate way possible. When the rendered image is accurate, it helps locate dimensional problems, it can help assess the usage of available space, and it enables the customer to be happy (or not) with both the inside and outside of their building . . . and these functions occur before construction commences.

During the Design Development phase, the architect and client work closely together to choose interior finishes, appliances and materials for windows, doors and fixtures. The initial drawings from the Schematic Design stage are modified, adding details from revised sketches. At the conclusion of this stage, the interior and exterior building design is finalised by the owner and the architect. The plans and elevations are reviewed and revised to include specifications and details needed for construction.


Project elements detailed in the Design Development stage include:

  • Building materials and finishes used for the interior and the exterior
  • Furniture and equipment choices and locations
  • Cabinet and custom fabrications
  • Lighting and technological design
  • Mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems
  • Miscellaneous issues that affect project constructability and that may require changes to the project or to the budget

At the end of the Design Development stage, design drawings and specifications are almost complete. The building’s size, purpose, materials, configuration and spaces and the use of equipment and materials used for the structures and systems are defined. Then, the project’s budget, schedule and all building plans are decided.

So, how does rendering fit into this process?

Rendering can be done during the Schematic stage of design, but it is during the Design Development stage that many of the details of the design can be easily and comprehensively communicated to the customer through rendered images. These visual assets can be used to sell the project’s key features.

Photorealistic images are generated by rendering 3D models that include the basic mechanical and architectural details of the project design. Rendered images can be updated during the Design Development stage as changes occur. Though previously created in-house, an increasing number of engineers and designers are using external rendering specialists to create these images.

Models are endowed with a range of visual effects with rendering, such as shading, texture mapping, shadows, reflections and motion blurs. Improved rendering algorithms and hardware acceleration have made software more powerful than before.

The key five ways rendered images are beneficial during the Design Development stage are as follows:

  1. Design Flaw Identification

To picture a building in its entirety by only looking at 2D drawings has its limitations. A 3D model of a building helps see the structure from all angles. Due to this, a significant number of design flaws can be identified, which may otherwise have slipped through. These flaws can be amended before construction begins. By doing so, unnecessary expenses are minimised and construction time is shortened.

  1. Effective Communication

Architects typically aim to give customers a building that they want, as much as possible. Sometimes what the customer desires may not match with the architect’s understanding. With this 3D view of exteriors and interiors, the customer has a more informed understanding of building functions, materials and appearance. If the design seems to clash with what the customer wants, modifications can be made at this point.

  1. Promotes Saleability

The view of both exteriors and interiors in 3D can help the architect display his work to the customer and convince him of why the design works efficiently for his needs. Realty developers use them to convince potential stakeholders of the project’s worth and to invest in the project. Rendered images help market houses, condominiums and villas to potential clients.

  1. Walk-throughs

A walk-through is essentially a video developed from a series of rendered images so that the viewer can see external views of the building project and also has the ability to exist inside the building and actually walk through it. This lets the viewer experience a feel of the layout and experience different aspects of the building – to virtually imagine how to navigate the interiors of the building before the building has been constructed.

  1. Planning and Strategy

Views generated by 3D rendered images help plan for how the interior designs of the building can be handled. Designers and architects can prepare 3D interior strategy that they can use to communicate with the task force on site and show other stakeholders. This way, they can see potential defects and rectify them.

These are some of the key reasons for architectural rendering services becoming an essential tool for architects and interior designers worldwide during the Design Development phase. With several overseas firms offering 3D architectural rendering services at affordable prices and delivering 3D rendering and walk-throughs on schedule, they are becoming an increasingly preferred choice for Western firms in need of such services.

Design HVAC for Modern Office Facility

Much like office practices and workflows, modern offices are changing. They are designed to be more open than in the past, which consisted of a ring of private cabins or offices surrounding clusters of cubicles in the centre of the office floor. The open plan design calls for alternative considerations for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC duct design.

Cubicles are increasingly replaced with workspaces created for specific activities, such as team lounges, fitness centres and large work tables for discussions and collaboration on team projects. The HVAC system consumes a significant portion of all energy needs in a building, and changes in the office layout will impact the HVAC design. Thinking and planning for HVAC design in an office space needs to begin as early as possible when considering renovation or a new project to save energy costs.

Design HVAC for Modern Office Facility










Design goals for office buildings are based on the fundamental principle of ensuring health and safety to those occupying those buildings. Ventilation, therefore, is required at all times and must eliminate or minimise pollutants. The measure of air flowing in or out of a space is cubic feet per minute or cfm. Generally, a person needs up to 30 cfm of outdoor air, and an ideal comfortable temperature is between 20 and 24ºC with 20-60% relative humidity. The efficiency of HVAC systems design makes these conditions possible.

