Case study: Using BIM to design a LEED Silver ice arena

BIM was used in every aspect of planning, fabrication, coordination, and execution of the Pegula Ice Arena project at Penn State University, which was completed in 2013 and awarded LEED Silver certification in 2015.


Figure 1: A virtual reality environment made possible by BIM led to the discovery of a flaw in the design of the windows. By discovering the flaw early, a much less costly change was made prior to construction. Courtesy: IMEGA maximized BIM was an integral tool of the design and construction team for the Pegula Ice Arena at The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in University Park. BIM was used in every aspect of planning, fabrication, coordination, and execution of the project, which was completed in 2013 and awarded LEED Silver certification in 2015.

The $81 million, 228,000-sq-ft facility is home of Penn State's men's and women's NCAA Division I hockey teams. It features a 6,000-seat main arena (including a 1,000-seat student section) with an NHL regulation-size ice rink. New locker rooms, a weight room, offices and training spaces serve the Penn State teams. A second NHL regulation-size rink with 300 seats operates nearly 24 hours a day for practice and tournament use by community and youth hockey leagues and figure skaters.

The project team-developed BIM execution plan—which won a 2014 American Institute of Architects TAP BIM Award for delivery-process innovation—was a transition in the way Penn State uses, communicates, and executes BIM. According to the award submission, "Revit-server protocols were created to facilitate collaboration amongst the team. The project architects synchronized their models in real time and conducted a quality control review before integrating engineering development into the master model.

Engineering disciplines uploaded their model on a weekly basis. The builder was added to the access protocol early on as the subcontractors began design-assist scopes and development of the shop drawings. Weekly coordination sessions were held after each upload and focused solely on the Revit model's development and production. These meetings proved to be an invaluable quality control measure, as models from various team members were verified and coordination was validated."

The BIM's many applications on the project—which included improved design quality, communication and visualization coordination, record modeling, and logistics and safety planning—were instrumental in the team's ability to meet an aggressive schedule, come in under budget, and meet the owner's return on investment expectations.

Figure 2: The main rink at the Pegula Ice Arena at Pennsylvania State University. Courtesy: IMEGThe team also used BIM in a pioneering, 4-D-technology development of the computerized automatic virtual environment (CAVE), using Penn State's Applied Research Lab. Multiple projectors directed at the four walls and floor of the 10x10-ft room allowed the team and end users to virtually "walk" hallways and "enter" the rinks, concourse, and other spaces. This allowed stakeholders to see, experience, and understand the design in the early stage, and suggest changes where needed. For example, one of the many items discovered in the fully immersive environment was a flaw in the placement of the windows overlooking the community ice rink. From that vantage point, the viewer-in this case, the project donor-could not see where the children would be sitting on the team bench directly below. Discovering this flaw in the immersive environment led to the change being made early, prior to construction. The cost of the change during the design phase was $2,500; the cost averted during the construction phase was $30,000.

Overall, the CAVE averted more than $475,500 in costs during or after construction. Other BIM-measured savings on the project included $260,000 on the schedule (30 days shorter), $200,000 in disruption avoidance, $100,000 in design to prefab (5 weeks shorter), and $161,000 in overall coordination.

Total savings due to BIM was $1.2 million and resulted in a project that was completed early, under budget, and with no punch list for the first event.


  • Project owner: The Pennsylvania State University
  • Lead design firm: Crawford Architects
  • Design/associate architect: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
  • General contractor/construction management: Mortenson Construction
  • Structural engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
  • Civil engineer: Sweetland Engineering
  • MEP engineer: IMEG Corp.

Rick Gilson is a senior electrical technical specialist at IMEG Corp. He has 38 years of experience in the electrical construction and engineering consultant field.


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