Presentation Looks at Evolution of BIM Tools and Designs
June 23, 2010
Interest and technologies surrounding Building Information Modeling
(BIM) are continuing to evolve. As this happens, the availability
of need-specific and re-usable Building Element Models (BEM) will
be important for BIM-based projects. This was the point Andrew Arnold
with Reed Construction discussed during a webinar yesterday afternoon.
The presentation covered business motivations, technical challenges
and practical steps that architects, contractors and subcontractors
can take to develop re-useable BEMs and cataloging tools to manage
and distribute BEM content.
It is our observation that firms getting into BIM spend a
great deal of time building the elements that go into the BIM design,
began Arnold. And primarily, most firms are using BIM tools
and developing BIM to produce construction documents for visualization
Some of the key values, he noted, of BIM and integrated project
delivery include increased collaboration processes with cross organizations
with different project stakeholders and the incorporation of different
kinds of analyses using BIM as input to areas such as performance
and cost analysis.
Its our experience that these analyses have huge value
but they also require all sorts of data [
to get it all in
order], said Arnold.
He explained that this is where the BEMs can become beneficial.
One way to think of a BEM is as a collection of
objects, meaning, as you pull objects into a design you configure
them and attach specifications to them, [creating] a particular
instance or placement in the project, said Arnold. Its
also important to understand that these object definitions can specify
the basis for design
. the design becomes the basis for procurement
and construction. None of this is new [its what] the creation
of construction documents has always been about ... but now we have
a knowledge model that is more computer interpretable and effectively
re-used beyond design and the completion of construction documents.
Providing a more specific explanation of BEM, Arnold said it is
a 2-D and/or 3-D representation of physical products, construction
assembly and even parametric models of spaces of specific designs
Another element of BEM is that it can be saved into a catalog in
a library management system.
The idea that you can index it, save it and manage it in
a library management system becomes important as you begin to think
about the investment of your time [and] collecting the data that
you need to execute projects with these models and then being able
to re-use them, said Arnold. By creating tools that
manage models and support the loading of data into these models
youre going to establish new work flows that will decrease
the risk of errors and omissions in your practice.
In discussing the value of these models, he said they can have
an impact on operation and maintenance.
If you look at the national 2030 zero net energy goals for
buildings, improving a specific system, such as a window fenestration
will get you part of the way there, but you also need
an integrated approach to looking at all systems in a holistic way
to get to zero net energy, said Arnold. For that you
need BIMs that reliably and predictably model these systems and
can report on how they interact. Its a combination of the
building skin and the [mechanical, electrical and plumbing] systems
in the building primarily. Getting all the data together and modeling
it in an integrated way will become the challenge in the next 20
Another challenge, Arnold explained, is supporting the production
of a model as it goes from schematic design all the way through
to bidding procurement and operations.
For example, in a schematic design you may have limited information
about a door opening. But as you go into preliminary design maybe
you have dimensional information, and then as you go through construction
documents you begin to specify the fire-rating, sound attenuation
and light transmittance for the given opening; you put together
the hardware schedule, etc. and finally the bidding procurement
where the distributors go out and put together a list of products
they need to handle a door opening, said Arnold. So
the ability to flexibly elaborate a model or increase the details
about the models scope throughout the project delivery life
cycle will become very important.
According to Arnold, if companies can reduce the time they spend
organizing and managing objects theyd be more profitable.
BEM libraries will reference useful information for arranging
context and object composition about the project, he said.
During his discussion Arnold also looked at some future trends,
notably the ability to create catalogs of families and manage them
in library management systems.
And what were bringing to see is both building owners
and product manufacturers creating catalogs, said Arnold,
who added that another theme is building the index information thats
external to the CAD model to the object.
[It provides] ability to index standards, specifications,
unit costs, performance data, etc. and index them into the building
elements in the projects and to be able to slice and dice this expanded
definition of BIM, taking us from BiM with a small i, which is just
geometry, to BIM with a big I which is geometry and data.
He continued, This will require enterprise systems that have
the ability to enumerate views of information across projects, user
authorization and authentication, the ability to integrate date
from external sources and the ability for various project participants
to go into the catalog of objects and distribute them across project
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