Energy Efficiency

BIM automation: where efficiency and optimization converge

The efficiency achieved through BIM automation directly translates to time and cost savings

By Adam Roth August 25, 2021
Courtesy: Henderson

Implementing dynamic methods to innovate with design is standard practice at Henderson Engineers. One of the tools Henderson relies on to help determine the best system design for a space is building information modeling (BIM).

BIM is a process that uses data to generate digital representations of a facility’s physical and functional characteristics, including the building systems we engineer. This digital representation of the facility, often with 3D modeled systems, serves as a shared knowledge resource for anyone needing to make informed decisions during a facility’s life cycle – from design, to construction, to operations and beyond.

Efficiency and optimization are key components of innovation, and as director of BIM/VDC, Adam Roth focuses on how he can use BIM to its maximum potential. Because using BIM is a key approach for Henderson designers and many of their clients, automating the process adds incredible value to a project.

Simply put, BIM automation uses pre-calculated design conditions to automate the placement of system components with different variables. While a simple idea, automating these design conditions and variables is a foundation of many of Henderson’s design initiatives.

This process allows Henderson to quickly react to project changes and focus more thoroughly on the engineering itself, while still producing quality models. The efficiency achieved through BIM automation directly translates to time and cost savings for their clients without impacting the quality of their work. Below are three recent examples of how Henderson used BIM automation to create efficient, optimized designs.

Maintenance access

One way to implement BIM automation at Henderson is by using already modeled data to help guide designs and collaborate with other disciplines and project partners. For example, Henderson uses a Dynamo script to identify equipment above acoustic ceiling tile (ACT) ceilings based on data from linked architectural models, and then store that information in the individual ceiling elements for reference during design.

Courtesy: Henderson

Courtesy: Henderson

Having this data allows them to automate the placement of an access tile family for ceiling height, grid placement and grid rotation. This access tile reserves space for equipment maintenance (not typically shown on ceiling plans) and is a crucial design component that can be easily overlooked. While the initial layout may be automated, a designer always confirms final placement to ensure it makes sense for the designed equipment.

Henderson also uses revit to make sure there are no elements placed in the ceiling tile, and then runs a QC script to verify the final design layout is still within range of the equipment and complies with equipment access requirements.

Acoustics and HVAC

With acoustics and HVAC professionals under the same roof at Henderson, simple and efficient coordination is expected. Duct silencer design requires a specialty expertise and custom calculation for the noise reduction needed across all octave bands of a system.

However, with just a few inputs in the model (critical air terminal selection, AHU operating values, room constants and lining options), they’re able to use a Dynamo script to calculate the operating noise values for each element in the critical path as well as the room levels and sum them up for a system total.

From there, they’re able to ensure the design meets all code requirements. Using BIM automation for this process helps improve the design coordination across all disciplines – not just mechanical, electrical and plumbing.

Pipe trench clearances

Another example of how to implement BIM automation is by using a script to place pipe trench clearances on underslab piping. The excavation clearance of a pipe is a simple concept, but it can be disastrous if it’s not coordinated correctly. The pipe trench clearance zone is typically double-checked manually by cutting sections and/or calculating offsets.

Henderson uses a script to place a clearance zone object, locating it on the centerline of the existing modeled pipe. Clearance zones that clash with structural foundation elements are then highlighted for the design team to review and correct. Again, this quickly provides a highly coordinated design using BIM data that our designers can then look at for final review and approval.

This article originally appeared on Henderson’s website. Henderson Engineers is a CFE Media content partner.


Adam Roth
Author Bio: Adam Roth is the Director of BIM/VDC at Henderson Engineers.