BIM drives new organization models and advanced technologies

The impact on the way buildings are designed is changed forever with the adoption for BIM platforms.

By Donna Miller, PE, PEng, LEED AP November 22, 2016

As Building Information Modeling (BIM) becomes the standard approach to building design and construction, we are beginning to see organizational models change in the design industry. Also, new third-party technologies, considered revolutionary in the efficiency they deliver, are starting to emerge. 

Old design silos don’t work efficiently

In the past, separate design disciplines-architecture, structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering-all used the same 2-D software, planning tools, and processes for project coordination. Inherently, this silo approach hindered the efficiency of sharing and exchanging project information in a timely fashion. Each group worked sequentially. This silo mentality created and supported the separation of design disciplines.

BIM, however, enables the ongoing sharing of information based on a common platform built for collaboration and integration from the start of a project. With this common design platform as a base for all disciplines, it can often make more sense financially and provide better client service to combine multiple disciplines within one organization. With BIM software, such as Revit, each discipline is involved at an earlier point in the overall design process. This system brings a collaboration that results in coordinated documents being produced more efficiently.

Not all design firms have embraced this approach. Until there is a universal adoption of BIM, the move toward design firm consolidation will likely continue. Firms that are using BIM to its full potential and integrating all disciplines are producing better documents in shortened time frames. Ultimately, they are securing a larger client base. [subhead]

Coordination tools simplify design processes

One of the advantages of BIM is that the various disciplines use a common model as a base for their work. Once the base model has been created, the other disciplines can begin. There are tools within Revit that provide the ability to monitor and coordinate the efforts of different disciplines:

Copy/monitor establishes element relationships and communicates the changes one group makes to all other groups.

Interference check identifies problems between the plans of all disciplines.

Coordination review provides a list of monitored elements that have been changed or moved and posts warnings where they conflict with other plans.

These tools automatically compare multiple designs for conflicts instead of requiring the manual comparison of paper plans between each of the disciplines. It also streamlines the entire planning process. Instead of working sequentially, each group can see how everyone’s designs and plans support or conflict with the work of others as they are created. Potential problems and solutions are identified and taken into account as the overall design process advances. This eliminates large-scale reworking of individual plans late in the game. 

3-D scanning saves hundreds of hours with BIM

Some are hesitant about the BIM approach because of the time it can take to build models. For renovation projects, however, there is a much more efficient way to go. Recent developments in 3-D scanning software outperform previous survey data-collection methods while improvements in accuracy and speed are ongoing. What could have taken weeks to capture and input the raw data for an existing building in the past, can often take only days with the use of a 3-D scanner. In addition to depth and spatial data, the scanning takes detailed photos of a space or location to provide visual information for creating detailed and more accurate models. 

Tolerances to 1/32" in.

3-D scanners today have become highly efficient and extremely fast. The scanners are set on top of tripods and can complete a 360-deg capture in a few minutes before being moved to the next overlapping location, depending on the amount of detail desired. Multiple scans from various locations within a space provide 3-D models with a tolerance of as little as 1/32"-in.

All of this scanned data creates what is called a point cloud, with the captured location, depth information, and photos assigned to a specific place within the model. Modern scanners can capture more than a million points of information per second. Third-party software, such as Autodesk Recap or Leica’s CloudWorx, allows this point-cloud data to be imported directly into BIM programs like Navisworks and Revit. The resulting model rapidly reproduces a virtual building for walk-throughs, viewing, and design modification. 

The impact is permanent

The way multiple design disciplines coordinate their work, the structure of design firms and the technologies that support BIM platforms will continue their evolution. However, the manner in which buildings are designed is changed forever. 

– Donna Miller is vice president of engineering with WD Partners. WD Partners is a CFE Media content partner.