Expanding the scope of BIM

The value of BIM is undoubtedly in its collaborative prowess. It is not new to the market and there is certainly more than a working knowledge of the software among designers and to some extent, stakeholders in the region. However, many of the designers and decision-makers who should be using BIM to connect with each other in more dynamic and interactive ways are often put off by the complexity of the tool.

At first, BIM can feel daunting, but those who are devout users believe it has powerful benefits both during the design phase as well as throughout the project’s lifespan. We must integrate designers, contractors, and manufacturers into BIM processes. Remove the barriers, and break down the mystique.

During the design phase, BIM helps optimise the usage of building materials by reducing clashes and quantifying the correct amount of material to be used. This way BIM provides a tool that can help use less material and less energy. It also helps save costs and time at every phase of design and construction.

The well-developed BIM model is a great tool to present an accurate overview of 3D modelling information to the stakeholders with regard to the MEP services and equipment within the project and the planning needed for the operation and maintenance strategy.

With BIM, people tend to draw the project and leave it at that. But the thinking still needs to be done. It’s all about getting as much done up front through BIM and not relying on it to do the coordination. Users still have to think and be strategic.

With BIM authoring tools, architects can create a digital 3D model of the building, allowing them to see a representation of what it will look like and how it will operate. The 3D representation can include several pieces of information, data, that can be leveraged outside of the authoring tool, we refer to it as the “I” in BIM.

We have been using very detailed modelling for architectural, civil, structural and MEP components which has enabled us to fully coordinate the work throughout the design and the construction stage. This coordination has allowed an effective installation of all the MEP components with fewer clashes observed on site. In MEP, there are a number of engineering disciplines that all need to work closely together with architecture. So, the key to it is understanding the parameters and making sure everyone has enough information.

BIM also enables advanced workflow capabilities that augment the design process, from concept to the building’s completion. The data BIM develops through the project’s life cycle e can be leveraged to:

• Parametric relationships and model element dependency

• Computational design

• Space planning

• Energy analysis

• Light and daylight analysis

• Display complex spatial relationships

• Calculate the cost and number of required building materials

• Virtual conflict detection and resolution

Stretching the limits of BIM

Beyond the BIM model in the design of the MEP components of a building, one of the largely untapped areas is offsite construction. The onsite method of manufacturing and construction has been the norm for many years; however, the offsite method and the resulting well-implemented prefabricated construction have proved to be successful, better in quality and safer over recent years. Not only does it save time during installation, but there are also generally fewer reworks and the material is better optimised.

We have seen that for MEP works this has been very successful in controlling the time and quality of work. It is a useful tool for implementing offsite construction as it helps combine all the elements of construction in real-time at the design phase. All items are designed and placed in the 3D model based on actual models provided by suppliers. Once all the MEP and architecture elements are fully coordinated and clash-free, this 3D model goes to the factory for production. The only work on site, then, is the fixing and welding of components and aligning them to the next module.

BIM is also a useful tool in the operational phase once a building is up and running. The integration of HVAC and IoT allows real-time data from the various spaces within a building to be continuously fed to the building management central computer where the performance criteria are monitored and adjusted according to the levels of demand. By doing so, the system operates as per real-time needs and not as per a single baseline design need. The airflow, temperature, humidity controls and all other aspects are continuously mapped, and the system operates based on the current demands which in turn reduces usage, time and costs as compared to a conventional system. As a result, BIM can help save both material and energy.

One of the greatest benefits of BIM to the AECO industry is the collaboration it enables between designers, owners, and builders.

With the new innovative technology available to the industry, we have evolved from file exchange to live collaboration in the cloud. This means a single source of truth. We all share the same information and this improves our design and decision-making process immensely. It also enables our ability to deliver projects in new ways such as Integrated Project Delivery and Design Assist.

Before BIM, the architect and subcontractor would estimate how many materials they needed to complete the project and how much these materials would cost. Whenever the architect made changes to the design, someone had to do these calculations all over again, all this work was done in silos. Before architects used BIM, there was also more room for human error. One small miscalculation could lead to massive complications which resulted in delays and unexpected costs. BIM software significantly reduces these problems by providing that single source of truth and making it available to all stakeholders.

There really are many advantages to the use of BIM in MEP/Architecture. Despite the challenges, it certainly appears well positioned for future growth.


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