How facilities management can take advantage of BIM

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Building information modelling (BIM) is a typical example of an innovation or technology that has taken time to be accepted. Today, many distributors still wonder how they can bring value to BIM.

For a comparison, go back to when the ‘green’ movement in the built environment began a few years ago. Both manufacturers and distribution also tempered acceptance of this trend with scepticism.

However, sustainable products and practices are now commonly reflected in building codes and increasingly demanded to be included in facilities by owners.

Arguably, BIM is the fuel behind the growth of many worldwide construction trends. Visualisation, information and collaboration bring greater clarity and efficiency to integrated project delivery (IPD), high-performance benchmarking, and lean methodology and waste reducing practices.

The concept behind BIM is not new – 3D modelling goes back 30 years or more with the now common acronym finding broad acceptance in the 1980s.

BIM gained popularity as a design term in the mid-2000s, coinciding with advancements in 3D technology and computer processing. Today, nearly 70 percent of design and engineering practices are using some form of BIM design software.

BIM is not just for architects, owner and end users are part of the process too. The demand for information and BIM ‘deliverables’ on new construction projects is being exhibited in the bidder qualification criteria and guidelines published by government agencies, universities and healthcare organisations.

Contract language clearly demonstrates an owner’s desire for product data to be housed, updated and exportable from BIM files for use in facility management.

BIM is not software

The term BIM refers to files containing digital representations of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility. Structural, MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) and architectural trades can all be represented in BIM, and the combined files can be very large.

Within BIM are objects, basically repositories holding detailed information about a product and the 2D/3D geometry used for visualisation. Door and frame openings are one example of a BIM object.

For distribution purposes, BIM can be best described as a collaborative process where intelligent 3D objects are used to communicate product and project data and decision-making.

Product information is shared across the ‘building life cycle process’ from design and specification on to procurement, construction and installation, facility management and finishing with disposal and aftermarket replacement. Architects, contractors, suppliers and end users all contribute and benefit from the flow of information.

On the other hand, software is the enabling tool used to facilitate the BIM process. There are numerous varieties of BIM software applications developed to meet the specific needs of an architect, contractor or facility manager.

Reducing complexity

The complexity of gathering all of the relevant information when working with BIM on a building project has led to the development of software specifically to allow the addition of further information into the building model, including time, cost, manufacturers’ details, sustainability and maintenance information.

Revit is one example of a software application and one of the most frequently used by Australian architects. An experienced Revit user can create realistic and accurate families, as well as import existing models from other programs, ranging from furniture and lighting fixtures to doors, windows and hardware. Autodesk Revit is an example of a 3D BIM authoring software tool.

Regardless of where and how BIM software programs are developed and used, they all have one critical requirement – information.

Show me the information

In a BIM environment, there are both creators and consumers of information content. Creators add product data into the model for the consumers to extract and use in applications.

The creators can be architects and specification writers working in the project planning, design, and contract documentation phases. Content refers to many types of product information including quantities and sizes, construction materials, manufacturer names and descriptions, types and profiles, technical attributes, finishes, sustainability data, installation instructions and more.

At the other end of the information flow are the content consumers. These are the contractors and end users who want to leverage the information as a means to improve construction efficiency, reduce waste and better manage installed products after occupancy.

Distributors, and subcontractors, are right in the middle. As consumers, they need to extract data from BIM files to streamline estimating and bid proposals. They can also be creators when performing the role of specification writer for an architect or contractor, or by updating the BIM with their ‘as-supplied’ project and product details.

Old things. New ways.

In a digital world, it’s all about being fast, accurate, seamless and mobile.

Most project sites are now outfitted with hot spots that connect to portable kiosks and handheld tablets. Virtual design is used to identify and correct constructability errors before they materialise at the job site.

The accuracy of the data and details inside of models is allowing suppliers to prefabricate off-site and avoid in-the-field assembly and modifications.

Information from the BIM feeds the construction applications used for site planning and analysis, material take-offs, resource allocation, scheduling and phasing, spatial coordination, material tracking and field communication.

Requests for information (RFIs), deliveries, installation and punch-out issues are tracked and updated via handheld devices and uploaded to the cloud. It’s an interconnected world built around information exchange and collaboration. BIM is delivering a positive ROI.

Change is the only constant

Construction is a very inefficient and wasteful business. Up to 40 percent of project cost can be attributed to construction waste. Traditional 2D document-based workflow used for years in the door and hardware industry contributes to the inefficiency.

Specifications, estimates, schedules and submittals that are reliant upon disconnected text documents, spreadsheets and technical drawings have errors and inaccuracies inherent within them. A different approach has been needed for some time.

Change has come in the form of integrated 3D, 4D (time), 5D (costing), 6D (product life cycle management) systems and tools. Eventually, evolving building codes, owner protocols and government mandates will follow in support of BIM delivery methods. BIM is becoming the next version of the green movement.

BIM innovation

Openings and access control system suppliers need to look no further than fellow structural and MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) trades to see where their BIM journey is leading. Introduced to Australia over a year ago, Openings Studio is a suite of BIM software tools for creating, visualising, modifying and exporting complete door, frame and hardware schedules for use in design, construction and facility management.

Supplied free of charge, Openings Studios generates reports in multiple file formats for the architect using it, which are readily available for distributors and builders, helping to disseminate critical project information to all stakeholders.

A unique configuration engine produces complete openings with doors, frames, hardware and specifications. Users can integrate directly with Autodesk Revit, via a downloadable plugin. While door and hardware objects are already available to download from a variety of internet sites and vendors. Openings Studio allows an architectural practice to use the sophisticated software applications
to create, visualise and modify 3D door and hardware openings along with embedded product data to facilitate the entire process from design to plan to scheduling.

Based around seamless flow, Openings Studios, files can be exported for use in estimating, scheduling and project management, and virtual ‘door libraries’ are replacing paper-based owner specification and construction guidelines.

The manner in which architects are able to harness and deliver information being created and consumed in a BIM environment will define their value-add for future business. Those unable or unwilling to move forward with acceptance may indeed be left behind as innovative leaders transform the industry for the next generation.

It’s important to understand that on building projects the door and window hardware and furniture does not represent a significant proportion of the total cost, but it is, nevertheless, critical to the security and egress of that facility.

Openings Studio extends support for specification writing and scheduling into the users’ hands through the software, making it easier and less time consuming to complete what can otherwise be a complex job.

If you would like to learn more about the Openings Studio suite of software tools and how they can increase productivity and reduce inefficiencies in the design and specification
of openings, visit the ASSA ABLOY site.

Joining ASSA ABLOY Australia as an architectural sales cadet, Ben Montgomery has worked directly in the specification segment for more than eight years. As the interim national sales manager, specification, at ASSA ABLOY, Ben is a BIM champion and driving the awareness and uptake of ASSA ABLOY’s BIM software suite plug-in, Openings Studio.

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