DesignPH Room-Data-Tool

One major hurdle for any building design project is how to manage the enormous amount of data about the building, and how to keep that data updated and error-free throughout both the design and assembly phases. When we consult on Certified Passive House projects this data management can be particularly difficult due to both the huge quantity of data, as well as the requirement for rigorous and careful review of all this data by the Certifiers. This review is important since it provides critical quality assurance for the building owner, but for it can lead to lots of extra time wrangling and checking on our part.

While there are some good tools available nowadays for managing building envelope data for purposes of performance modeling in various 3D BIM tools (DesignPH for PHPP, for instance) we have found that there is still a large amount of information that must be organized for certification which isn’t (yet) built into those available BIM tools. In particular, room-level data such as volume, room-name, zone, HVAC equipment assignments and the like are all critical to organize properly for the certifiers and on larger or complex buildings such as multi-family projects this can become a very difficult and time-consuming task, prone to error throughout.

In the past, we would end up with endless spreadsheets which each sought to organize, calculate and communicate (to the Certifiers usually) one or another aspect of the building. This is fine, so far as it goes, but as part of our overall effort to streamline our workflows we wanted to create a tool where we could use the BIM model as the single data management source in order to improve our process, reduce errors, and make communicating this data much simpler.

To that end, we have created a small plugin for Sketchup which allows a designer to model room-by-room geometry and assign Passive House relevant metadata / tags to that geometry. This tool also includes some basic sorting, filtering, visualizing (material assignment) and of course outputting functions as well. Our goal is to have the 3D model work as the single data source, with calculation and outputting simply pulling data out as needed during the Certification process. Below I’ve outlined the basic workflow and there is a download link at the bottom of the page if you’d like to give it a try.

By the way, in case you think we’re silly for trying to build this into Sketchup rather than use an existing robust BIM tool which already would have some of this functionality built-in, three reasons:

  1. Sketchup is much more affordable than larger, complex BIM tools. We love those other BIM tools (you know who you are), but not all design offices will be able to / want to invest in that level of software.
  2. Sketchup is where we are already building out all our ‘Certification’ models for Passive House work. This is a result of 1) DesignPH being very good, and 2) the other BIM—>PHPP tools being not nearly as functional (yet).
  3. The Certifiers we’re working with for Passive House projects seem (so far) happy to accept and refer to the Sketchup model during the Certification process. Not so much with other BIM model formats.

Using the Tool

The first step in the use of the tool is the creation of detailed room-by-room 3D geometry. This is required in order to calculate several datapoints (net floor area, volume) and this geometry will serve as the ‘host’ for all associated metadata. In our workflow, we’re generally working off CAD drawings submitted by a Client and we like to drop those right into our Sketchup scene. We’ll then create room geometry from that base CAD.

Room-By-Room Geometry Modeled in Sketchup

Once this geometry is created, the plugin requires that you execute a couple steps in order to create ‘smart’ objects from your geometry:

+ Step 1: ‘Tag’ one or More Surfaces as ‘Floors’

+ Step 2: Create a ‘Smart’ Room Object

+ Step 3: Generate Calculated Data from the 3D

+ In-Application Visualizations

+ Reporting / Outputting Data: CSV Data

+ Reporting / Outputting Data: Associated Drawings

Download the Tool

Unzip the above file and simply add the unzipped contents (file ‘bt_dPHPlus_rooms_Load.rb‘ and folder ‘bt_dphPlus_rooms‘) to your Sketchup ‘Plugins’ directory (ie: on mac OS: …/Library/Application Support/Sketchup 2019/Sketchup/Plugins…)

Note that this plugin has been tested and works on Sketchup 2016 — 2019 on Mac OS. For earlier versions of Sketchup or other OS types, it may work fine but it has not been tested. It is strongly recommended to create a copy and backup of your working .skp file and test this plugin to be sure it works before ever using it on any actual work/project file. We make no guarantees and take no responsibility for any errors or issues that may arise from use of this plugin.