Some of the key strategies for efficient HVAC systems design in modern offices include:

Reduction of Cooling Loads
Well insulated walls, floors and windows are a must. The use of natural light for a healthier workplace is becoming increasingly accepted as the norm and for the reduction of heating loads during the winter season. For warmer climates, tinted low-e glass can help avoid solar gain (solar heat gain or passive solar gain), which is the increase in thermal energy resulting from the absorption of solar radiation, and reduce cooling loads. Low emissivity glass, or low-e glass has a super-thin transparent coating that reflects infrared energy or heat. This glass minimises both ultraviolet and infrared light passing through it without affecting the visible light that is transmitted.
Lights that automatically switch off during sufficient daylight conditions are a useful energy-saving idea, which can work as a complement to cooler lighting options and will generate less heat, thus reducing cooling loads on the HVAC system.

HVAC System Size
It’s important not to install an HVAC system that is too big for the energy needs of the office concerned. Oversized air conditioning systems typically create discomfort during the day. Such systems generally switch on and off continuously and are not efficient in removing humidity, resulting in an office area that is predominantly humid and dotted with hot and cold spots. More than just square footage needs to be considered in calculating HVAC load requirements. Computer simulation can accurately analyse building materials, daylight, lighting design and space activities affecting HVAC loads.

Multiple zones with independent temperature controls within a large open space translates to greater efficiency and comfort. Different areas in open spaces have different temperature requirements, such as:

  • Perimeter areas, which need separate controls, as they are more susceptible to weather
  • Computer rooms, which have special temperature needs and controls
  • Conference rooms and other areas that host large gatherings of employees, which need more cooling while in use and less when empty

Modern offices with fewer internal walls make these design details tricky.

Smart buildings use sensor technology, mainly with two types of sensors – light sensors and occupancy sensors. These can be incorporated with HVAC design early in the design stages. Light sensors sense the amount of daylight available and adjust lighting accordingly. They can be connected to the HVAC system to maintain heating and cooling. Occupancy sensors track the number of people in a given space at a given time. They communicate with HVAC controls to regulate temperatures. During a large meeting, for example, occupancy sensors help increase cooling for the area concerned.

A ‘Sensible’ Option
Environmental sensors lead to cleaner, healthier air. Sophisticated sensors provide real-time data on air quality, revealing the surprisingly unhealthy current conditions of most offices worldwide and a related reduction in productivity. Studies show that a 670-sq ft office with 15 employees can generate CO2 levels of 1,000 parts per million (ppm) in under 8 hours. This is equivalent to 2.5 times atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and at a level that may cause 15% decrease in cognitive performance in employees. Meeting and conference rooms, naturally, are even worse, with 3,000 ppm, significantly decreasing productivity.
Organic compounds from furniture and carpets combine with these high levels of carbon dioxide to increase fatigue in employees and decrease productivity. In some cities, windows cannot be opened due to the toxicity of the smog outside. Indoor air quality could be improved with HVAC systems that react to carbon dioxide and airborne particles. This could be achieved by pulling in fresh air and filtering out pollutants.

Under-floor Air Distribution
Typically, air conditioning cools a space using overhead air distribution. This method may not be ideal and less energy efficient in open spaces with high ceilings. Use of under-floor air distribution is a popular trend today. Diffusers are installed under a raised floor, transmitting cool, air-conditioned air throughout the space. Stratification moves warm air upwards to the ceiling and cooler air-conditioned air replaces it at ground level. This method has been found effective in providing continuously comfortable conditions and maintaining better air quality.

An effective HVAC design must control humidity, eliminate odours and remove dust, carbon dioxide, bacteria and viruses that may contaminate the space and spread illness. In an open-plan office, this is critically important. The correct indoor air quality must be regulated and maintained for the well-being of employees and their productivity. Sufficient intake and distribution of outside air and the controlled circulation of conditioned air is a mandatory requirement of efficient HVAC design.

Experts’ Design
Whether renovating or creating from scratch, professionals from the field, such a HVAC mechanical engineering consultants, must be taken on board right from the early stages to avoid costly errors at later stages. Consultants will utilise their professional HVAC design and drafting skills to produce high quality HVAC shop drawings, which can then be coordinated with other trades.

Open Windows
Decades ago, offices had windows that could be opened. Currently, most offices worldwide are air conditioned and air tight. Windows that can be opened help control energy consumption and give people greater control over their work environments. But skyscrapers with offices don’t have windows that open or have access to fresh air during a work day. Why? Well, some of the reasons for permanently closed windows are:

  1. To prevent cooled, air-conditioned air from escaping and unfiltered air, noise, rain and insects from entering
  2. That offices are wary that people may fall out or jump out, resulting in the offices and management being held responsible
  3. That some employees may open windows on a hot day, making the air conditioner work harder
  4. That in keeping with modern architecture, open windows are unfashionable and they disturb the lines of the building
  5. That with many employees on any floor, natural ventilation is near impossible
  6. That energy is saved, increasing productivity

Facts show that these concerns are no longer concerns. A naturally ventilated, intelligently designed office building can halve the energy consumption of constantly air-conditioned buildings. A naturally ventilated building need not support intense and constant HVAC system needs. Ventilation that is natural and access to fresh air contributes to an increase in productivity. A connection to the outdoors, a perception of control and better overall health are beneficial side effects of natural ventilation. The design of HVAC systems in an office facility thus has a direct bearing on the productivity of the office’s inhabitants.

