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BIM GETS SOME VIM

11 June 2015

The advance of BIM continues apace. What are the latest developments? News and opinions from NG Bailey, Willmott Dixon, G&H Group and Tekla (UK)

According to George Cunningham, design and engineering manager for NG Bailey Midlands & South West, the campus redevelopment project at Birmingham City University has been one of the largest university BIM projects in the UK and one of the first to deliver fully integrated modelling in a BIM environment across design, construction and FM.

As part of the project to modernise and consolidate facilities, the team saw the opportunity to realise the potential of BIM level 2 and help the university deliver its planned preventative maintenance in a much better way, says Cunningham.

NG Bailey, working alongside Willmott Dixon, was tasked with designing and constructing two phases of the project with advance BIM technologies, to improve the speed of construction and also provide the university with cutting-edge FM and maintenance capabilities.

The university wanted a single source of information where everyone could pick up the information it needed on the building. It also wanted electronic management of files linked to the 3D models to give it a well-organised database. This will help with its objective to shift its maintenance regime from reactive to preventative where possible.

The team has established a library of components down to the detailed level of wall sockets, and radiators, as well as the assignation of specific electrical circuitry at individual accessory detail, far in excess of accepted current practice but aligned to the client’s stringent Employer’s Information Requirements. This provides opportunities for managing each item or object throughout its life within the design, construction, occupation and maintenance of the building.

“New industry standards were also adopted for codification of plant and components, enabling FM employees working in the building to scan a barcode above a doorframe using their iPad/iPhone to see a range of data and images - for example, knowing if the right lamps were in stock,” says Cunningham. “A major advantage of BIM above traditional modelling is that the data in the model can be accessed in several ways to suit the required application. Annotations on a layout can be used to access the data directly, which increases efficiency by avoiding the need to type and also reduces the potential for errors.”
Another advantage is if the data changes in one form it can be linked so the text on the sheet will automatically update, saving time manually updating data sheets and, therefore, costs, Cunningham points out. The same data can be viewed in a customisable schedule, providing summaries of equipment for estimating, or a room by room breakdown for installation or asset management. The data can also be modified directly in the schedule and changes made this way will also be updated on sheets which reference that item.
“A great aspect of the BIM modelling was the inclusion of asset information. This involved exporting the models from Revit software with the data preserved, and meant engineers in the field could access the models through tablets.

“This gives them direct access to the 3D model and all the equipment data, allowing them to clarify the arrangement of services, especially in congested areas, including behind access panels and above ceiling systems.”

Systems are used to classify distinct duct and pipe runs. Each air handling unit (AHU) is assigned to a different system and any equipment connected to it inherited that system.  This enables engineers to trace the route and see immediately which AHU a specific grille was supplied by. 

“A key aspect of making the FM systems more effective was ensuring building users and operators were involved with the designers and constructors before, during and after the handover of the building. Induction and familiarisation sessions with the building operation and systems also helped support the change from reactive to preventative maintenance.”
The test, commission and handover operations were undertaken jointly by NG Bailey, Willmott Dixon and the client team. This meant they were able to familiarise themselves with the installation intimately and take ownership of the performance of the systems.

“At the right stage of the on-going project NG Bailey’s facilities services team were invited to join engineering, Willmott Dixon and the client’s team to agree the on-going maintenance to the new facilities,” says Cunningham. “This collaborative approach has meant the needs of the building and the client are an integral factor of the continuing maintenance service.”

SUBHEAD: Manufacturer’s role
BIM is largely underpinned by the availability of building product models, but, according to air curtain specialist Thermoscreens, the work required by manufacturers often gets forgotten, says Martin Phillips, group marketing manager.

“The widespread adoption of BIM models – ‘intelligent’, data-rich 3D objects, containing a range of information in addition to the physical dimensions found in traditional CAD files – is thought to offer many benefits. These include cost savings, increased efficiency, collaboration between all parties involved in the construction process, improved building design and facilities management and reduced on-site clashes.  

“We’re already seeing requests for BIM models on tender documents, and since they become mandatory for publicly funded projects in 2016, this trend is only set to increase.” 

So far, says Phillips, much of the focus has been on architects, engineers and consultants, and how they’re going to benefit from BIM and how it will change its working practices. “However, with the key ingredient of any BIM project being BIM objects, we’d suggest it’s the manufacturers of building products – air curtains, for example – that are key to driving the future success of BIM.

“The National Building Specification (NBS) Object Standard document states: ‘The availability of manufacturers’ BIM objects is an important factor in achieving success with BIM. The number of manufacturers engaging with BIM is rising but not quickly enough. The construction industry needs a comprehensive library of manufacturer BIM objects’.”

The NBS National BIM Report 2014 found more than 75% of construction professionals want manufacturers to provide BIM objects, and 80% said BIM is the future of project information, Phillips points out. “But the move to BIM radically changes what manufacturers need to do; instead of offering a set of 2D drawings, they will need to provide 3D files with metadata attached. And speaking from our own experience, moving from 2D to 3D modelling requires new skills and investment in new software and additional resource. Furthermore, data needs to be kept in a standard format that everyone can use – though we would say the introduction of the NBS BIM Object Standard has put an important framework in place for manufacturers, and is providing a level of consistency for BIM objects.”

There are several of these manufacturers who can’t be found in 80% of cases, says Phillips. “Manufacturers will also have to utilise appropriate data exchange tools, as once the BIM objects are created, they need to be added to a central product library so they’re readily available to building designers. It’s important to note over half respondents from the fourth annual NBS National BIM survey said they were sourcing BIM objects from a specialist BIM library.

