The major objective of the virtual laboratory is to make use of existing advanced ICT tools from different application domains like CAD systems, facility management systems (FM), energy simulation, moisture calculation, fluid dynamic analysis, structural analysis, cost calculation tools, Building Information Modellers (BIM) and Building Automation Systems (BAS), which are all strong in their core business but mostly stand-alone, loosely integrated applications, and:

  1. Provide them with a sound interoperability structure on ontology-extended BIM and SOA basis through development of a new system ontology;
  2. Complement them with a set of new supporting services and tools, for example enabling simulation and evaluation of energy behaviour, including (a) an energy profile and use case combiner, (b) a multi-model manager enabling intelligent model filtering, and (c) a multi-model navigator;
  3. Provide a new information logistic and intelligent access controller for the ICT system management (services, tools and data) and for the interfacing to cloud facilities thereby enabling parallel computation of alternatives and/or parameter variations;
  4. Extend existing data resources by three currently missing databases, namely stochastically based climatic data scenarios and usage/user activity profiles, both structured and formalised according to the stochastic life-cycle demands, and a database variant manager for alternatives and variations of new product designs.

Almost all of the ICT building blocks and the system interoperability and management methods are planned to be generic. Hence, they can also be used in other domains or serve as templates and best-practice cases.

The main targeted use cases of energy and emission reduction are the early design phase of the planning of new buildings and facilities and the retrofitting phase for the existing building stock. Another important use case is the design of new products, concurrently considering their own energy be¬haviour and their interaction with the embedding facility, simulated by a set of virtual building environments, such as the use of a façade element for different building typologies, different climatic conditions and different user behaviours.

A further challenging issue is the consideration of stochastics. The virtual lab has to be complemented by an adequate (semi-)stochastic component to represent the stochastic nature for the product and the facility life cycle. The semi-stochastic approach could be capturing the real variability of the life cycle, and hence improve energy-efficient design of products and facilities. Today, stochastic life cycle considerations in AEC are only common in civil engineering domains, like offshore platforms, nuclear power plants, large span bridges, hydroelectric power plants and dams or other outstanding structures featuring high- risk consequences, where the main life cycle aspect is structural safety.