With the help of qualified and experienced HVAC mechanical engineering consultants, a comfortable, safe and secure office building may be constructed with the right HVAC shop drawings. In the global environment of outsourcing MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) design services, the quality, expertise and experience required can be found overseas, resulting in cost-effective, precise HVAC design and drafting.

The Challenges of Coordinating Risers

For modern buildings, risers carry the very life blood of a comfortable space. Much like an arterial system, different kinds of risers perform various necessary functions for the health of a building. They are conduits or carriers of fluids, fuel or air. Coordinating risers is critically important within the workflow of MEP coordination and clash detection, and this can be challenging at times. Challenges generally occur with hydraulic services design during renovation of older buildings. Let’s look at how that may happen.

Well, first off, what is a riser?

The Challenges of Coordinating Risers

Also known as a vertical riser, a riser is a void that contains a duct, pipe or conduit or a combination of all services that rises through a building to carry or transport gases, fluids or electrical signals in the form of piping. In general, a dry riser is an empty, or dry, pipe used to carry water for firefighting systems, and a riser cable can deliver electricity or communications between several floors. Looking at risers in more detail, they can be:

– Vertical Riser Ducts
As mechanical pipes and electric cables are aesthetically unappealing, typically they are hidden away in vertical riser ducts. These ducts must be strategically placed to minimise pipe lengths and cable runs, thus cutting costs. Pipes must run unhindered vertically in ducts, especially sanitary waste pipes, so that this waste water need not navigate bends in pipes. Since vertical risers cut through floors and can be vulnerable for the spread of fire, they must adhere to strict guidelines.

– Vertical Riser Cables and Pipes
Sometimes, it is practical to have risers exposed. Servicing becomes easier. Cables connect to sockets and light fittings to riser conduits mounted on walls and columns. Cables and pipes that travel through floors are covered with fire-protected collars, to prevent the spread of fire through them. Increasingly, services pipes are becoming part of the décor.

– Wet and Dry Risers
Vertical pipes, that are both wet and dry risers, run the full height of a building and are built near stairs to provide a direct water feed to each floor in case of fire. Dry risers have ground coupling pipes outside the building that can be connected to an external water source in case of emergency. Wet risers are connected to the building’s water supply.

– Dry Risers in Fire Fighting
A dry riser usually includes the following:
Inlet Box

  1. Made of galvanised sheet steel, for recessed mounting, with architrave
  2. Has a hinged, lockable door with a panel glazed with wired glass, so that the lock can be opened after breaking the glass.
  3. Hoses can be connected to inlets without opening the door.
  4. Large enough to access for maintenance and operate the drain valve

Inlet Breeching

  1. A two-inlet breeching, with instantaneous male coupling, back pressure valve, blank cap and chain
  2. Has a gunmetal gate valve for drain purposes, with plug and chain

Landing Valves

  1. Straight or oblique gunmetal gate pattern valves, with flanged inlet, instantaneous female outlet with blank cap and chain, fixed with a leather strap and padlock
  2. Lined and coated with woven synthetic fibre hose and diffuser branch pipe nozzle
  3. Valve, hose and nozzle in a box, on purpose-made hangers

Air Release Valves

  1. Brass automatic air release valve, with a rubber ball inside

For a tall building with the same floor layouts (e.g. apartments), the riser equipment/elements will change size as they move down or up the building. As such, a section of each riser will show slightly different sizes, especially for ductwork, which is why a drawing is created for every floor, even when the rest of the floor is the same.

With a variety of risers to deal with in the MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) sector, it is crucial that the MEP systems coordination workflow, especially with regard to hydraulic design of liquid or water piping systems, is efficient. Technological advances and the innovations they enable have been a prime factor in fuelling this efficiency. In the construction industry, BIM (Building Information Modelling) has been driving immense change in the MEP coordination process and the delivery of MEP coordination drawings.

The use of BIM technology has made equipment tracking and task monitoring easier. Covering almost every aspect of a construction project, the BIM process involves project managers, subcontractors, designers, architects and other construction professionals participating in controlling individual processes and project phases, with a smooth exchange of information during the larger MEP coordination process.