“It was critical for Thermoscreens to have BIM files readily available, and to meet the standards that central and local government are increasingly demanding. A great deal of preparation has been required, but we are now ready and prepared – but it shouldn’t be assumed that the journey to BIM will be so smooth for every manufacturer.

“BIM has the potential to improve the process of designing, constructing and operating buildings. Most manufacturers are aware of BIM, but with the 2016 public sector project deadline approaching, the pressure is really on to become proactive rather than reactive.”

SUBHEAD: Looming deadline
While the government’s deadline requiring all public sector projects to use Level 2 BIM is now just six months away and counting, the need from a practical level has never been more acute, says David Davis, pre-construction director at the G&H Group.

“The recent NBS survey shows take-up of BIM has dropped over the past year and albeit slightly from 54% to 48%, it is a worrying trend. On a more encouraging note, maturity levels of those using BIM have risen with 65% saying they have reached Level 2 versus 58% last year.”

From an FM perspective, there’s a danger of getting left behind, warns Davis. “Many companies only tend to adopt new technology when forced by legal compliance or client demand. At G&H Group, we invested two years ago to make sure our building services, maintenance, fabrication and sustainability companies are at the forefront of the technology from an FM perspective to simplify the construction process, increase speed, efficiency, accuracy and to give us an advantage.”

Davis says BIM is going to play a more intrinsic role in the future and being an early adopter has great benefits. “We’re currently engrossed in our first projects; two fire stations in Sheffield for our client BAM Construction using BIM for our M&E work. We’re already seeing tangible benefits.”

For example, says Davis, G&H identified in detail the locations of HVAC systems that averted nasty surprises arising onsite owing to changes in other specialist fields such as structural steelwork. “Everyone’s understanding of the scope of works is increasing and BIM allows different disciplines to focus on shared targets and add more certainty to the procurement process. Having a full understanding of the building’s features and realising how we can co-ordinate effectively is invaluable.

“We have used BIM to co-ordinate services and highlight pinch points that we may have missed with a conventional 2D design. These are the issues that can crop up during site installation and stop works while solutions are found, often resulting in wasted staff hours and extra materials.” 

Davis says mechanical services can be installed knowing that allowance is made for supporting electrical services including cross over points. “This improves the speed of installations and reduces the number of ‘mini meetings’ needed onsite when a clash has actually taken place. 3D modelling allows for faster creation using intelligent software that anticipates and adds in fittings and joints that would otherwise need to be hand drawn and would not be as accurate.

“Interestingly, it’s crucial you don’t overlook the human element. We quickly realised we needed to ensure site operatives understood how BIM works onsite as we found setting out dimensions on drawings were overlooked as ‘better routes’ were found for services but don’t take into account the model building.”

As with all new technology it evolves and there are areas for improvement with BIM. “It’s anticipated our two projects will be completed earlier than the original programme which considering the length of the initial induction design period, it’s testament to the advantages of BIM. This will only improve as we as an industry embrace BIM on future projects and refine its use into all our schemes.”

Davis notes that many manufacturers are already getting onboard with BIM, however there are still a number without 3D model information available for use in BIM projects. This is not a showstopper, he points out, but does take time to create a BIM ready ‘block’ to use to Level 2 standards. 

“We believe that as the 2016 deadline draws closer, more and more manufacturers will need to endorse BIM allowing for easier design and modelling of their products. While Level 2 is viewed as ‘collaborative’, Level 3 represents ‘integration’ and this will be the challenge to the construction industry to make BIM a genuine success.”

Duncan Reed, digital construction process manager at Tekla (UK), says there are many misconceptions that BIM is just some type of fancy 3D modelling software. “It isn't. Instead, it’s a process. A process that can bring efficiencies to businesses in order to deliver projects quickly, competently and reliably for clients. Essentially, BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility. The key driver is transparency – linked to the ability to make better business decisions about the facility during its life cycle, from earliest conception through to demolition. So it transcends past just the initial build phase and be used to operate and maintain an infrastructure.”

In this way, Reed notes, the FM market can greatly benefit from understanding and having access to 3D modelling software. “Compared to traditional designs, 3D models are much easier for everyone to understand – particularly non-construction professionals, who might struggle to interpret 2D drawings. Crucially though, a model allows a much greater degree of understanding and so can facilitate quicker decision makings as the right data is stored, and more importantly accessible, about all aspects of the asset, whether at component, system or at a whole building level.  In this way, the advantages this affords FM teams are vast.”

Adopting these processes prevents the traditional loss of information associated with the hard handover of a project at design, procurement, construction and operation stages, says Reed. By facilitating each group to add to and reference back to all information – as a single source of truth - a much richer, yet more efficient, data set is available for decision making and management. “This approach allows FM staff to explore the model first if there is a problem, identifying all the components that are situated in the suspect area complete with all the make, model, manufacturer, part number details, as well as any other information ever recorded in the past.”

Additionally, he adds, dynamic information about the building, such as sensor measurements and control signals from the building systems, can also be incorporated within the data set to support analysis of building operation and maintenance. “What’s more, 3D models can be accessed using free technology on personal devices – phones, tablets, gaming technology etc, so people can access the model in ways they understand and are comfortable with. Undeniably, and regardless of the government 2016 mandate, there are many companies embracing BIM and implementing the process across a variety of projects they are working on.”


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