Enhancing Efficiency and Precision in HVAC Design at a Healthcare Facility: FineHVAC BIM Case Study


In the demanding world of healthcare, precision and efficiency are paramount. Designing specialised spaces like a Breast Cancer Institute within a hospital in Sydney, Australia, requires meticulous planning and unwavering attention to detail. This case study delves into how the integration of Building Information Modelling (BIM) design through the 4M FineHVAC software, revolutionised the design process for the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system within the Breast Cancer Institute, yielding significant time savings and a marked improvement in quality. Additionally, we will explore the profoundly positive impacts that this innovative approach had on the designed spaces.

The Challenge

Designing an HVAC system for a Breast Cancer Institute demands an unparalleled level of precision to maintain the strict environmental conditions necessary for cutting-edge research. The conventional design process, reliant on 2D drawings and manual calculations, proved arduous and susceptible to errors. The challenge at hand was to elevate accuracy and efficiency in HVAC system design while remaining steadfast in adhering to the exacting standards of healthcare facilities.

The essential project details for the HVAC software implementation were as follows: The project was situated within the Westmead Hospital premises, situated in New South Wales, Australia (Figure 1). The building was on the ground floor. There was a separate hospital wing on the floor above, which was not part of this project. Of note, the south eastern orientation of one of the building's facades made it susceptible to direct sunlight exposure. To accurately simulate the local climate conditions, climate data from Richmond, New South Wales, was employed as a reference point.

The total project space encompassed approximately 600 square meters, an essential parameter to consider in the context of HVAC system design.

In terms of zoning, the unique characteristics of each room demanded a specific approach. Due to the relatively compact size of individual rooms, the zoning strategy focused on grouping similar rooms together. This grouping helped define zones with similar HVAC requirements, optimizing energy efficiency and comfort control (Figure 2). Furthermore, it was imperative to establish a distinct and separate zone for the south eastern facade. This specific zoning strategy ensured that the HVAC system could efficiently address the unique climate conditions and solar exposure of this particular building aspect.

The Solution

The implementation of FineHVAC BIM software provided a groundbreaking solution to streamline the HVAC system design process:

  • The dynamic 3D visualisation capabilities of FineHVAC enabled designers to craft an intricate, three-dimensional model of the facility. This included all structural components and HVAC equipment. Such immersive visualization facilitated the early identification of potential conflicts and spatial constraints.
  • FineHVAC's inherent capacity for interdisciplinary integration fostered seamless collaboration among various design disciplines. Whether it was architecture, HVAC, or electrical systems, this streamlined approach reduced miscommunication and ensured the integration of all systems.
  • Parametric modelling, a central feature of FineHVAC BIM, allowed for agile adjustments and experimentation with various HVAC configurations. For example, designers could instantly assess how design alterations affected energy efficiency and air quality.
  • By simulating airflow patterns and environmental conditions, FineHVAC ensured that the HVAC system would offer optimal ventilation and temperature control (Figure 3). This was particularly crucial in maintaining the delicate balance required for the Institute's sensitive equipment and researchers.
  • Another important feature of FineHVAC was the fact that it offered precise cost estimation by providing comprehensive material and equipment lists. This pre-empted any unwelcome budget surprises.

The Table below shows a summary of the program results, with cooling and ventilation loads as calculated by the software. (Note: Area values have been excluded for confidentiality reasons.)

The software played a pivotal role in our project by precisely determining the dimensions of the primary rigid metal duct runs and flexible duct runs. This calculation wasn't merely a matter of size but optimisation. We aimed to strike a delicate balance. The duct sizing was meticulously optimised to ensure that the system could operate at a lower-than-usual static pressure (Figure 4). This strategic sizing approach served a dual purpose: reducing energy consumption and minimizing operational noise associated with the air handling unit (AHU). An equally significant objective was to manage costs efficiently, without an undue escalation in construction expenses.

For efficient air distribution, we installed a total of 40 supply-air diffusers and 10 return air supply diffusers. Additionally, seven Variable Air Volume (VAV) boxes were strategically positioned to regulate and modulate airflows. These VAV boxes were seamlessly integrated with a Building Management System (BMS), forming a critical linkage to the variable speed drive of the AHU fan. This synergy between technology components ensured precise control and optimization of the HVAC system's performance.


The adoption of FineHVAC BIM software for HVAC system (Figure 5) design yielded many remarkable benefits:

  • Time savings were substantial. The design process became expedited with errors and rework was reduced to a minimum. This allowed the project to progress swiftly, meeting tight deadlines.
  • Quality improvement was significant, the resultant space had better air flow and was more comfortable for the building occupants.
  • The speed and precision offered by the FineHVAC software resulted in a higher quality design. Researchers and clinicians could trust that the HVAC system would maintain the required environmental conditions with minimal fluctuations.
  • Space optimisation was achieved through the 3D visualization. This helped maximise the utilisation of space within the Institute. Equipment placement, airflow, and access pathways were all carefully considered to enhance the functionality of the facility.
  • Energy efficiency was a noteworthy outcome. The simulation capabilities empowered the selection of an HVAC system that met energy efficiency standards. This not only reduced long-term operational costs but also lessened the environmental impact.
  • Enhanced collaboration was a byproduct of the BIM software. It encouraged constructive teamwork among architects, engineers, and HVAC contractors, resulting in a holistic and well-coordinated design.

Other Positive Impacts

The implementation of FineHVAC BIM software software for HVAC system design in the Breast Cancer Institute had several additional impacts:

  • The improved research environment ensured that researchers could work in an environment optimised for their needs. This contributed to the integrity of their experiments and potentially led to more accurate results.
  • Patient comfort was significantly enhanced. Patients undergoing procedures or treatments in the Institute experienced increased comfort due to better air quality and temperature control.
  • Cost efficiency was a strategic outcome. The energy-efficient HVAC system reduced operational costs, enabling the hospital to allocate resources more effectively.
  • Healthcare advancements were nurtured. The precision and reliability of the HVAC system contributed to advancements in breast cancer research, potentially leading to improved treatments and outcomes.


The use of FineHVAC BIM software for HVAC system design within the Breast Cancer Institute at the Westmead Hospital not only saved time and improved quality but also had far-reaching positive impacts on the space and the people who used it. Generally speaking, this specific case study underscores the potential of BIM software to revolutionise design processes, elevate efficiency, and enhance the functionality of healthcare facilities, ultimately contributing to advancements in healthcare and research.

About the Author

Vasilios Giotis is the Managing Director at BlueGreen Engineering. He is a professional mechanical engineer who has expert knowledge of HVAC systems. He has had many years of Australian and overseas experience in the sustainability field and has been involved in numerous energy projects.

Vasilios holds a Master of Photovoltaic and Solar Energy from the University of New South Wales, a Master of Engineering (Energy) from the University of Technology and a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering from the University of Newcastle.  He is a member of the Smart Energy Council and the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air conditioning, and Heating (AIRAH).


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