Yasui Architects uses visual building data to help clients optimize operations

Tokyo’s Yasui Architects and Engineers’ BuildCAN BIM platform helps clients visualize building data to optimize operations and maintenance.

yasui architects header

Yasuo Matsunaka

July 21, 2022

min read
yasui architects buildCAN visualizer
BuildCAN visualizes environmental Internet of Things sensor information such as temperature, humidity, illumination, and carbon dioxide on BIM models. Image courtesy of Yasui Architects.

• A building’s operation and maintenance costs are approximately four times its construction cost.

• If building data is simple to visualize and analyze, owners are empowered to better manage operation and maintenance costs.

• Tokyo’s Yasui Architects & Engineers’ BuildCAN building-management platform integrates environmental sensor information with BIM models, which are viewable in a 3D viewer on a web browser.

• By visualizing real-time information integrated with operations and maintenance management, owners can optimize both occupant comfort and energy use.

In the lifecycle price tag of a building, the operation and maintenance phases cost approximately four times that of construction. But if the building’s data can be easily analyzed and then be made informational and visual, building clients and owners have the tools to better manage their costs.

Yasui Architects & Engineers, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2024, introduced building information modeling (BIM) in 2007 with a clear vision to make it the foundation for information and communication, benefitting clients and local communities. The company uses BIM as a tool to improve design quality and business operations and to generate quality information about buildings. It considers the expansion of such benefits as one of the social missions of design firms.

“There are clear advantages to using BIM in the design and construction phases, and it has already become an indispensable tool for designers who are creating drawings and performing visualization and simulation at the same time,” says Kazuyuki Shigeto, board director and general manager of ICT/Data Management at Yasui Architects & Engineers. “For clients and building owners, however, we need to link it to their benefits. We are working to expand BIM from design, superintendence, and construction to the entire building lifecycle.”

Shigeto offers five touch points for leveraging BIM in building operation and maintenance:

  1. Design and construction planning that takes into account the operation and maintenance phases.

  2. Development of BIM guidelines and a BIM execution plan

  3. Standardization and sharing of building components for facility management

  4. Usage of BIM as a building database after construction is completed

  5. Management of BIM models throughout their lifecycles

In 2018, Yasui Architects & Engineers released BuildCAN, which was developed as a platform for management throughout the building lifecycle. BuildCAN visualizes Internet of Things (IoT) environmental sensor information such as temperature, humidity, illumination, and carabon dioxide on the BIM model. This service is based on the Building Information Management System, which was originally developed by Yasunobu Ohnishi Lab at Kumamoto University and won the 10th Japan Facility Management Grand Prize and Technology Award. By adding knowledge from actual building management operations, Yasui can use BuildCAN for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance stages.

“Technologies like BIM, big data, IoT, AI, XR, and blockchain are essential to the innovation and digital transformation taking place in various fields and will support the digitization and informatization of buildings and cities in the future,” Shigeto says. “A digital twin becomes a reality by accumulating sensor information on the environment, earthquakes, and operating conditions, and interconnecting this information with BIM models.”

Getting the most from BIM models

yasui architects buildCAN visualizer view 2
Displays of updates based on air-conditioning operating hours. Image courtesy of Yasui Architects.

BuildCAN leverages the Autodesk Forge platform to visualize BIM and allows users to view BIM models in a 3D viewer on a web browser. “With BuildCAN, multiple buildings can be managed as a group, and centralized management can be achieved, including existing buildings that do not have BIM models,” Shigeto says. “By using tablets to inspect facilities, BuildCAN also supports maintenance and management operations, such as digitizing inspection work and automating inspection reports.”

The environmental management functions display easy-to-understand visualizations of temperature, humidity, illumination, CO2, and other information from IoT environmental sensors on the BIM model. The sensor information can diagnose comfort and energy conservation status, and a “natural ventilation adviser” function notifies users when air conditioning can be stopped because outside air ventilation would be more effective. The energy-conservation status graph function can reduce and optimize energy consumption by comparing predicted power consumption with actual power consumption based on IoT sensor information.