Increasingly, the trend in the AEC (architecture, engineering, construction) sector is to design 3D models for 2D construction documentation and 3D trade coordination. Generally, the trade design or MEP design follows the architectural design stage. Trade professionals, such as HVAC mechanical engineering consultants and others, collaborate with architects to design mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire prevention and fire protection services. A consultant or MEP contractor ensures that the MEP design is efficient, clash-free and installation-ready. At this point, fabricators who create ductwork or pipework components, electrical ladders or module sprinklers share their input. Thus, a fully coordinated 3D model is developed that can be used for clash detection.

Subcontractors (for the different trades) can virtually place systems as shown on detailed design drawings with individual elements, which include risers, offsets, hangers, conduits with required radius bends and cable trays. Other elements to consider include data communication lines, fire protection system controls and process piping.

At this point, challenges may arise, especially during the renovation of an existing structure. Some of the circumstances that may contribute to challenges in installation of risers include:

  • Riser replacement in an existing building – opening up walls creates a mess, dust and debris throughout the premises and destroys expensive decorative finishes that were lovingly installed. In older buildings, asbestos can be destroyed, as well as lead-based paint that has peeled off.
  • Existing plumbing risers may be difficult to handle after years of corrosion, because rust makes steel pipes brittle.
  • As hot and cold risers behind kitchens and bathrooms are replaced, tiles, cabinets and walls must be removed.
  • Risers must be replaced entirely or not at all, since new risers attached to old risers can break.
  • Accessing risers takes time and money.

Signs that risers need replacement are hard to miss. Upper floors will experience low water pressure. Debris will appear in the water – bits of corroded pipe in sinks, showers and bathtubs. Time is an indicator. Galvanised steel pipes last for about 50 years, accumulating scale and rust inside, while brass lasts for nearly 70 years. Copper pipes last even longer. Coloured water is a definite indication of rust and scale accumulation. Also, excessively hot showers are a result of clogged plumbing risers that reduce the flow. The need to replace existing risers during renovation introduces different kinds of challenges for coordination.

– For example, during the renovation of an existing building, one of the chase walls was opened, and a large conduit was installed inside a duct chase against an exhaust duct riser, causing a clash in the planned duct connection. A coordinated model showed ductwork and risers in the limited space and how their placement could be manoeuvred to avoid the clash, guiding the fitting of components to meet the design requirements.

– In another building, the floor-to-floor height was 20 feet, generally enough for ductwork and piping from air handlers to central core chases. In this case, a chilled water piping that was routed only 10 feet above the floor and close to the AHUs (air handling units) and supply and return ducts, next to the shafts, made for difficult coordination. Ductwork from 2 AHUs had to pass above the chilled water piping and between hanger rods. Coordinated design drawings showed a more efficient duct placement.

– Yet another example involved duct and pipe routing between an existing main electrical room and adjacent AHUs. The electrical room had floor-mounted AHUs right outside, and the adjacent AHUs had disconnect switches and variable frequency drives (VFDs). Coordinated MEP drawings and 3D modelling showed that the chilled water piping to the electrical room AHUs had to be moved, as did the larger AHUs and VFDs, allowing the ductwork and piping to be placed with the correct amount of clearance.

Easing MEP Coordination
Forming a key part in setting up and laying out design, MEP coordination is a key means to connect building elements and make the structure functional. Earlier during MEP coordination, drawings were overlaid and compared and spatial and functionals interferences, or clashes, were dealt with by multi-trade professionals. This method needed countless revisions before the finalisation of the coordinated drawings, but BIM processes changed all that. The BIM workflow involves a 3D approach and data-based reasoning to help MEP contractors plan, design and install equipment, including risers, efficiently.

Using BIM technology, a once-prolonged and tedious process fraught with delays, insufficient data and miscommunication, is now smooth and efficient. A building’s MEP systems are seamlessly integrated and coordinated with architectural and structural systems, creating clash-free models.

The placement of elements of MEP design, such as risers, can be intelligently designed and laid out. Tools, such as Navisworks, enable clash-free designs, with multi-disciplinary integration in one work environment. Flawless MEP coordination drawings are produced.

The Revit Solution
Creating a 3D model with Revit software enables easy coordination during design, and clash detection can be performed with Navisworks. So, early on in the design process, the model can be coordinated with architectural design and MEP design that includes risers. The models of new buildings and those of existing buildings will have differing degrees of efficiency, since existing buildings contain unknown elements, spaces and conditions which may not be represented in models.

The good news is that with BIM-enabled MEP coordination, most of the challenges concerning the design, layout and clashes of risers in MEP systems is eliminated and smooth coordination results. Those firms that find it difficult to provide hydraulics and plumbing design services and MEP coordination services may consider online collaboration and outsourcing, which is efficient, accurate and cost-effective, for the delivery of precise MEP coordinated drawings as part of the hydraulics and plumbing design services and MEP coordination services. Managers can retain full control of the project, resulting in faster delivery.