Laboratory Design Newsletter 2011 Selected Abstract


What Building Information Modeling Can Offer for Understanding Financial Income and Expenses for Laboratory Buildings

Terence Alcorn, RA, Burt Hill/Stantec


By utilizing Building Information Modeling's (BIM) capacity to perform quantitative calculations and to analyze imbedded information, the BIM model can be programmed to provide a visualization of financial information that can be used by architects, builders, owners, and users. In order to improve the designs of laboratory buildings and to improve the efficiency of the use of laboratory buildings, BIM can provide a model that contains and processes the information needed, and then displays that information in a way that helps visualize and understand that data. Two examples will be used to show the range of opportunity that BIM can provide in processing data and providing a visual display of that information.

Example #1

Working with a client to renovate 120,000 square feet of research space, but with very limited swing space, the project involved multiple phases and multiple relocations of researchers over the projected length of the renovation. The financial modeling on this project involved using BIM to visualize the income generated from research grants to the quality and quantity of space allocated to conduct the research that generated that income. Initially, laboratories were qualified as Class A, Class B, and Class C based on their physical condition and working environment and then income based on grant dollars was applied to generate a profile of existing conditions based on grant income. Although a "dollar density" program was simple to develop, the program provided a valuable means for tracking and comparing the changing conditions being encountered over time, but also served as a tool for planning future space utilization goals.

Example #2

The second financial program concept is an operating cost analysis that was developed using a current science building project where the architecture, structure, and engineering design are done in BIM. Using BIM's ability to track building areas and building elements, the project's projected energy use and costs were studied and modeled.

Floor Energy Data Table

Floor Energy Data Table

This data was organized to compare it with the original energy model and to organize the data by room, room type, and floor. A few comparisons that were completed are noted below:

  • Comparisons of the "Energy Model" projected energy use for lights, to a "BIM Model" projected energy use for lights, showed a significant difference between each of the two model's projections of energy use in 66 percent of the spaces studied. The variance between the energy use projections measures in by a factor of 225 percent.
  • Comparisons between the two models for energy use needed versus people occupying the spaces show again a significant difference in 66 percent of the spaces studied with the variance between the projections by a factor of 300 percent.
  • Energy cost followed an expected pattern when compared by room type with the laboratory; write up spaces had the least expensive cost per square foot and equipment rooms had the most expensive cost per square foot.
  • Cost comparison by floor and user group showed a range of $1.48 to $2.01 per floor, a range of approximately 25 percent between each of the different floors.


Room Comparison Drawing

Room Comparison Drawing

The advantage of a BIM model is its capacity to act as a visualization tool in presenting information and in its ability to incorporate embedded data between an Excel spreadsheet and the specific items that make up the model. As we attempt to gather more information and increase the accuracy of information gathered to improve our laboratory designs and increase our energy efficiency, BIM may be used to improve our ability to comprehend and process that data.


Terence Alcorn is a registered architect with 25 years of experience, primarily in higher education and laboratory design. Mr. Alcorn's notable projects have included both the computer science building and the national supercomputing building for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and two research laboratory buildings for The Scripps Research Institute's new campus in Florida. Mr. Alcorn has been a professor of economics, teaching both micro- and macro-economics, has served as a board member for the Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo, and has been a speaker on quantity versus quality at the American Institute of Architecture Students conference in Phoenix.