Information about illumination, temperature, and humidity can be easily shared, and comfortable spaces can be created through detailed air-conditioner operation. Optimization of indoor CO2 levels and space layout can also improve wellness and work concentration. Initial tests demonstrated that BuildCAN can reduce maintenance, repair, and renewal costs by 10%–20% (based on estimation by a building management company); introducing IoT environmental sensor information and natural ventilation has been confirmed to reduce air-conditioning energy consumption by up to 60% per day (based on estimation by following a natural ventilation adviser).

Maintenance management in BIM projects

yasui architects buildCAN visualizer view 3
Sensor page reflecting space zoning and remote-control installation locations and settings (development image). Image courtesy of Yasui Architects.

The new ABC Trading building headquarters, designed by Yasui Architects & Engineers, is themed “A Green Place Connected to the Next Generation.” It features a high-performance glass facade that reflects the greenery of the adjacent Hiei Shrine, radiant air conditioning using underfloor spaces, a natural ventilation system using the staircase and atrium, and solar power generation. BuildCAN has been used for operation and maintenance of the building since its completion in 2020.

Sensors on each floor of the building measure temperature, humidity, and CO2 concentration in real time to improve comfort and reduce operating costs. Yasui Architects & Engineers, Nippon Kanzai, and ABC Trading are working together to verify the effectiveness of BIM and analyze issues during the operation and maintenance management phases for this building, which represents a standard office building in Japan, one with approximately 5,300 square meters of floor area and unstaffed facilities management. The building was selected as a BIM project (FY2020–2022) by the Japanese government’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism.

The FY2021 initiative focused on the benefits to the client, examining how BIM for maintenance management could create short-term and daily benefits when used as a tool for integrating repair information and maintenance management and for visualizing information and improving building operations. It also examined how it would motivate a client to introduce BIM for maintenance management based on the short-term and daily benefits.

The 2022 project was run by a lifecycle consultant’s perspective and collected environmental sensor information and then made predictive analysis, comfort evaluations, and proposals for improving air-conditioning operation for greater energy conservation and comfort. Adding a display of the location of remote controls, temperature settings, air-conditioning zones, and other information is being considered for the BIM model.

A future with less carbon, more comfort

yasui architects evacuation simulation
Simulation of evacuation while experiencing congestion (screen under development). Image courtesy of Yasui Architects.

In the wake of the global pandemic, CO2 reduction and wellness have become major concerns for society, the building industry, and building owners. As Japan moves toward its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, it’s essential to reduce energy use and to optimize air-conditioning operations in buildings. HVAC systems have become more complex due to these demands for efficient energy use and non-carbon energy sources. But until now, there has been no communication between design firms and building-management companies once the building is handed over—the air conditioning operation information from the design stage is not transferred, so energy efficiency cannot be achieved as originally intended.

“Currently, it is difficult to fully automate air conditioning operations, so we think it is also necessary to provide a nudge to action from the digital twin, such as, ‘Comfort is not impaired even if the temperature is raised a little more,’ or, ‘It is better to ventilate now because of high CO2 concentration,’” Shigeto says. “As an entry point for this, we have created a cycle to analyze the operational status by comparing operation data, actual outside temperature data, and electricity data, and then create an operation plan and provide feedback to the building owner.”

ABC Trading’s new headquarters building has improved energy efficiency through analyzing the data collected and operating based on this analysis. The 3D shapes and equipment information in BIM models can also be applied to digital building manuals outlining usage and evacuation routes and indicating hazardous areas. In this model project, an evacuation-drill simulation using a game engine was also tested.

BuildCAN’s development is ongoing. Because interest in CO2 reduction is extremely high, especially among public facility owners, the firm is also looking for ways to measure CO2 and wellness from the design stage, such as analyzing the amount of CO2 associated with building production and disposal to select greener materials and construction methods. It’s also continuing to study ways to properly communicate building design intent to building owners and managers.

“Buildings and cities are made up of so much information, so it is not easy for the people involved or the manufacturers to build individual systems,” Shigeto says. “To solve the issues facing Japanese society and create new services, we believe it is important for the government and industry to work hand in hand to build an open infrastructure and platform that is beneficial to society.”

Yasuo Matsunaka

About Yasuo Matsunaka

Yasuo Matsunaka is a keyboard player, space-movie devotee, editor of Design & Make with Autodesk Japan, and international content manager for APAC and Japan at Autodesk.

Recommended for you