Extended Environments Markup Language (EEML) & Industry Foundation Classes

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What is IFC?

IFC or Industry Foundation Classes are the recommendations by developed by the International Alliance for Interoperability for a non-proprietary standard that supports interoperability between different software packages used in the construction industry. Fundamentally it is an AEC (Architecture / Engineering / Construction) product modeling effort. The recommendations themselves are described in a data modeling language called XML Extensible Mark-up Language, in this case specifically ifcXML.

Why is IFC important?

Effective and efficient sharing of information between the consultants in the design and engineering professions has been identified as a key factor in quality, cost and time for delivering buildings [Latham 1994, Egan 1998]. Adoption of IFC recommendations can improve data sharing between the software used by individual consultants. For example a geometry model produced using CAD software by Architects can be exchanged with thermal analysis software used by an Engineer to simulate the buildings energy performance. Of key importance is IFC's recommendations for attributes of materials and processes for both simulation during the design of buildings and the attributes of materials, processes, systems during actual operation.

What is EEML?

EEML or Extended Environments Mark-up Language (www.eeml.org) describes sensor data collected from a device, building, system or space in a structured form. EEML is described by the data modeling language XML. The EEML language, initially developed by Haque Design + Research Ltd., supports interpretation and exchange between software packages using a schema. This provides the protocol for devices, buildings, systems and spaces, both physical and virtual, to communicate with each other. Though there are a number of broadly similar protocols and data formats, EEML's distinctions are (a) that it can be applied equally to devices, buildings, websites and virtual environments and (b) that it provides explicitly environmental, locative and temporal contextual meta-data to sensor feeds. Thus, within an EEML document, unlike for example SensorML, it is possible, using the same protocol, to describe the "environment" of a building at a particular moment in time; the "environment" of a forest as it changes over a number of months; and the "environment" of a virtual space like Second Life. Further, though it is robust enough to work with IFC, it is also flexible and simple enough that individual developers and non-professionals can use the format in their own smaller devices and projects. Why is EEML important? Responsive environments need structured communications between devices, buildings, systems and spaces in real-time. This can be used to structure both data-centric information (device level) and their process context (spatial and operational) for sharing between devices, buildings, systems and spaces.

How are EEML and IFC related?

EEML describes the structure of information about a device, building, system or space in 'real-time' and this extends with the IFC product model into the post-occupancy operational dimension of buildings and their systems.

Who is developing services with EEML support?

Haque Design + Research Ltd. and Connected Environments Ltd. have launched Pachube, a web-service that uses EEML to support the exchanged of real time sensor data between any device, building or environment connected to the web.

What are the benefits of EEML with IFC?

Both are described using schemas written in XML. A schema-to-schema map allows data exchange between the Pachube service and data models in an IFC compliant software package. This enables any IFC compliant software such as major brand AEC software like AutoCAD Architecture, Revit Build 2008 and Tekla Structures to use the structured operational information that is being fed to Pachube. Architects and Engineers can use this to for example, inform the verification and validation of simulations of buildings at the level of elements, components or systems. In addition, using Pachube with EEML offers a route to use invaluable real-world data to inform improvements to modeling efficacy of both design and simulation software. Taken further EEML can furnish an IFC compliant software package with degrees of design decision-support. If information is available about the operating performance of an existing building with similar characteristics to a project that is still at the design-stage there is the opportunity to integrate and learn from the results and bring improvements to the current design process. Further value is found in its integration with facilities management software and on-line energy-monitoring services that collate in a common open framework information that has been collected from disparate sources.

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