Constructing green buildings using IT

Global warming is being caused by an increase in average temperature of Earth’s surface; this average temperature rose about 0.9°C during the last century due to greenhouse effect. Scientific studies indicate average temperature would rise a further 1.1°C to 4.5°C during the 21st century depending upon the increase in GHG emissions (mostly consisting of CO2).

Every unit of electricity (kWh) used generates 0.82kg of CO2 at the power station. One of the most challenging issues architects face today is controlling energy consumption in buildings. In developed countries such as the USA and the UK, IT is extensively being used to create intelligent and energy-efficient building designs. There are computer tools that enable architects to precisely estimate the energy consumption in a given building. IT also provides evaluation of practically infinite options and helps in shortlisting the most efficient one.

Additionally, IT can also be used to control the operation of energy-intensive devices and services for optimum operating conditions. It is also behind Freedom Tower, also known as One World Trade Center, New York, USA, in terms of making it an energy-efficient building. The tower’s design features two complex pleated-skin facades. The office space section of the tall and twisting building has been modelled using ArchiCAD to import the intricate building skin geometry into an energy-analysis application, EnergyPlus. Performances of different building skin options are simulated, as an integral part of the rest of the building, while EnergyPlus determines the optimal day lighting design and the overall building energy performance.

In India too, more and more green buildings are being constructed using IT applications. Computer technology is very useful for architects, as structures impossible to draw using pen and paper can be conceived and detailed with the help of technology.

A lot of software have been developed to simulate a building in various conditions of external weather, internal air cooling/heating and energy loads of different activities being conducted inside to calculate and predict exactly how different parts of the building will perform. For example, HEVACOMP, a software package, simulates the energy performance of the building and enables architects to design the surfaces accordingly. It also calculates the heating and cooling load required per month, by taking into account external weather conditions.

PVSYST is another software package that helps architects design the size and type of the photovoltaic (PV) system required based on the orientation and slope of PV panels. This enables architects to visualise the building performance after basic elements of human well-being such as appropriate ventilation, lighting and thermal comfort have been incorporated.

Another very critical use of computer technology is in database management. Learning about building usage is based on a wealth of data that is continuously generated. Moreover, all data on sourcing of sustainable materials and technology of building materials need to be documented, shared and transferred to other projects for analysis. This helps in innovation of more energy-efficient buildings.

VR models for restoration of archaeological sites

The Virtual Reconstruction Project of the central temple at Sambor Prei Kuk (SPK) in Cambodia is the application of 21st-century technology to 7th-century cultural heritage. The immersive, interactive, Web-enabled, multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) has enabled patrons to narrate the story of SPK in a manner that can aid visitors relive the extraordinary cultural heritage as it was in 7th century AD.

Fig. 3: Screenshot of Hevacomp Mechanical Designer V8i, the mechanical CAD software (Image courtesy: www.directindustry.com)
Fig. 4: Screenshot of PVsyst 6.0 beta in action (Image courtesy: pvsyst.software.informer.com)
Fig. 5: Digital reconstruction of the entry to SPK shrine (Image courtesy: ced.berkeley.edu)

MUVE is a new media vehicle that has the ability to communicate cultural heritage experience by integrating film-making, video games and architectural design. Today, a number of archaeological sites are being virtually reconstructed using graphical workstations. Measurements are sourced via a variety of 3D measurement techniques and input into virtual reality (VR) models.

Rebuilding the entire site manually using a modelling package is a tedious process. Hence, a more efficient way of doing it is to use images of the site as inputs. There are systems that can automatically reconstruct textured 3D models from image sequences of a site. This reconstruction is very much like virtualised reality. After the pictures have been taken, these are fed into a computer. Post digitising, all photographs are converted into a standard size by rescaling and/or cropping. Brightness and colour balance are made identical using image-editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop.

On UNIX OS, it is possible to give a command like ImageMagick to rescale or brighten an entire directory of images in one shot. The final process puts the photos together to form a VR model using an applet, which is generally free of cost and platform-agnostic.

VR models of buildings can also be used for analysing different interior design options, operations planning, evacuation simulations and the like. VR model is playing a significant role as an information hub. The end user can just click on a particular object such as a door and get all sorts of useful information like measurements, colour, design and so on. Moreover, there is packaged software available to generate VR model based project engineering and design data.

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